Niagara Gazette — FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Another year, another playoff berth for the New England Patriots. For the Buffalo Bills, the postseason drought continues.
With their fifth straight AFC East title already achieved, the Patriots (11-4) can clinch a first-round bye Sunday. The Bills are simply ending their 14th straight season, the NFL’s longest current streak, without reaching the playoffs.
But under first-year coach Doug Marrone, Buffalo (6-9) has a solid defense and a chance to finish with three straight victories by beating New England.
“We just lost some heartbreaking games,” running back C.J. Spiller said. “We just have to find a way to be able to get over that edge and we will. We’ve got a great leadership group. We’ve got a lot of great guys coming back in the near future. We’re definitely going to get over that hump and make the Bills fans happy.”
The Bills lost the season opener to the Patriots 23-21 on Stephen Gostkowski’s field goal with 5 seconds left. They dropped overtime games to Cincinnati and Atlanta. And they’ve used three quarterbacks because of knee injuries to rookie EJ Manuel, who was limited in practice this week.
But a victory would make them the only AFC East team with a winning record in division games.
“That would be important for what we want to be able to build on,” Marrone said. “Really (we’re) just trying to change things.”
Change has been a constant for the Patriots in an injury-filled season with five key starters — defensive tackles Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly, linebacker Jerod Mayo, tight end Rob Gronkowski and right tackle Sebastian Vollmer — on injured reserve. But as long as Bill Belichick is the coach and Tom Brady is the quarterback, their divisional dominance is likely to continue.
The Patriots want more, starting with their eighth bye in Belichick’s 14 seasons as their coach. They also would drop into a wild-card game if they end up seeded third or fourth.