ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) The Buffalo Bills have had a home-field advantage under first-year coach Sean McDermott.
If they want to end their 17-year playoff drought, they’ll also have to take care of business on the road.
At 8-6, the Bills are in the thick of the AFC playoff race and will be playing meaningful games through Week 17.
Article continues below ...
Back-to-back home wins over Indianapolis and Miami have given the Bills their best home record – 6-2 – since the 1999 season, which was the previous time the Bills made the playoffs.
”I’m proud of the fact that our guys have earned the right to be in that conversation and I’m happy for our fans,” McDermott said.
”For what we’ve got to do to continue to grow and improve, we have to focus on what’s in front of us.”
That could turn out to be a tall task as the Bills finish on the road.
Up next for Buffalo is a road game against New England, where the Bills have had little success in the Bill Belichick and Tom Brady era.
Buffalo is 2-14 at New England since 2001, with wins coming in a meaningless Patriots finale in 2014 and a 2016 game that featured then-rookie Jacoby Brissett at quarterback in place of the suspended Brady.
”It is what it is,” linebacker Preston Brown said. ”They’re a really good team and we’ve got to find a way to get a really big win in Foxborough.
”I’ve won two times before but Tom only played one of the quarters I’ve been there. It’s going to be a tough time for us, but we’re ready for the challenge.”
It’s also a rematch from a chippy game in Buffalo in Week 13. Late in that game, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski went at Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White and leveled him in the back of the head. White suffered a concussion and Gronkowski was suspended by the league for one game.
Buffalo doesn’t plan on making retribution a focal point, however, which so much more on the line.
”We’ve got too much work to do and this is too good of an opponent to talk about or even think about it,” McDermott said.
”The weeks go by too fast for us to do anything other than focus on what we’ve got to do, and the New England Patriots.”
One positive the Bills can take from their first game against New England is a solid defensive performance that held the Patriots to three field goals in the first half.
Buffalo lost 23-3, but it was one of Buffalo’s better defensive performances against Brady.
”There are some things that we can definitely build on from that first half,” defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said.
”Anytime you hold a team like that without a touchdown, it’s a big deal. … At the same time, we know they’re looking at that tape also and trying to combat some of the things we did.”
Even if the Bills are unsuccessful against New England, they’ll still have a shot at the playoffs with a win over Miami in Week 17 and some help from conference opponents.
Buffalo, Tennessee, Baltimore and the Los Angeles Chargers are all fighting for two playoff spots.
On Sunday, the Bills dominated the Dolphins in a 24-16 victory. Buffalo intercepted Jay Cutler three times and had one of its best offensive performances of the season.
”That’s the best (first) half we’ve done as an offense, I think,” offensive coordinator Rick Dennison said. ”They really worked hard last week.”
For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL