The stakes simply could not be higher for the New England Patriots as they head into Buffalo to face the Bills. Not only is the 2020 season hanging in the balance as Bill Belichick’s club looks at a possible 2-5 record with the trade deadline looming, but Sunday’s contest also serves as an opportunity for the Bills to stamp their claim to the AFC East for the foreseeable future. 

For years, Buffalo has been alongside the Jets and Dolphins in the land of misfit toys while the Patriots steamrolled to 17 division titles since 2001. You could even make the case that the Bills have suffered the most in the division as the Jets and Dolphins have at least one AFC East crown over this stretch. As for Buffalo, you’d have to go all the way back to 1995 to be able to call them AFC East champions. What makes that even sadder is that the Indianapolis Colts — who now play in the AFC South — have a more recent AFC East title than Buffalo. That could soon change.  

This season, Buffalo currently sits in first place in the division and has no true threat in sight. While he’s cooled down over recent weeks, Josh Allen has taken tremendous leaps forward in 2020 as a passer, which sets Buffalo’s future up quite nicely. To this point, Sunday’s game against New England could arguably be one of the more momentous games of his young career. Not because the Patriots are some juggernaut, but because of what they represent: two decades of divisional dominance. 

If the Patriots fall to Buffalo in Week 8, it’s likely the gut punch that begins a rebuild in Foxborough, paving the way for the Bills to become the team to beat in the division. While some may view this as just a midseason game between two divisional opponents, it has the potential to represent a seismic shift in how we view the AFC East going forward.   

Before we jump into the rest of the news and notes surrounding the Patriots, here’s how you can watch Sunday’s showdown on CBS. 

How to watch

Date: SundayNov. 1 | Time: 1 p.m. ET 
Location: Bills Stadium (Orchard Park, NY) 
TV: CBS | Stream: CBS All Access
Follow: CBS Sports App

Pats thin at WR after Edelman knee procedure

Of course, the big injury news of the week surrounded Julian Edelman, who underwent a procedure on his knee that has him out for this game against Buffalo and possibly more time. While the injury doesn’t appear to be season-ending, as Belichick told reporters Friday, the veteran Patriots receiver has landed on the IR, meaning he will miss at least three weeks.

“I don’t think this is a season-ending situation, but we’ll see. I’m not a doctor,” said Belichick. “We’ll see how it goes here. Hopefully he’ll be back. I know he has worked awfully hard and nobody’s more competitive than Julian is.”

He added: “Whatever it ends up being, it ends up being. I don’t think we can control that. We’ll see how it goes and hopefully he’ll have a good recovery and be back better than where he was before the surgery. That’s the whole point of doing the surgery is that the situation will improve. So, hopefully it’ll improve.”

This injury does make the Patriots extremely thin at receiver as they roll into Buffalo to face the Bills. Along with Edelman, N’Keal Harry has also been ruled out due to a concussion. Here’s a look at the receiver depth chart heading into Week 8: Damiere Byrd, Gunner Olszewski, Jakobi Meyers, *Isaiah Zuber, *Mason Kinsey, and *Kristian Wilkerson. 

*denotes practice squad

Make-or-break for Cam

Cam Newton is not blind to how important this game is for not only the Patriots’ season, but potentially his career as a starting quarterback. If the former league MVP struggles in a similar fashion to what he did a week ago and gets benched for the second-straight week, that quarterback change could be a permanent one. 

“Now I’m at a crossroads that says, ‘Hey, if you don’t pick up your play, that’s going to be a permanent decision,'” he told reporters this week. 

One area of Newton’s game that has been dissected this week is his mechanics and how he seemed to ignore throwing to the right side of the field. While both offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and quarterbacks coach Jedd Fisch chalked up the lack of throwing right to circumstance, McDaniels did shed some light on Newton’s mechanics in the wake of missing nearly two weeks of practice earlier this season due to a positive COVID-19 test. 

“I think that’s a never-ending process,” McDaniels said, via WEEI.com. “Quarterback mechanics are like a golf swing. If you take a little time away or if you’re unable to work at it for a little bit, certainly it could impact you. I think getting back to practice and good habits and good routines on the practice field and working the drills that we work, I would hope that would definitely help any player, regardless of the position. 

“And I would also say, like I said before, the passing game is an 11-person product. Certainly, the quarterback plays a huge role in that, but there’s a lot of other people that have an impact on whether or not we have success. We can all do things better that we haven’t done as well as we need to. We’re going to work on those, and I know that Cam Newton is going to work on everything that he needs to work on to continue to be a productive part of our offense.”

Goodbye, Gilmore? 

The reigning Defensive Player of the Year has been the subject of trade rumors leading up to Tuesday’s deadline and those rumblings will likely only increase if the Patriots fall to the Bills on Sunday to move to 2-5 on the season. Regardless, it would behoove New England to entertain offers for Gilmore to a playoff-ready club looking to add a big-time playmaker in the secondary for the stretch run. 

If they are being realistic with themselves, the Patriots — as currently constructed — are not a Super Bowl contender. While they could conceivably make a push to be a frisky playoff contender, the end result likely doesn’t bring a Lombardi Trophy with it. When you factor that in along with the fact that Gilmore will be looking to be paid as a top-flight corner this offseason before he enters the final year of his current contract, it makes all the sense in the world for New England to see what they can fetch for him on the trade market. 

It’d be a shrewd decision, but Bill Belichick would be ahead of the curve if he pulled the trigger and would likely get significant returns for the All-Pro. 

You could make a strong argument that second-year linebacker Chase Winovich was New England’s best defensive player throughout the early goings of the season. Recently, however, Winovich has seemingly fallen out of favor, only playing in 22 and 13 of the defensive snaps over the past two games. The decrease in playing time is not injury-related as he hasn’t been on the injury report over that span. Some suggest it could be due to the personal foul penalty on 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in Week 7 or simply that they don’t view him as a three-down linebacker

“No, I think he’s been the same player,” Bill Belichick said Tuesday of Winovich’s decreased snaps. “Some of it’s situational and game plan and the way things worked out the last two games, but he’s a good player for us and he’ll continue to play.”

He added: ” Chase plays hard, he’s a great pursuit player, he’s strong at the point of attack, he can defeat blockers and can rush the passer. But, just collectively, we all have to be more consistent in our execution of the defense and our fundamentals in the defense. We’ve given up too many yards, however it’s come – running game, passing game – the last two weeks in those situations. We’ve just got to coach better and we’ve got to play better. So, you could say that about everybody on the defensive unit, including all the defensive coaches and players and staff and everybody else. We just need to be better.”

Bill Belichick punts on talk radio tryout

During the final question of his Friday press conference, Belichick was asked about the talk radio fodder of the Patriots being automatic sellers at the deadline if they fall to Buffalo on Sunday. In a moment of sarcasm, the head coach politely declined to spark up a radio career. 

“I guess I’ll just put it nicely and pass on the opportunity to get involved in talk radio,” he said. “That’s really a tough one for me to say no to, but I’m just going to say no to talk radio questions. Thank you. Thanks for asking. I appreciate the opportunity to get involved.”

As for the trade deadline itself, Belichick noted that director of player personnel Nick Caserio is currently the one handling any conversations with the club at the moment. 

James White provides update on mother

It’s been over a month since the horrific car crash in South Florida that killed Patriots running back James White’s father, Tyrone, and found his mother Lisa in critical condition. On Wednesday, White, who tries to check in on a daily basis, provided an update on his mother, saying she is doing much better, but naturally still trying to wrap her mind around what happened. 

“I am doing fine. Everybody in Florida is doing better. My mom is doing better, as well. She’s progressing physically,” he told reporters via videoconference. “Obviously, a lot going on in her mind and things of that nature, but she’s continued to progress. I am trying to be there for her and obviously it is a tough situation. She is just trying to wrap her mind around everything still. Kind of a lot going on, but I am just trying to be there for her and all my family as well. Obviously, I am kind of far away and things of that nature, but just trying to be in contact with as much family as possible to keep them up to date and just know that I am there for them.”

Daniel Tucker Chamblin, 32, of Hollywood, Florida surrendered to law enforcement on Thursday and was charged with vehicular homicide, reckless driving, and speeding an estimated 115 miles per hour. He is currently being held at the main jail in downtown Fort Lauderdale on bonds totaling $235,000, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

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