By Tim Graham
The Buffalo Bills have a glorious opportunity this afternoon in Ralph Wilson Stadium to stake a lead in the AFC East and distance themselves from the New England Patriots.
A victory over the Patriots would put the Bills two games up on them.
Here is a digest of items about the game ...
Most Bills fans know the recent history, but for the record: The Bills have won only one of their past 17 games against the Patriots. The Bills are 4-21 against Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and 41-62-1 all-time.
Chilly, slightly windy and rainy conditions. Since the Weather Channel forecasts have been uncannily inaccurate and useless three weeks in a row, I'm switching to the National Weather Service. The forecast for kickoff is 58 degrees, 70 percent humidity and 9 mph winds. The chance of rain is about 60 percent.
Patriots left guard Logan Mankins is out. The four-time Pro Bowler missed the entire week of practice with a hip injury and didn't make the trip. For more insight on why Mankins is so important to the Patriots' offense, check out this Press Coverage article with Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams' thoughts.
Check back on the Press Coverage blog for the rest of today's inactives, including the statuses of Bills running backs Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller. Inactives are announced around 11:30 a.m. (UPDATE: An NFL source informs me Jackson will play, while a final decision on Spiller will be made after pregame warmups.)
Rob Gronkowski thrives versus his hometown team. My cover story in today's print edition of The Buffalo News takes a look at how to stop Gronkowski -- if it's possible. The Patriots tight end and former Williamsville North star has never failed to score a touchdown against the Bills and has scored two in each of his past three games. Gronkowski has 22 catches for 314 yards and seven touchdowns in those four games.
Stay with BuffaloNews.com for game coverage throughout the day. Bills beat reporters Mark Gaughan, Jay Skurski and I are in the press box along with columnist Jerry Sullivan.
Skurski will oversee a live chat that launches at noon. For a preview of the game's biggest matchups, check out Skurski's scouting reports from today's paper.
And don't forget to check out "[BN] the Huddle," BuffaloNews.com's weekly live video postgame at 7:30 p.m. Lauren Mariacher and I will co-host tonight's one-hour recap, which will include reports from The Ralph and analysis from executive sports editor Lisa Wilson and reporters Milt Northtrop and Keith McShea.
Today's game will be televised by CBS and shown in Western New York on WIVB Channel 4. Greg Gumbel will call the plays, with Dan Dierdorf handling color commentary. In a Press Coverage posting earlier this week, Dierdorf shared his thoughts on today's matchup.
Fast Fact: A Patriots victory would give Belichick 194 in his coaching career and move him out of an eighth-place tie with former Bills coach Chuck Knox on the all-time list.
Bills all-time games versus Patriots: O.J. Simpson ran for 250 yards in 1973. Eric Moulds had 177 receiving yards in 1998. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 369 yards in the first meeting last year.