The Buffalo Bills were anointed as the trendy pick to win the AFC East long before the season began.
The Bills (5-2) bid to strengthen their hold atop the division on Sunday against the visiting New England Patriots (2-4), who have won the AFC East in each of the last 11 seasons.
What's more,the Patriots have emerged victorious in seven in a row in the series against the Bills and 35 of their last 40 meetings. New England has won 15 of its last 16 games in Orchard Park, N.Y., since a 31-0 drubbing in the season opener in 2003.
"They're first in the division. We're 2-4. So I definitely wouldn't call us the team to beat this year," Patriots safety Devin McCourty said.
It's hard to argue that point, given New England has mustered just 28 points during its first three-game losing streak since 2002.
Former NFL MVP Cam Newton has come under fire during his first season with the Patriots, notably after his three-interception performance in a 33-6 loss to San Francisco on Sunday.
Newton, who has been picked off five times in his last two games, was pulled after completing 9 of 15 passes for just 98 yards versus the 49ers. New England's passing game has yet to take flight, with the 197.2-yard average ranked fifth worst in the NFL.
Conversely, Buffalo's Josh Allen has thrown for an NFL fourth-best 2,018 yards during his third season. The former first-round pick's 16 touchdowns rank tied for fourth in the league, although he did not add to that total in the Bills' 18-10 win over the New York Jets on Sunday.
"I think he does a better job of going to his second or third reads; not as quick to pull the ball down and run, although he will do that," New England coach Bill Belichick said of Allen. "He has a good feel of when to stay in the pocket and ... I think he's less apt to just start running around.
"More patient, more confident to stay in the pocket and go to the second guy, go to the third guy, come back to the checkdown; like any quarterback who's gained two or three years of experience."
Allen could welcome the return of speedy wide receiver John Brown, who has missed two of the last three games with a knee injury. Allen (shoulder) and Brown were listed as full participants in Wednesday's practice, while defensive tackles Vernon Butler (groin) and Quinton Jefferson (knee), cornerback Cam Lewis (wrist), wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie (ankle), offensive guard Brian Winters (knee) and linebacker Matt Milano (pectoral) were listed as limited.
Safety Micah Hyde (concussion), offensive guard Cody Ford (knee) and defensive end Jerry Hughes (foot) did not practice on Wednesday. Hughes earned AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors after recording two sacks, an interception and forcing a fumble against the Jets.
The victory padded Buffalo's lead atop the AFC East, however don't tell that to head coach Sean McDermott.
"We're focused on one game right now ... you've got to prove yourself every week in the NFL," McDermott said.
Belichick knows that all too well, however his battered club is dealing with plenty of injuries of its own.
Wide receiver N'Keal Harry and defensive tackle Carl Davis did not participate in practice Wednesday due to concussions.
Wideout Julian Edelman (knee) joined running back Damien Harris (ankle), offensive guards Shaq Mason (calf) and Joe Thuney (ankle), offensive lineman Justin Herron (ankle), defensive tackle Lawrence Guy (ankle), defensive end John Simon (shoulder) and defensive back Kyle Dugger (ankle) in being limited on Wednesday.
--Field Level Media