If the Buffalo Bills have been David, then the New England Patriots have been Goliath for much of the past 15 seasons.
The Bills haven't made the playoffs since 1999, while the Patriots have only missed the playoffs three times (2000, 2002 and 2008) since that season. In Bill Belichick's 30 meetings with the Bills since he became Patriots coach in 2000, he's lost only four times: in 2000, 2003, 2011 and 2014. Tom Brady, meanwhile, has a staggering 23-3 career record against Buffalo.
Rarely have Patriots-Bills games generated much national buzz -- until now.
Rex Ryan and a Bills team with expectations as high as they've been since the 1990s have changed the tone of the rivalry between the two AFC East clubs. Ryan -- who is 4-9 as a head coach against the Patriots -- took the first jabs at the Patriots in an entertaining, 20-minute news conference Monday and several of his players followed Tuesday.
As the Patriots (No. 1 in ESPN's latest power rankings) and the Bills (who jumped from No. 18 to No. 9 in the power rankings) continue their preparations for Sunday's game, here is a recap of what's already been said between the two teams this week:
Sunday afternoon: With the weekend off after playing last Thursday night, Brady posts a picture to Facebook of him watching the Bills-Colts game on TV with his feet, in slippers, up on an ottoman.
Sunday afternoon: Late in the Bills' 27-14 upset win Sunday over the Indianapolis Colts, fans at Ralph Wilson Stadium began chanting, "We want Brady! We want Brady!"
Monday morning: Played the clip of Bills fans chanting, Brady tells WEEI in Boston, "Well, we'll be there. Sunday at 1 is going to be a pretty exciting game. They obviously have a lot of confidence and Coach Ryan, Rex, has brought that to a lot of places he's [been]. They're not an easy team to prepare for, but we'll be ready to go when the ball is kicked off." As for the crowd in Buffalo, Brady adds, "It's an old stadium, but it's surprisingly very, very loud. It's a great environment for football and we'll be tested."
Monday afternoon: Ryan begins his 1 p.m. news conference by calling on Bills fans to welcome the "hated Patriots" to town. He later says that he'll "go home early" this week because his plan for the Patriots has long been ready, and adds that he considers the Patriots as "the hunted in my eyes" because "they're the world champions."
Monday afternoon: Asked about Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, Ryan says, "I think we'll stand by our record against him. He's tough. There's no question. He's huge. He's a hell of an actor." Ryan and Gronkowski both had parts in the "Madden: The Movie" trailer that premiered last month.
Monday afternoon: Asked about how a "no-name" running back like Dion Lewis was able to stand out in New England's opening-night win over the Pittsburgh Steelers," Rex Ryan says, "I don't care, put anybody back there. You can do good there. All right? Nah, I mean they're decent backs in their own right. But I don't think we're gonna focus on that kid. I can't even tell you that kid's name."
Monday evening: Told of Ryan's comments, Lewis says in the Patriots' locker room, "They have a great defense, he's a great coach, and we have a lot of work to do."
Tuesday morning: Asked about a Boston Globe column titled, "After Patriots, AFC East is still a trio of zeros," Bills receiver Sammy Watkins responds in the Bills locker room, saying, "You can't say nothing about that. We just got to go out there and play the game. We know they've been dominating this league and winning games and make it to the playoffs every year. But this our year, I think. We just got to go out there and play and have fun. We got great coaches, great players and a great staff. We're just gonna leave everything on the field and can't wait for Sunday."
Tuesday morning: Safety Aaron Williams doesn't hold back his feelings about the Patriots, saying in the Bills' locker room, "I don't like New England, so yeah it's definitely personal for me. That's just the way I feel. They're a great football team. Don't get that twisted at all. That's why they're the four-time NFL champs." Asked why it was "personal" for him, he responds, "Just the way they carry themselves on the field and stuff. All the stuff that has happened to me in the past with some of the players has definitely gone through the roof for me. That's a reason it's personal for me and they're our rival. It's the history. So it's not just personal. It's the Buffalo Bills' history."
Tuesday morning: Told about Williams' comments outside the Bills' locker room, defensive tackle Marcell Dareus says, "Don't nobody likes the Patriots. Let's just be honest about it now. Put it out there."
Tuesday afternoon: On a conference call with Patriots reporters, Belichick says of the Bills' crowd noise, "I’m sure it will be loud there. It’s loud everywhere. It’s a lot louder when you’re not doing well. If you’re moving the ball and getting first downs and gaining yards that tends to quiet it, and when you’re ahead that quiets it, too. It will be as loud as we allow it to be."
Tuesday afternoon: After a reporter covering the Patriots tweets Belichick's quote about the Ralph Wilson Stadium crowd being "as loud as [the Patriots] allow it to be," the Bills' official Twitter account re-tweets it with the message, "That's cute. #RockTheRalph"