The game's events proved otherwise, but heading into last Sunday night the defending AFC West champion San Diego Chargers were at least deemed worthy of being the New England Patriots' opponents for their home season opener.

The game's events proved otherwise, but heading into last Sunday night the defending AFC West champion San Diego Chargers were at least deemed worthy of being the New England Patriots' opponents for their home season opener.


The Buffalo Bills team the Patriots will face at Gillette Stadium this afternoon?


They look to be more along the lines of a homecoming opponent for the four-time defending AFC East champs.


The Patriots' 2-0 start to this season combined with the Bills' 0-2 start pushed the point spread for this one to a whopping 16 1/2 points during the week.


Not only are the numbers working in New England's favor. History is, too. The Patriots have never lost to the Bills at Gillette and have won seven consecutive games in the series and 12 of the last 13.


Still, like homeowners heading into the first week of a month, the Patriots say they're bracing themselves for the arrival of the Bills.


"How long you been here?" running back Kevin Faulk asked an inquisitor who wondered if the unbeaten Pats might be licking their chops at the thoughts of playing the winless Bills. "There's no lickin' chops."


"I think we prepare the same way," running back Sammy Morris said. "I don't think we prepared any harder because we were playing San Diego (last) week. I don't think we're going to be preparing any less based on Buffalo's record."


"This is the National Football League," linebacker Junior Seau said. "Everyone's capable of winning on every week. Complacency is not going to happen in this locker room. It won't. We won't allow it. If we happen to lose, we happen to lose. It's not because we're complacent, it's because they were the better team."


Still, even Patriots head coach Bill Belichick had to admit that preparing for the Bills in the wake of his team's season opener with the New York Jets and that home opener with the Chargers "is a lot different from the first two that we played."


OK, so he didn't mean it that way.


"They have a style of play that is very distinct," Belichick explained. "Their style of play defensively and offensively, and as good as they are in the kicking game, it's just different from what we've seen the last couple of weeks and it's different from the way we are."


Different and, to this point in the season, utterly ineffective.


After improving from 5-11 in 2005 to 7-9 in Dick Jauron's first year at the helm, the Bills dropped their season opener at Ralph Wilson Stadium to Denver when Jason Elam barely beat them at the gun, 15-14, with a 42-yard field goal before they hit the road and found themselves completely overmatched in dropping a 26-3 decision to Pittsburgh at Heinz Field.


The Bills' most recent performance prompted a guest column by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Mike Prisuta that appeared in the Buffalo News under the headline: "Another JV opponent is no sweat for Steelers."


Ouch.


Oh, well. The Bills are nothing if not consistent.


They arrive at Gillette ranked 31st in team offense (only San Francisco is worse), 31st in team defense (Cleveland, for those of you who may have wondered).


Now they're staring into the eyes of a team that has hung matching 38-14 poundings on a couple of clubs that qualified for the playoffs last year.


"There's no doubt that we need to play a lot more consistently in every area to have any chance to play with the Patriots," Jauron said. "They're awfully talented. Pittsburgh is a very talented team, too. Our defense really fought ... well, our whole team fought hard (last week). There was no problem there with effort. We just didn't execute at the level that we needed to to challenge teams of this caliber: Pittsburgh and New England.


"We've got a ways to go," Jauron admitted. "Luckily, we have a really good group of guys who are not afraid to work. They work at it ... and we'll continue to try to prepare as best as we can and see what we can do."