ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) Tired of hearing Drew Bledsoe's name all week, safety Lawyer Milloy insists his slumping Patriots need a victory over anyone. It doesn't matter who's playing quarterback.
To start a turnaround Sunday, the challenge for New England is to contain a rejuvenated Bledsoe, who has the Buffalo Bills' potent offense off to a prolific start.
"I couldn't care less about who we're playing," Milloy told reporters. "You guys obviously are going to be bringing up Drew's name all week. ... I'm very happy for him. I'm glad that he's being the Drew that he is. But that's the last I'm going to say about that.
"This team needs a win."
What was already a highly anticipated game - Bledsoe's first meeting with his former team since being dealt to the Bills in April - has taken on greater significance in the AFC East.
In a sudden reversal of fortune, the resurgent Bills (5-3) are firmly in the division race, erasing any lingering memories of last season's 3-13 record.
It's the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots (3-4) who are struggling. Coming off four straight losses, New England is in desperate need of a victory - only to have its former franchise player standing directly in the way.
"I'm certainly not going to deny that that's a big story in the game," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "But I think the biggest focus for us has got to be the Buffalo Bills football team. That's more consuming than one individual player."
Even if that player is the veteran Belichick traded in favor of keeping Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady to avoid a potential quarterback controversy.
After nine seasons in New England, where he earned three Pro Bowl selections, Bledsoe lost his starting job to Brady after a severe chest injury in Week 2 last season.
While some found it surprising the Patriots would deal Bledsoe within their division - Miami Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas called it "ridiculous" - Belichick isn't having second thoughts.
"What were the other options?" Belichick said, noting the Bills were the only team seriously pursuing Bledsoe. "It was a situation that at some point there was going to have to be some kind of resolution to. And I did what I thought was best for the football team."
Never mind that Bills general manager Tom Donahoe said afterward he was willing to pay an even higher price than a 2003 first-round draft pick for Bledsoe.
"Does it matter?" Belichick said. "It's really not important."
Brady - coming off his worst performance of the year, sacked five times and managing just 130 yards passing in a 24-16 loss to Denver - has put up respectable numbers. But he's not close to matching what Bledsoe has accomplished.
Leading the NFL with 2,500 yards passing, Bledsoe has four 300-yard games, 203 completions and 16 touchdowns, including two in overtime.
He's already off to the best start of any quarterback in franchise history, and is on pace to challenge the single-season NFL record of 5,084 yards set by Dan Marino in 1984.
Just as impressive, Bledsoe has instilled a confidence - "a swagger," some Bills call it - in his new team, something lacking since the Jim Kelly era.
"You've seen a lot of big plays this year and that's because of Drew coming in and making guys feel so confident," said Eric Moulds, the NFL's leading receiver. "You want to make plays for him."
And Moulds won't deny beating the Patriots has taken on special meaning.
"Players want to win this game for Drew," Moulds said. "It's an important game as far as the division is concerned, but it's also important for a guy who's a main guy on this team."
As much as he's tried to maintain perspective, referring to this as just another game, Bledsoe can't hide his excitement.
"The analogy that I've used is that it's like competing against your brother," Bledsoe said. "Playing against a bunch of guys you have tremendous respect for, you're going to want to win those games. ... If we lose the game, I'm going to have to hear about it all year. I'd rather be on the winning side so they have to hear about it from me all year.
"That's a big motivator there."