Game notes: Patriots vs. Bills

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Game notes: Patriots vs. Bills

A quick look at the information you need to know about tonight's Patriots-Bills game:

GAME TIME: 8:30 p.m. EST

TV NETWORK: ESPN

TV ANNOUNCERS: Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden and Lisa Salters

NATIONAL RADIO: Westwood One Sports

NATIONAL RADIO ANNOUNCERS: Kevin Harlan, Boomer Esiason and Steve Tasker

LOCAL RADIO NETWORK: Anchored by WBZ-FM (98.5 The Sports Hub)

LOCAL RADIO ANNOUNCERS: Bob Socci and Scott Zolak

ALL-TIME SERIES BETWEEN THE TEAMS: Patriots lead, 68-42-1

LAST MEETING: Patriots 40, Bills 32 on Sept. 20, 2015 at Ralph Wilson Stadium

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-- The Patriots are an NFL-best 42-15 in the month of November since 2001 (.737 winning percentage).

-- The Patriots are 70-19 (.787) in the regular season against AFC East opponents since 2001, the best intra-division record of any team in the NFL over that time span.

-- The Patriots are 3-0 in the AFC East in 2015.

-- The Patriots are looking for their 24th season-series sweep against Buffalo.

-- Bill Belichick is 27-5 as a head coach against the Bills, including 27-4 with the Patriots. Rex Ryan is 4-10 as a head coach against the Patriots, including 0-1 with the Bills.

-- This will be the third Monday Night Football matchup between the Patriots and Bills, all of which have been played in Foxboro. The Pats won the previous two: 27-14 on Oct. 23, 1995, and 25-24 on Sept. 14, 2009.

-- The Patriots and Bills have played regular-season and playoff games at eight venues, and the Pats have a winning record against Buffalo at six of them. In games at Buffalo, they were 7-6-1 at War Memorial Stadium and are 26-16 at Rich Stadium/Ralph Wilson Stadium. In New England, they were 2-1 at Nickerson Field, 3-3 at Fenway Park, 1-0 at Alumni Stadium, 0-1 at Harvard Stadium and 17-14 at Schaefer/Sullivan/Foxboro Stadium, and are 12-1 at Gillette Stadium.

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WHAT TO LOOK FOR

-- The Patriots are looking to start a season 10-0 for the second time in franchise history. The other was in 2007.

-- Rob Gronkowski (62) needs seven touchdowns to move past Stanley Morgan (68) and become the all-time leader in touchdowns for the Patriots.

-- Gronkowski (61) needs seven receiving touchdowns to move past Stanley Morgan (67) and become the all-time leader in receiving touchdowns for the Patriots.

Injury report: Amendola out for Ravens game, Bennett questionable

Injury report: Amendola out for Ravens game, Bennett questionable

Wide receiver Danny Amendola was officially listed as out on the injury report for the Patriots' Monday night home game against the Baltimore Ravens.

Amendola injured his ankle on a punt return against the Los Angeles Rams last Sunday. It will be the first game he's missed this season. The Patriots signed veteran wide receiver and kick returner Griff Whalen during the week.

Tight end Martellus Bennett (ankle, shoulder) is among the Pats listed as questionable, along with special teams ace Matt Slater (foot), who missed the Rams game, safety Jordan Richards (knee), linebacker Elandon Roberts (hamstring) and cornerback Eric Rowe (hamstring).

Whalen, part of Colts' infamous fake punt play, settles in with Patriots

Whalen, part of Colts' infamous fake punt play, settles in with Patriots

FOXBORO – Griff Whalen was at the epicenter of one of the stupidest, funniest, most “did that just happen?!” plays in NFL history.

So indescribable it never even really earned a name, it was the fourth-down gadget play the Colts tried to run against the Patriots on Sunday Night Football in the first meeting between the teams after Indy ran to the principal’s office to start Deflategate. 

Whalen was the center on that play (I tried to call it “Fourth-and-Wrong” but it didn’t take) and the millisecond between him snapping the ball and the three players processing that the ball had indeed been snapped is perhaps my favorite moment of the past several seasons. 

Whalen is a Patriot now, brought in this week in the wake of Danny Amendola’s knee injury presumably to fill Amendola’s role as a punt returner and wideout. The Colts released him last January, the Dolphins picked him up and cut him at the end of training camp and the Chargers had him on their roster from mid-September until releasing him last month after eight games, two catches and 22 yards. He returned kickoffs for San Diego but no punts since 2015.

The primary area of need for the Patriots is on punt returns. Rookie Cyrus Jones’ transition to appearing comfortable remains glacially slow. It was Jones’ muff last week that brought on Amendola in relief. When Amendola hurt his ankle on a late-game return, the Patriots were forced to decide between Jones, wideout Julian Edelman (who doesn’t need extra work) and making a move.

Whalen is a move they made.

The slight and baby-faced Whalen indicated he had fielded some punts in practice, saying it went, “Fine.” Punt returns are something he’s done “since I was a kid.”

His first impression of the team was, "A lot of what I expected to see. A lot of detail. A lot of effort in practice. Good coaching all-around. I am excited to be here. I was excited to come into a good team that I’d gone against a few times. Hopefully come in and help out the team with whatever I can.”

I asked Whalen if he saw much of the commentary or creativity last year’s failed play spawned.

“I wasn’t paying too much attention,” he said. “When it’s during the season guys are pretty locked in on what they’re doing inside the building. But I heard more about it later on afterwards.”

Asked if he’d heard anything about the play since being here, Whalen replied, “I haven’t. Kinda was [expecting it].”

The Patriots will be hoping Whalen remains as productive for them on fourth down this year as he was in 2015.