FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – In this age of NFL parity, when division winners and playoff teams of one year are often postseason observers the next, the New England Patriots hold a hex over the Buffalo Bills.

The Patriots have beaten Buffalo 13 consecutive times entering today’s 1 p.m. game at Gillette Stadium. In NFL history, only three teams have held longer winning streaks over an opponent, and New England can move into a tie with Miami, which beat the Colts 14 consecutive times in the 1980s, with a win.

How do you explain this streak? The Patriots don’t know and won’t try because there’s no simple answer. New England has routed the Bills in some games and has been lucky in others, most recently last year’s opener, when Tom Brady threw two touchdown passes to Benjamin Watson in the final 2:06, aided by a fumble on the Bills’ kickoff return following the first touchdown.

What does it all mean?

Absolutely nothing, according to Patriots Coach Bill Belichick, who said those victories have no relevance to today.

“Those games are all in the past,” he said. “There’s different players, new coaches coaching, different players playing. I don’t think they care anything about those games, and I don’t think we care anything about them, either.

“That’s all behind us. We’re just focused on this week and (today’s) game. That’s what it’s all about.”

There is one constant: Since Tom Brady became the Pats’ starter in 2001, the Patriots are 17-1 against Buffalo, including two wins with Matt Cassel at quarterback after Brady suffered a season-ending knee injury in the 2008 opener.

The lone loss was memorable, on Sept. 7, 2003, a 31-0 rout in Buffalo. Remember? The Patriots cut safety Lawyer Milloy the week before the season and he signed with the Bills. What fun the home team had that day. Buffalo confounded Brady into four interceptions and a 22.4 quarterback rating.

But overall Brady has fared well. He’s thrown for 33 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 16 games against the Bills, with a 100.6 quarterback rating.

He’s even better at home, with an 8-0 record, 18 TDs, four interceptions and a 105.1 rating.

Brady notes that over his tenure, the Bills always seem to be in transition, bringing in new quarterbacks like Drew Bledsoe, J.P. Losman or Trent Edwards. Or now, today’s starter, Ryan Fitzpatrick, as well as several new coaches. Chan Gailey is the latest, leading the Bills for the first season.

But, Brady said, the Pats have “never looked past Buffalo.”

“Well I’ll tell you, there are a lot of games we could have lost,” he said. “One or two plays and Buffalo beats us. Even though the record is good, really none of those games have any bearing on what we’re trying to accomplish this week. We have an entirely different team, they have an entirely different team, and nothing that we’ve done in the past is really going to do anything for what’s going to happen (today).”

The Patriots have respect for Buffalo’s defense, even without defensive end Aaron Schobel, who terrorized Brady over the years but retired.

“First of all, they have a lot of good players,” said Brady. “It’s a very disciplined group. It’s a very hard-working group. A very physical group and they all play with great effort. I’ve played against Drayton Florence a lot. He’s extremely competitive out there. I played against (Terrence) McGee. Jairus Byrd is in his second year. (He) had a great year last year, and Donte Whitner, he’s one of the real impact players for the team.

“It’s a big, stout defensive front. We’ve got our work cut out for us. It’s going to be a real challenge. We’ve got to find ways to run the ball better than we did last week, and certainly our passing game execution for the second half last week wasn’t very good. We’ve got to expect to make some improvements here in practice so we can be more competitive this week.”

It will be interesting to see how the Pats respond after losing to the Jets last week. New England was shut out in the second half of a 28-14 loss to drop to 1-1. Buffalo is 0-2, but was close in the second half of both losses, to Miami and Green Bay.

This will also be the Patriots’ first game without running back Kevin Faulk, a third-down specialist who was placed on injured reserve and will miss the rest of the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

New England had five running backs on its roster 10 days ago, but now only has three (with Laurence Maroney traded to Denver) — Fred Taylor, Sammy Morris and BenJarvus Green-Ellis, although the newly signed Danny Woodhead can also play the position once he learns the system.

Belichick expects an adjustment to be made, as always.

“I don’t think you’re going to find any one player to be a duplicate of Kevin Faulk,” said Belichick. When we lost Tom (Brady) in the beginning of the ’08 season, Matt (Cassel) came in and we won 11 games. We weren’t the same team, but we found a different way to win than the way we had won before or the following year.

“I don’t think we’re going to find one player to be a carbon copy of Kevin Faulk. I don’t think that exists and I don’t think that’s really realistic. As a team, we just have to find ways to be efficient, be productive, move the ball, score points, even though he’s not in there. It will be a challenge, but that’s what we need to do.”

Brady knows the offense has to play better this week, otherwise the streak will be in jeopardy.

“We expect a tough game as always,” he said. “Hopefully we come out ahead.”

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

[email protected]