Buffalo Bills (1-2 SU, 1-2 ATS) vs. New England Patriots (3-0 SU, 3-0 ATS)
NFL Week 4
Date/Time: Sunday October 2nd at 1:00PM EST
Where: Gillette Stadium
by Mike M, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: BUF +4 / NE -4
The Buffalo Bills head to Foxboro for a Sunday afternoon slugfest against the Patriots in a matchup of division rivals that currently reside in their usual spots in the AFC East standings, with New England in the lead at 3-0 and the Bills already lagging behind with the Dolphins and Jets at 1-2. The Patriots have had the clear upper hand against Buffalo over the last 25 games, sporting a straight up record of 23-2 while also going 17-8 against the spread, and have especially dominated the series at home, winning 14 of their last 15 games against the Bills at Gillette Stadium.
The team itself isnt the only one to have trouble against New England, as their second year head coach Rex Ryan may have started out strong when first facing Belichick and the Patriots (3-2 in his first five games including a road playoff win in 2010), but he has struggled significantly over the past five years, going just 1-9 in his last ten games against New England. Massachusetts isnt the only travel destination a Ryan led team has had difficulty with, as Rex had just a 7-19 record on the road over his final three years as coach of the New York Jets and has trended even worse since joining the Bills, going 0-5 (and 0-4-1 against the spread) in his last five games away from Ralph Wilson Stadium. Now he has his brother Rob on staff as the defensive coordinator, who should be very grateful for nepotism, as no other team in their right mind would hire him after his recent failures in Dallas and New Orleans. The Ryan Brothers are like the two main characters in Of Mice and Men, but theyre both Lennie.
The Bills defense had easily its best game of the season so far against Arizona last week, sacking Carson Palmer five times and causing five turnovers, including four interceptions in the final quarter, to upset the Cardinals 33-18 for Buffalos first win of the season. The defense now ranks 17th in the NFL in points per game and 23rd in yards allowed, while the team has a whole ranks 3rd in turnover ratio with +5. While it is certainly good to have such an important stat in your favor, its not so great when you consider that despite their impressive fumble/interception fortune they still have a losing record of 1-2.
The health of wide receiver Sammy Watkins continues to be a major issue for the Bills offense, and as of Thursday it was still up in the air as to whether he would be able to play as he continues to heal from a broken foot suffered in August. Even when on the field the explosive game-changer has not been himself this season, compiling just six receptions for 63 yards and no touchdowns through the first two weeks before being forced to sit out against Arizona last Sunday due to the injury. The lack of Watkins has clearly affected the Bills offense, which ranks 30th in yards per game and dead last at 32nd in passing yards. Thankfully they still have LeSean McCoy, who is currently tenth in the NFL in rushing with 227 yards while also scoring three times and catching eleven passes, which has him tied with Robert Woods for the team lead in receptions. If Watkins is unable to play then McCoy will continue to be the clear focal point of the offense, and how the Patriots handle the multi-dimensional running back will go a long way in deciding the outcome of Sundays game.
The unheralded leader of the New England defense continues to be linebacker Jamie Collins, who is tops on the team with 16 tackles and also has two of the Patriots three interceptions on the season thus far. The core group of Collins, Donta Hightower and Malcolm Butler will all enter free agency after 2016, and New England fans are greatly hoping the team does whatever is necessary to keep them in Foxboro for the foreseeable future. The Patriots match up well against the Buffalo offense, especially with Sammy Watkins out, as they are significantly better against the run (10th in NFL) than they are against the pass (19th). One strategy the Patriots defense (and Belichick) have used to great success since he arrived in Foxboro is to concentrate on taking away the opposing teams most valuable asset, and if they can come up with a game plan to limit McCoy and force the shorthanded Bills to have to beat them through the air, a win and cover at home will be the likely outcome.
Who will start at quarterback for the Patriots has still yet to be decided, though with the amount of pain that Jimmy Garoppolo is still experiencing in his shoulder it wouldnt be any sort of a surprise if rookie Jacoby Brissett gets the nod for the second straight game. The expected full return of Rob Gronkowski (he played only 14 snaps against Houston and was targeted just once) will be an enormous asset to whichever of the quarterbacks ends up starting, and should also open up the field for the Patriots receivers and give Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan and Malcolm Mitchell a chance to take advantage of the extra attention always paid to Gronkowski when he steps on the field. One thing that is a near certainty is that running back LeGarrette Blount will continue to be a major part of New Englands offensive game plan. Blount now leads the NFL with 298 yards rushing and is also tied for first in touchdowns with four on the year thus far after having scored in each game so far this year and has been one of the major reasons why the Patriots have been so successful in the absence of Tom Brady.
While much of the attention this week is on the Patriots quarterback situation or whatever latest attention grabbing statement Rex Ryan has made to the media, the simplest game breakdown is that Bill Belichick will have ten days to prepare for a team and coach that he has routinely dominated in recent years. With the game in Foxboro and the line still less then a touchdown, the Patriots are an easy choice.
Mike Ms Pick to Cover the Point Spread: New England -4
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