Buffalo Bills vs. New England Patriots Pick
Buffalo Bills (5-9 SU, 5-9 ATS) vs. New England Patriots (9-5 SU, 8-6 ATS)
Date/Time: Sunday, December 23rd, 1:00 PM
Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, MA
By Mike Mann., NFL Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: BUF +12.5/ NE-12.5
Over/Under Total: 45
The Buffalo Bills head to Foxboro to take on the Patriots in an AFC East divisional matchup on Sunday afternoon. New England won their previous meeting this season 25-6 and has beaten the Bills 27 times in their last 30 meetings.
Buffalo comes into the game off of a 14-13 victory against the Lions, which was their third win in their last five games. This was made all the more impressive by how short handed they were, with all three of the top running backs out, but using a skill position lineup highlighted by undrafted rookies they were able to take down Detroit.
Rookie quarterback Josh Allen continues to impress with his scrambling abilities and now leads the team in both rushing yards and touchdowns. He does continue to struggle with accuracy, as he has since high school, and on the year has completed just 55% of his passes while throwing six touchdowns compared to nine interceptions. Unfortunately the team hasn’t been able to exactly rally around him, as the Bills as a whole rank 31st in total offense and points per game.
With Kelvin Benjamin off to Kansas City, Allen’s targets are in short supply in Buffalo. Zay Jones leads the team in receptions and yards and rookie Robert Foster continues to impress after posting over 100 yards in a touchdown in their win last week. On the season he is now second on the team in yards and posts a 24.6 yards per catch average. After that there isn’t much else as tight end Charles Clay has been a big disappointment and without Benjamin it remains to be seen who might step up next in his absence.
Who will be part of the Bills backfield remains to be seen as well after both LeSean McCoy and Chris Ivory were both inactive a week ago while Marcus Murphy was knocked from the game with a shoulder injury. If they are all unable to go, the ball will be handed to Keith Ford, who led the team a week ago and was one of the aforementioned undrafted rookies that should remain the focal point of the backfield with all the issues affecting those around him.
While the Bills enter the game with momentum, the Patriots come in off of a tough 17-10 loss to Pittsburgh. Fourteen penalties and multiple dropped passes doomed them throughout, and now they enter week 16 without having wrapped up the division and fighting for playoff seeding.
With all the offensive talent on the Patriots roster, the question remains as to why they can fall into such a stagnant pattern. They scored just one touchdown against the Steelers, and that was thanks to Chris Hogan being left wide open for an easy catch and run for a score. They continue to avoid using James White in the running game, he had just two carries for the second straight week, and were unable to get either Rob Gronkowski or Josh Gordon involved in the passing game. Instead they continuously were forced to use Julian Edelman, who has now dropped a pass in four consecutive games and after the past month leads the league in the unfortunate category. I along with many other Patriots fans will not miss offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels when he eventually leaves to disappoint another franchise similar to what he previously did in Denver.
How Tom Brady and the Patriots attack the Bills in their talented defense will be one of the key matchups of the game. Buffalo ranks first in defensive passing and second in total yards allowed per game, and remain a stout test for Brady and the offense as they do their best to offset the unimaginative play calling of McDaniels.
For those interested in against the spread trends, there are a handful of interesting ones that could apply to this week’s game. The Patriots have covered in their last four games against the Bills while Buffalo is 2-6 overall in their last eight games overall. New England is 5-1 in their last six versus the AFC East and the Bills are just 4-10 in their last fourteen divisional games. Finally, the under is 5-1 in the last six Buffalo road games and 6-1 in the last seven Patriots games overall.
THE FINAL DECISION
The Patriots are reeling after two straight December losses that has seen them choke away any chance at the top seed in the AFC and now find themselves a game behind Houston for the second bye. Thankfully for them they get a depleted Buffalo squad visiting this week, and the added benefit of playing at home where they have been at their best in 2018. I expect a similar outcome to what happened back in week 8 and believe the Patriots will get things in order with an easy win and cover against the Bills.
Mike’sPick to Cover the Point Spread: New England –12.5