Buffalo Bills (6-9 SU, 6-8-1 ATS) vs. New England Patriots (12-3 SU, 8-7 ATS), 1:00 p.m. EST, NFL Week 17, Sunday, January 1, 2012, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Massachusetts, TV: CBS
by Scotty L, Sports Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Buf +11.5/NE -11.5
Over/Under Total: 51
The Buffalo Bills come to Foxborough on Sunday to face the New England Patriots. The Bills trounced the Broncos on Saturday to bring an end to a 7-game skid. A win here would be a nice way to end a season that has been riddled with disappointment. The Patriots are on a 7-game winning streak and looking to cap off a fine season by locking up the AFC #1 seed with a home win over a team that already beat them once this season.
While Buffalo showed a lot of character by summoning a heartfelt performance against the Broncos, this is not the same team the Pats faced in the early-going, when the Bills jumped out to a 5-2 record in their first 7 games. The season got completely sideways on them, but Saturday showed this is a team with a lot of professional pride. Sure, it had to hurt suffering through a 7-game losing streak which soiled their season. But closing the campaign with a pair of consecutive wins and sweeping the AFC East juggernaut Patriots in the regular season would take some of the bad taste out of their mouth going into the off-season.
Last weeks game showed the Patriots are not ready to rest on their laurels, though it looked that way in the first half. New England was blanked in the first 30+ minutes of play on Saturday, falling behind 17-0 to the resurgent Dolphins. By the ned of the 3rd-quarter, the high-powered Patriots evened the score, before pulling away in the 4th.
A lot has been said about the sometimes-ragtag Patriots D. While it can be porous and that is cause to worry about their postseason hopes, maybe too much has been made of it. There are a lot of teams with supposedly better defenses who havent won 7 straight or are about to lock up the #1 seed in their conference. Their offense is what people should be focusing on.
It has become better as the season has worn on. Brady is in total sync with as deep a receiving crew as you would want to see. WR Wes Welker putting up gigantic stats is nothing new, as he now has 116 catches for 1522 yards. This season has also seen the emergence of TE Rob Gronkowski (82-1219-15). Aaron Hernandez and veteran Deion Branch have also been very productive.
Buffalo lost RB Fred Jackson, which was a devastating loss, but CJ Spiller has been filling in increasingly well, running for 111 yards against Denver on Saturday. WR Steve Johnson has been productive, despite his team spiraling downward most of the year and should go over 1000 yards in this game. But lets face it: Buffalo beat Denver in large part to costly turnovers that they might not be fortunate enough to get in this game.
Playing in an early game on Sunday, the Patriots will not have the luxury of knowing exactly where they stand, with Pittsburgh and Baltimore both playing in late games. With a win locking up home-field for the entire playoffs, one should expect an urgent Pats team. They know they have the next week off, so a conservationist approach is not to be expected. And despite having bigger fish to fry, this is a prideful team that doesnt want to be swept by the Bills this season. It was only their 3rd game of the year and might already be a distant memory, but some people in that locker-room still remember how Buffalo came back from 21-0 in a painful loss.
Scotty Ls Pick to Cover the Point Spread: The New England O-line is pretty banged up, which might allow the resurgent Buffalo D to control the line of scrimmage and have Brady a little uncomfortable. The Patriots have something to play for, but there are teams with far more urgent situations who play less-than-perfect games in these spots, so its not automatic that the Patriots will be in peak form. A repeat of last weeks performance, especially in the first half, will make it very hard to cover the spread. Expect a better showing than that, but a plucky Bills team will keep it close against their longtime division rival. Take the Buffalo Bills plus 11.5 points.
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