Buffalo Bills (8-6 SU, 8-6 ATS) vs. Oakland Raiders (2-12 SU, 7-7 ATS)
NFL Week 16
Date and Time: Sunday, December 21, 2014, 4:25 pm EST
Where: O.Co Coliseum, Oakland, Calif.
TV: CBS, DirecTV 715
by Badger, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: BUF -6/OAK +6
Over/Under Total: 39
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The Buffalo Bills have played their way back into the AFC playoff picture by winning four of their last five games, but their work isnt done yet as they need to win out in the last two weeks and get a little help, starting with a trip this weekend to the West Coast to take on the two-win Oakland Raiders in O.Co Coliseum on CBS.
Buffalo played perhaps the best game of their season thus far, beating the Green Bay Packers and holding Aaron Rodgers to his lowest completion percentage of his career and without a touchdown pass in a, 21-13, victory at home in Ralph Wilson Stadium. In back-to-back weeks the Bills defense has now held Peyton Manning and Rodgers without a touchdown pass, so what do you think the chances that Oakland rookie quarterback Derek Carr has the game of his life against Buffalo this Sunday afternoon?
Meanwhile, the Raiders have alternated wins and losses the last four weeks as they continue to play hard for interim head coach Tony Sparano. Unfortunately, those two wins are still the only two wins of the season for Oakland this year, and last weeks, 31-13, loss at Kansas City was low-lighted by a third quarter collapse that turned a 10-3 halftime deficit into another lopsided loss that Raiders fans have frustratingly grown too accustomed to in recent seasons.
Oddsmakers set the opening point spread for this crucial game in Buffalos playoff march with the Bills as 5.5-point favorites on the road. With everyone highly impressed with the Bills win over the Packers, most of the early money has come in on Buffalo, enough so that most sportsbooks have been forced to move the spread up to Buffalo minus -6.
The over/under total opened at 38.5 and has only climbed the hook to 39 at most sportsbooks, as everyone and their brother fully expect the Bills defense to shut down Oakland much like they did to Manning and Rodgers in recent weeks.
Since were on the topic, lets talk about that stiff Bills defense. Buffalos defense is ranked in the top-10 across the board in all of the defensive categories, including total yards (313 ypg 5th), passing yards allowed (210 ypg 5th) and points allowed at 18.1 per game (4th). Considering the Raiders offense is not only quarterbacked by a rookie, but dead-last in the NFL in yards gained (284 ypg) and running the ball (74 ypg) and 31st in the league in points scored per game at 15.2, lets just agree beforehand that it doesnt look pretty. Thats not to say the Raiders dont have a chance, the chance is only minimal.
One of the reasons the Raiders have a chance is because the Bills offense isnt exactly a juggernaut. Ranked 23rd overall (322 ypg) and scoring at a rate of just 21.6 points per game (19th), QB Kyle Orton and company tend to take advantage of short fields and the prime positions they are rewarded with from their powerful defense. Oakland actually has a good pass defense (228 ypg 8th), so it may take a big game from Fred Jackson and Anthony Dixon running the ball in order to control the clock and come away with a win on the West Coast.
These two havent met on the field for a few years, with Buffalo riding a two game win streak over the Raiders including a 38-35 shootout win over them at home in 2011 in their last meeting. Their meeting in 2008 was even closer, a 24-24 victory for Buffalo, again at home in upstate New York. Prior to those two wins the series had been owned by Oakland, as the Raiders had won four straight from 1999 through 2005, including all three of the meetings against each other on the West Coast (Oak. is perfect 3-0 SU, 2-1 ATS at home.
In fact, the wager in this series has been Oakland. The Raiders have covered the spread in three straight, five of the last six and in eight of the last 10 games between these two longtime AFC foes. The over also looks like a strong betting trend play, going 4-1 in the last five head-to-head meetings, and 5-2 in Oaklands last seven home games.
Badgers Pick to Cover the Point Spread:With the way the Bills are playing defense right now, its hard to imagine them losing to a team that struggles so often on offense like the Raiders. But this is the NFL, and perception is not always reality and winning on the road is a tough proposition. Buffalo cant help but have a little letdown after back-to-back weeks against Denver and Green Bay, even though they are fighting for their playoff lives. And as this game gets closer to kickoff, I wouldnt be surprised at all to see the point spread climb closer to a full touchdown for the Bills. Not only am I strongly leaning toward the side of Oakland in this game, Im also taking a good hard look at the over since 39 points isnt much for two professional teams to reach. Its extremely risky, but Im taking Oakland plus the 6-points (especially if it gets to +7) and the over of 39 for this one.