MNF Picks: Bills vs. Patriots
Buffalo Bills (11-3 SU, 9-5 ATS) vs. New England Patriots (6-8 SU, 4-10 ATS)
Date/Time: Monday, December 28th, 8:10 PM
Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, MA
Point Spread: BUF -7 / NE +7 (Best Odds >>> Why pay -110 odds when you could be laying -105???)
Over/Under Total: 46
The Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots meet in Foxboro for a Monday Night Football showdown of teams going in opposite divisional directions. The Bills just clinched their first AFC East crown since 1995 while the Patriots are locked in at third place for the season, thus ending their NFL record streak of 11 divisional titles.
BILLS ON PARADE
From 1990-1993, Buffalo went on a playoff run never seen before with trips to four straight Super Bowls. Unfortunately for their fans, the team was never to reach the pinnacle of success during that time span, and what hurts, even more, is just how bad the team has been in the postseason outside of those four years as they are 3-11 in their other 14 playoff games. The Bills are currently riding the third-longest streak in the NFL of seasons without a postseason victory with a mark of 24 years (the Bengals are at 29, the Lions 28). However, if they can close out their 2020 campaign with back-to-back victories, they can only not only tie the franchise record for regular-season wins but would also guarantee themselves their first home playoff game since 1996.
After the Bills landed at the airport in Buffalo, they were greeted by a large gathering of their faithful fans, many of which were chanting ‘M-V-P’ for quarterback Josh Allen and it’s easy to understand why. Allen has thrown for 4,000 yards this season to go along with an impressive 30-9 TD-INT ratio while also contributing an additional 383 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground. He is just the second Bills quarterback ever to reach the 4,000 mark in passing in a season and is just 339 yards away from breaking Drew Bledsoe’s 2002 total. This isn’t the only record he is chasing, as he needs four touchdown passes to break Jim Kelly’s single-season mark of 33 from 1991 and is currently on pace to exceed the QB rating of 102.9 by Rob Johnson in 1998.
One of the most significant areas of improvement in Allen’s game as his young career has progressed is the avoidance of interceptions, as, through his first 16 games, he threw 13 picks compared to 18 touchdowns, but in the 27 games since he has put up at 47-12 TD-INT ratio. Another major jump has been in passing accuracy this season in particular, as Allen has completed over 65% of his passes in 13 of the last 15 games after doing so just 13 times in his previous 54 pro and college games combined. The further respect of his passing ability has opened up things further for Allen in the running game, which has certainly paid dividends for the Bills as they have won their last ten games in a row when Allen rushes for a touchdown.
Josh Allen isn’t the only Bills player on pace for a record season. Wide receiver Stephon Diggs has already surpassed Eric Moulds previous reception mark when he became the first Bills receiver ever to catch over 100 passes in a season, and Diggs current mark of 111 is now tops in the NFL. Diggs also has posted an impressive 1314 yards on the season, which not only ranks third in the league but is also just 54 yards short of passing Eric Moulds record from 2000. The former Viking figures to continue to see plenty of attention this weekend, especially with Stephon Gilmore now lost for the season due to an injury suffered last Sunday against the Dolphins. Diggs himself apparently escaped serious injury last Sunday, and considering he was seen dancing in celebration after the game, he appears to be all right and is expected to be available on Monday night.
After Diggs, the top targets for Allen are Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis, both of whom have been able to find an uptick in production of late even with all the attention their teammate has received. Beasley has 79 receptions for 950 yards on the season and has double-digit targets in four of his last five games and over 100 yards receiving in three of his final four, while Davis leads the team in touchdown receptions with six and has gotten scores in three of his last four games.
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Allen is the clear top threat in the Buffalo running game, with backfield duties handled mainly between Devin Singletary and Zach Moss. Both average at least 4.5 yards per carry, with Singletary leading in rushing yards while also contributing 35 receptions. He was also able to get off the scoring slide a week ago against the Broncos, and will look to continue that momentum forward after getting into the endzone for the first time since week four.
Last week’s loss to the Dolphins finished off the Patriots playoff chances, and one of the more frustrating aspects of the season is not how bad they have looked at times, but more so that despite all of their issues, they still had a chance to win many of the games they eventually lost. This was definitely the case a week ago, where the team was driving to take the lead with momentum in the 4th quarter before shooting themselves in the foot yet again. With Cam Newton struggling with arm strength and long-range accuracy, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels decided to call a deep pass on third and short to a rookie tight end with zero receptions on the season. It didn’t come close to working, and New England had to settle for a field goal, lost all momentum, and never had the ball again with a chance to win.
This sort of play calling nonsense has become all too familiar sight for Patriots fans. Even the most ardent McDaniels supporters are now finally seeing just how useless he is when he doesn’t have the best quarterback in NFL history running plays for him. New England has an abysmal 28 points in the first quarter combined this season, which says a great deal about his ability to game plan as nothing he comes up with ahead of time seems to be working. And what makes it that much more frustrating is when things like the running game seem to find success early, McDaniels seems to shy away from it. This has been seen repeatedly with Damien Harris during the year and was again evident a week ago with Sony Michel. The former Bulldog back isn’t having his most productive season, but he has proven in the past when he gets consistent work, it seems to pay off for the team as New England has won their last ten consecutive games when Michel gets over 20 carries. Last week Michel had 77 yards on ten carries, but rather than ride the hot hand Josh McDaniels again decided to add to his audition tape of awfulness by play-calling the offense off a cliff, and the team paid for it again in the loss column.
Who will start at running back for the Patriots against the Bills remains to be seen, with Damien Harris still listed as questionable to play as of Wednesday. Sony Michel will likely get the starting nod if Harris is unable to go, though how much he will be used remains to be seen considering Josh McDaniels’s aversion to using any running back not named Rex Burkhead late in a game. James White’s use, or lack thereof, has been another confusing part of the McDaniels play calling crapfest, as White has over four receptions in a game just once in their last nine played and has yet to get over five carries in a game all season. White has zero touchdown receptions this year after putting up at least five in each of the last three seasons. It is undoubtedly not the veteran’s fault that he hasn’t been given a reasonable opportunity, especially considering the lack of talent surrounding Newton in the passing game.
Cam Newton’s primary three targets in the passing game on Monday will be wide receivers Jakobi Meyers, Damiere Byrd, and N’Keal Harry. Who will get the most attention remains a weekly guessing game, though at least Cam Newton was able to muster up 209 yards passing a week ago against the Dolphins, which may not seem like much until you consider he had just 272 combined over the previous three weeks. Unfortunately, Newton’s scoring issues remain a major problem, as he has only one passing touchdown over his last four games and just one rushing score in his previous five.
THE FINAL DECISION
The Bills have something to play for with postseason seeding still up in the air, while the Patriots’ offense remains a near disaster and their defense just lost their best player in Gilmore for the season. Buffalo hasn’t beaten New England twice in the same season since 1999, but I expect that streak to end on Monday and the Bills to come with a win and cover against the Patriots in Foxboro.
Mike’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Buffalo -7. Bet your Week 16 NFL picks FREE by scoring a FAT 100% real cash bonus on your first deposit of $100 to $300 at MyBookie! (Must use bonus code PREDICT100)