New England Patriots (9-2 SU, 7-4 ATS) vs. Buffalo Bills (6-5 SU, 6-4-1 ATS)
NFL Week 13
Date/Time: Sunday December 3rd 1:00 PM EST
Where: New Era Field
by Mike M, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: NE-7.5 / BUF+7.5
Over/Under Total: 49
The Patriots head west on I-90 to take on the Bills for a Sunday afternoon showdown in scenic Buffalo. New England has dominated the series in recent history, having gone 24-3 against the Bills in their last 27 meetings, though Buffalo has found of success of late with two wins in the teams last five games with both coming on the road in Foxboro as double-digit underdogs.
A win by New England would all but secure their 14th AFC East divisional championship in the last 15 years, while Buffalo fans havent seen their team win a division title since 1995, which was also the last time the Bills have actually won a playoff game. They are also in the midst of what is the longest current postseason drought of NFL team with an unfortunate streak of 17 seasons that dates back to 1999, when they lost in the Wild Card round to Tennessee in a game made history due to the infamous Music City Miracle.
You would think that missing out on the playoffs for that long would likely motivate a team to do whatever it takes to spare your loyal fans from another year of disappointment, but current and likely soon to be former Bills head coach Sean McDermott evidently does not subscribe to that line of thinking as he mysteriously/moronically benched his started quarterback Tyrod Taylor in favor of rookie Nathan Peterman before their week 11 game against the Chargers. This led to a record setting disaster by Peterman who responded by throwing five interceptions in the first half, which set a record for most interceptions in one half and the most interceptions thrown in a players first career start.
What makes sitting Taylor that much more confusing is the fact that the Bills at the time were slotted as the 6th in the AFC playoff race thanks to mediocre seasons for a majority of the teams across the conference and in good position to finish off the year in a similar position and in turn finally break their postseason parch spell. Another reason for befuddlement is that Taylor has easily been the most efficient and productive of the twelve quarterbacks the team has started since 2005, with the list of inferiority containing J.P. Losman, Kelly Holcomb, Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brian Brohm, E.J. Manuel, Thad Lewis, Jeff Tuel, Kyle Orton, Matt Cassell and the aforementioned rattled and rancid rookie Peterman. Beginning with the 2015 season, Taylor has thrown for 49 touchdowns compared to just 15 interceptions with an additional 13 touchdowns on the ground, which is even more impressive considering he has consistently dealt with a weak group of wide receivers with Sammy Watkins the only real threat and he was frequently injured before being suddenly and unexpectedly traded back in August. Furthermore, the move continues to defy logic as why they would bother trading for wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin back on Halloween if they were going to go ahead and bench their only viable option at the quarterback position. With management and coaching decisions like this, it is no wonder a majority of the entertainment in Buffalo during football season hasnt taken place on the playing field but instead in the parking lot with their fun loving fanbase known as the Bills Mafia, whose favorite activity of throwing each other through tables is likely a lot less painless than watching their beloved team self destruct on a yearly basis.
With Peterman a clear lost cause, Buffalo was forced to go with Taylor again at quarterback, who in turn led his team to an upset victory on the road against the Chiefs in Arrowhead that has the Bills right back into playoff contention, offering even more proof to the contrary of McDermotts intelligence as a head coach. Taylor was able to get the win despite Kelvin Benjamin continuing to remain unavailable thanks to a torn meniscus and as of Monday the former Panther wideout continues to look questionable to get back on the field sooner than later. All of which means that Tyrod will again be relied upon to make do with a lackluster list of targets that is near absent of wide receiver talent and for the season is being led in receptions by their running back (McCoy), yards by a tight end (Clay) and touchdowns by Andre Holmes who has just three on the year and has scored just once in the past two months.
Thankfully for the Patriots, offensive weapons are no such concern as they remain at or near the top of most categories including first in total yards and passing while also ranking third in scoring with an average of 29.5 yards per game. Offseason acquisition Brandin Cooks continues to build a stronger rapport with Brady on a weekly basis and over his past three games has 6 receptions and a touchdown in each while also posting 306 yards receiving, while their versatile stable of running backs continues to contribute in multi-faceted ways with Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead and James White all viable options both on the ground and through the air.
Bradys favorite option continues to be Rob Gronkowski, who last week broke the Patriots franchise record set by Randy Moss with his16th multi touchdown game of his career and since 2010 has the most touchdowns of any NFL player with 74, even with the fact that he has missed 25 games in that time span due to injury. Gronk was able to put a serious dent in the New England record early in his career with 10 multi-TD games out of 27 from 2011-2012, but had struggled a bit since with this past Sunday being just the fourth time in his past 55 regular season games that he has managed such a feat, thanks in large part to the various injuries he has suffered since along with increased attention paid to him on a weekly basis by opposing defenses.
Another promising aspect of the Patriots easy victory against Miami was that their defense again continued their improvement and has now gone seven straight games without letting up more than 17 points. With four divisional games left, including another against the floundering Dolphins along with two against a Bills offense that ranks near the bottom of the NFL in scoring and yards per game, New Englands D should sustain their recent success and hopefully add to their momentum with the postseason just over a month away.
Tom Brady has found great success against the Bills in the past with a record of 26-3 and a total of 66 touchdowns thrown, both of which are the highest totals of his career versus any team in the league. He has put up a TD-INT ratio of 12/1 against Buffalo since 2014 and has been especially accomplished when playing them on the road, having thrown for 16 touchdowns compared to only 1 interception and averaging 354 yards per game passing over his last five trips to Orchard Park. With their quarterback finding a multitude of achievements against the Bills, it should be no surprise that New England has been able to dominate the series as they have, and just like their QB they have done even better on the road with a record of 12-1 over their last thirteen at Buffalo with an average victory of 19 points per game. I expect the Patriots and Belichick to reign supreme yet again this weekend in Buffalo with a win and cover against a Bills squad doing everything possible on the field to offset the sideline decision making disaster that is their head coach Sean McDermott.
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