Week 16: Buffalo Bills vs. New England Patriots Pick
Buffalo Bills (10-4 SU, 9-4-1 ATS) vs. New England Patriots (11-3 SU, 8-6 ATS)
Date/Time: Saturday, December 21st, 4:30 PM
Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, MA
TV: NFL Network
Point Spread: BUFF +6.5 / NE -6.5 (SportBet - Best Parlay Odds in the World!)
Over/Under Total: 38.5
In a matchup with major divisional playoff implications, the 11-3 New England Patriots host the 10-4 Buffalo Bills for a Saturday afternoon showdown at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro. The Patriots have dominated the series since 2001, going 33-3 in their last 36 meetings, including a 16-2 mark at home.
A victory against New England would even things up for the Bills in the win column, but they would still need the Patriots to fall again in week 17 to the Dolphins as well due to losing out on the third playoff tiebreaker of win percentage against common opponents. New England is 9-1 and Buffalo 8-3 in such a scenario, with the Patriots having lost to the Ravens and the Bills dropping games to the Eagles, Browns, and Ravens as well.
Buffalo comes into this week with wins in four of their last five games and having clinched their second playoff appearance in the past three seasons under head coach Sean McDermott. This is especially impressive considering they had gone the previous 17 straight seasons without a trip to the postseason. With all the attention given to the younger generation of head coaches of late that either have extensive offensive backgrounds or considered possible quarterback gurus, the defensive specialist McDermott could very well end up being the best of the new bunch.
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You wouldn’t expect to hear a great deal of positivity about an offense that ranks 28th in passing, 23rd in yards per game and 22nd in scoring, but Bills remain positive that Josh Allen will continue to show near the effectiveness throwing the ball as he does running it, as if he could ever get up to a consistent performance it would go a long way toward Buffalo continuing their recent run of success. Allen has thrown 18 touchdowns compared to 9 interceptions while completing 59.3% of his passes, but he made his real mark with legs, rushing for 467 yards and nine of Buffalo’s thirteen touchdowns on the ground. His running success has translated well for the Bills as they have gone 11-3 in fourteen games that Allen has rushed for a touchdown, though one of those losses was against the Patriots this season. The same could be said for Buffalo’s ability to get on the scoreboard, as they are 16-2 in their last eighteen games when scoring 20 or more points, and 18 of their previous 21 losses have been when they scored 17 or less.
RUNNING OF THE BILLS
Averaging 134.9 rushing yards per game, the Buffalo running attack ranks 5th in the league, and other than quarterback Josh Allen is made up near entirely by the dual-headed attack of the ageless Frank Gore and rookie Devin Singletary. Gore has faded considerably since the year started, not having scored since week three, clearing 35 yards in a contest just once in his past eleven games and only having posted 32 yards on 23 carries over the past three weeks. This has helped Singletary emerge as the possible future of the teams’ backfield, posting 729 yards on the ground, a 5.4 yards per carry average, and an additional 28 receptions for 192 yards through the air. Singletary has scored four total touchdowns on the season but will be looking to get back into a more consistent trip to the end zone on the ground after having rushed for just one TD in his past nine games. With the rookie averaging over 4.0 yards per carry in ten of eleven games this season while Gore slowly plods his way to the end of his career, it would be a surprise if Singletary doesn’t remain the more focal point of the running game through the final two weeks of the regular season along with however long they last in the postseason.
FREE AGENT FINDS
Within the passing game, wide receiver John Brown is easily the top choice of quarterback Josh Allen and on the season has 71 catches for 1007 yards receiving and five touchdowns. When Brown gets into the end zone, it seems to have a positive effect on whatever team he is currently playing for, as the Bills are 5-0 this season when he scores a touchdown and over his career, his teams are 20-6 overall in such a scenario. Allen’s secondary target is Cole Beasley, who has scored in three of his past four games but is coming off his worst week of the season after catching just one pass for five yards against Pittsburgh. After that, the next best option other than Brown, Beasley, and Singletary out of the backfield is tight end, Dawson Knox, though he has just one touchdown in his last eleven games and has gone over three receptions only once all season.
The real strength of the Bills team is their defense, which ranks 2nd in the NFL in scoring and 3rd in both passing and total yards allowed per game. They have been especially effective of late, recording 20 sacks over their last five games and causing nine turnovers over the past four weeks. There are many to thank for their run of success, with Jordan Phillips and Trent Murphy highlighting the defensive line, Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano the linebackers and Tre’Davius White, Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer amongst the defensive backfield. The best of the bunch is likely Edmunds, who has now recorded over 100 tackles in a back-to-back season, and White, who is third in the NFL with 17 passes defended and tied with the Patriots’ Stephon Gilmore for the league lead in interceptions with six.
New England enters Week 16, needing one win to clinch their 11th consecutive AFC East championship and what would be their 16th divisional title in the past 17 seasons. The only year they didn’t win the division was in 2008 when Tom Brady was injured in week one, though Matt Cassell was able to lead the team to an 11-5 record as they became the only team since the NFL went to a 12 team playoff in 1990 not to make the postseason with eleven wins on the year.
For the Patriots to find success in the postseason, they will continue to need some sort of offensive consistency that has seemingly escaped them throughout the season. They have been able to score touchdowns on their opening drive of the past two games when they are going by a scripted list of plays that have been set and practiced during the week, but after that they have found limited success as those are the only two times in the past three games that they gotten into the end zone in the first half, scoring just two touchdowns in sixteen drives in that time span. Some of that lack of success can be directly contributed to offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who when forced to start making play calls of his own after the scripted ones run out doesn’t have the creativity to adjust to what the opposing teams are throwing at them and must instead rely mainly on an aging Tom Brady to bail them out again and again. This has been increasingly difficult of late, with Brady completing just 50% of his passes over the past four games while also throwing for over 200 yards only once in the past month.
If New England wants to find that improvement, they will continue to need someone else to step up in the passing game not named Julian Edelman or James White. Last week saw the slight emergence of rookie 1st round pick N’Keal Harry, who finally got a lot more playing than Jakobi Dropsy Myers and should hopefully be able to develop more of a connection with Tom Brady with each additional snap played. A lack of connection has become glaringly evident with wide receiver Muhammad Sanu, whose lost practice time due to injury has become more an issue with each passing week as he and Brady are not just missing each other, they aren’t even close on a variety of throws. How much longer Brady continues to go to him remains to be seen, but he may not have a choice after previous valid option Phillip Dorsett has seemingly disappeared from the passing game after playing just nine snaps against the Bengals and now has only two targets for zero receptions over his past two games. All of this becomes even more of an issue when you consider that receiver focal point Edelman continues to play through a variety of injuries and thankfully was able to get some rest in the previous game playing only 40 snaps as the game got out of contention in the second half. There is no doubt the focus on Edelman will increase in remaining games against quality competition, but how long he will be able to hold up and remain healthy enough to play under such a heavy workload (he is third in the league in both targets and receptions) remains to be seen, which makes getting that first-round bye that much more important for the extra rest that comes with it.
BACK TO THE RUN
One way for the Patriots to get some balance on offense would be more of a commitment to the running game. As much as he has struggled at times this season, the team has a proven track record of success when Sony Michel is able to get involved as they are 18-1 over the past two seasons in games that he scores, including 9-0 this year. James White is undoubtedly another option as he is much more than just a receiving threat, having averaged over 4.0 yards per carry in five of his past six games with the only off one coming against Dallas when he got just two carries. He has also been able to average over a four a carry in the last seven regular-season games when he gets six carries or more. After that, Rex Burkhead can not be forgotten, especially as the season gets later with his proven ability to come up big when it matters most in the playoffs.
A big step toward stopping Josh Allen is the ability to attack him in the pocket, as he has a quarterback rating of just 31.7 when under pressure, which ranks 30th in the league, and is going up against a team that has allowed an NFL lowest quarterback rating of 57.4 this season. The Patriots defense has started slow a few times in the back half of the season, but they have been able to make strong halftime adjustments and have allowed just 16 second-half points over their past five games. If they could step things up in the pressure department, they are just 30th in the league in sacks; it would go a long way toward rattling Josh Allen. And hopefully opening up the door for more turnovers for their ball-hawking defensive backs including three with at least five interceptions on the season; possible NFL defensive player of the year Stephon Gilmore (6) along with Devin McCourty and J.C. Jackson (5 each).
If you are one who overvalues gambling trends, the direction you will likely go in is Buffalo. The Bills are 7-0-1 in their last eight road games against the spread, while also going 5-1 versus in the number in their previous six AFC East matchups. The away team in the Bills/Patriots series is 20-8-1 over their last 29 matchups, and Buffalo has gone 3-1-1 in their past five at Gillette Stadium. Much was made about the Patriots taking advantage of an easy schedule early, and that case has been strengthened after watching them falter in the second half of the year against quality opponents as they have gone just 1-5 against the spread in their last six matchups against teams with a winning record.
Since Gillette Stadium opened the Patriots have gone 138-25 at home and considering they lost their game there against the Chiefs two weeks ago, it should be noted that they have not lost back-to-back games at home since 2008 (The Cassell year). Before 2019 getting the Bills away from Buffalo was a decided advantage as they had gone just 4-13 in the previous two seasons on the road. Still, they have somehow turned things around, going 6-1 in away games this season and pulling off their first winning road record since 1999.
THE FINAL DECISION
If the game follows suit and is the low scoring affair expected by most, it could favor Buffalo as the Patriots have gone 29-2 in their last 31 games when scoring 21 points or more but are just 3-7 in their previous ten matchups when scoring 20 or fewer (though it should be noted that one of those three wins came in a 16-10 victory back in September against the Bills). New England’s three losses this season have all come against some of the better quarterbacks in the league (Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Jackson and Patrick Mahomes) who played for teams that all ranked in the top seven in total offense. While Josh Allen has looked improved this season compared to his rookie one, he is not remotely close to being in the elite category, and he has struggled mightily against Belichick and the Patriots in the past. New England’s offense may continue to falter against a quality Bills defense while also being poisoned on the sidelines by the frequent idiocy of vastly overrated offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Still, their defense is far better than whatever Josh Allen has to throw at them. By game’s end, the Patriots will get the win and cover against the Bills while continuing their historic run of divisional dominance against the AFC East.
Mike’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: New England -6.5. Bet the Bills/Pats game for FREE by taking advantage of a massive 100% REAL CASH bonus on your first deposit of $100 to $300 at MyBookie!