The Patriots and Bills are facing off for the third time this season in what should be an exciting divisional playoff game. The Patriots got the better of the Bills in their first matchup, but they have now lost three of their last four games, including a 33-21 loss to Buffalo a few weeks ago. That poor stretch late in the year left the Patriots with a 10-7 record and made the Bills’ lives easier in their hunt for back-to-back AFC East championships. The Bills opened up as 4.5-point favorites over the Patriots, leaving Bill Belichick’s team in a rare spot as a road underdog in the postseason. However, the real question for New England will be whether or not we can trust rookie Mac Jones enough to bet on his team ATS. Let’s take a look at some angles for this Wild Card matchup.
New England Patriots Vs. Buffalo Bills Betting Odds
New England Patriots Vs. Buffalo Bills Injury Report
New England Patriots: OT Isaiah Wynn (hip) Q, DT Christian Barmore (knee) Q, RB Damien Harris (hamstring) Q, WR Jakobi Meyers (thigh) Q, C David Andrews (shoulder) Q, S Adrian Phillips (knee) Q, S Kyle Dugger (hand) Q
New England Patriots Betting Odds
The Patriots have had injuries pile up at the worst possible time, underscoring their recent downward trend and how their peak perhaps came too early in the season. Isaiah Wynn picked up a hip injury on Sunday, and his potential absence this week would be huge. The first step for the Patriots’ success this week is to keep the pocket clean for Mac Jones, as he has already said he doesn’t like playing in cold weather, and the forecast doesn’t look too pleasant for Saturday night. In the first game against the Bills, Jones attempted just three passes, and you could see why in the second meeting where he completed just 43% of his passes and threw two interceptions while averaging 4.5 yards per attempt. Keep an eye on the respective injury statuses of Damien Harris and Jakobi Meyers, as well, as their absences would make things even more difficult for Jones.
New England has had a resurgent defensive season as they rank fourth in DVOA. Matthew Judon didn’t quite follow through on the DPOY-level season I thought he could have with his new team, but he finished the year with a team-leading 12.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss and was named to the Pro Bowl. However, perhaps more important will be the health of rookie standout defensive lineman Christian Barmore as the pocket-pushing tackle will be crucial against a dynamic quarterback like Josh Allen. In the Bills’ win over the Patriots this year, Allen was missing two top pass-catchers in Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis, and he still threw for over 300 yards and three touchdowns against them.
Buffalo Bills Betting Odds
Last season, the Bills had two significant issues that held them back from the Super Bowl, and I believe they have addressed both of them. First, their offense was entirely too one-dimensional, making Josh Allen’s life difficult. We know Allen is a dynamic quarterback capable of airing out long bombs to his receivers and picking up significant yardage on the ground. However, defenses were not afraid of the Buffalo rushing attack last year. Lately, though, Devin Singletary has been playing some of the best football of his career. He finished the regular season with 188 carries for 870 yards and seven touchdowns, all career-highs. Josh Allen hasn’t been at his best throwing the ball lately, but Singletary’s efficient running has enabled the Bills to win four straight games by an average margin of 15 points. Of course, Stefon Diggs and the other talented pass-catchers are worth bringing up, but I believe Singletary is the X-factor for this Bills’ playoff push.
The other issue I believe the Bills had last year was a lack of production in the pass-rush. The sack numbers don’t jump off the page, but Gregory Rousseau has had a solid rookie season and has gotten better as the season has gone on. Ed Oliver’s consistency has improved, Boogie Basham has had some fantastic moments, and AJ Epenesa has been solid in his sophomore season. Buffalo has invested in its defensive line in recent drafts, and the play of their young D-linemen alongside Jerry Hughes will be crucial against an elite Patriots defensive line. The absence of All-Pro cornerback Tre’Davious White hasn’t been a massive issue yet, and the elite play of safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer certainly masks his absence.
New England Patriots Vs. Buffalo Bills Picks & Prediction
The Bills come into this game as the far healthier team and the team with much better momentum as of late. Mac Jones has had some great moments in his rookie season, and he’s going to have a promising career in the NFL, but it’s tough to trust him to produce on the road in the playoffs in cold weather against a top-notch defense. The emergence of Devin Singletary makes Buffalo’s offense much more difficult for Bill Belichick to game plan against, and even if he can take away Stefon Diggs, they have several pass-catchers who can step up and produce. Isaiah McKenzie had 11 catches against them this year, for example.
Taking the -4 is a bit weird because the Bills can win by three or four points theoretically, and you can still lose or push your bet. If you want to reduce your risk, you can parlay the money line with the Buccaneers or Chiefs, for example. Another option is taking the seven-point teaser and pushing the game to Bills +3 and over 36.5 points, as I lean towards the over on the game total regardless. These teams combined for 54 points in their last matchup, and the weather won’t be nearly as objectionable as that awful monsoon game in Buffalo earlier in the year.
My Predictions: Bills win 26-20, Bills cover, over 43.5 points
Best Bet: 7-Point Teaser – Bills +3 and over 36.5 points