Buffalo Bills vs. New England Patriots
Line: Buffalo -4
Where: Highmark Stadium
When: Saturday, 1/15 at 8:15 p.m. ET
Buffalo and New England will square off for the third time this season when they meet in the opening round of the playoffs on Saturday night.
The teams split their regular-season series, with the road team winning both games. Buffalo closed as a 3-point favorite in a 14-10 loss in early December, while New England lost a 33-21 decision as a 1-point ‘chalk’ the day after Christmas. They went ‘under’ the total of 40 in the first meeting, while the rematch flew ‘over’ 43.5.
Buffalo opened as a 4.5-point favorite in this game, but the early betting action pushed the line down to 3.5. The Bills took some money at that number, bringing the line to -4 as of Wednesday afternoon. Saturday night’s total opened at 43.5 and has been bet up to 44.
The Patriots have dominated historically in their trips to Orchard Park, winning nine of the last 10 meetings. They ran for 222 yards in their 14-10 win at Buffalo in early December. Rookie quarterback Mac Jones attempted just three passes in that game, as weather conditions were the headline.
Jones was the clear favorite to win the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award one month ago, but he threw six touchdowns and five interceptions in his final five games. He finished the regular season with 3,801 passing yards and 22 touchdowns, completing 67.6 percent of his passes.
Wide receivers Jakobi Meyers and Kendrick Bourne both went over 800 receiving yards. The rushing attack is led by running backs Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson, who are both averaging 4.6 yards per carry.
New England finished the regular season ranked No. 15 offensively, averaging 353.4 yards per game. The Patriots will be facing a Buffalo defense that leads the NFL in yards allowed per game (272.8).
The Bills set a franchise record by allowing just four first downs in their 27-10 win over the Jets last week. New York finished with just 53 yards, giving up nine sacks in the process. Buffalo will be looking to clean up its run defense, as it allowed New England to rush for 372 yards and four touchdowns in the first two meetings.
On the offensive side of the ball, quarterback Josh Allen leads an attack that ranks fifth in the NFL, averaging 381.9 yards per game. Allen completed 63.3 percent of his passes for 4,407 yards and 36 touchdowns during the regular season. Wide receiver Stefon Diggs led the receiving corps with 103 receptions for 1,225 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Running back Devin Singletary rushed for 870 yards and seven touchdowns, averaging 4.6 yards per carry. Allen is one of the league’s best running quarterbacks, tallying 763 yards and six scores. He will be facing a New England defense that ranks fourth in yards allowed per game (310.8).
Buffalo covered the spread in three of its final four games, while New England only covered once in its last four games. The Patriots have gone ‘over’ in nine of their last 13 contests, while Buffalo went ‘under’ in six of its nine home games this season.
The pick: Under 44
My lean is to New England on the spread, but I feel better about taking the ‘under’ 44. The Patriots have had success running the ball in their last two matchups with Buffalo. Jones has struggled with turnover issues over the last month, so I expect Bill Belichick to take a conservative approach offensively, especially against a Buffalo defense whose weakness is stopping the run. This style of game could result in a similar score to when these teams met in early December, although the weather will likely allow for a little more scoring. Buffalo’s offense has been playing better of late, but it still has not been able to find a consistent rhythm this season. I trust Belichick’s defense to come up with a strong gameplan in the third meeting of the season between these teams.