Buffalo Bills vs. New England Patriots
Line: Buffalo -7.5
Where: Gillette Stadium
When: Monday, 12/28, at 8:15 p.m. ET
Buffalo has already ended an 11-year AFC East title drought.
The Bills could have a shot at clinching the No. 2 seed in the AFC when they face New England in primetime on Monday night. They opened as 6.5-point favorites and had been steamed up to 7.5-point favorites by Saturday afternoon.
New England will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008. The Patriots closed as small road favorites against Miami last week, but they lost the game 22-12. They have now gone ‘under’ the total in six straight games, as the offense is really struggling.
Buffalo, meanwhile, can clinch the No. 2 seed in the AFC with a win on Monday night and a Pittsburgh loss on Sunday afternoon. The Bills have won seven of their last eight games, including a 24-21 win at home against New England. They have covered the spread in their last six games.
Quarterback Josh Allen leads a Buffalo offense that ranks fifth in the NFL, averaging 386.7 total yards per contest. He has completed 68.7 percent of his attempts for 4,000 yards and has a 30-to-9 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Allen has also rushed for 383 yards on 96 carries.
Wide receiver Stefon Diggs has caught 111 passes for 1,314 yards and five touchdowns, developing into one of the league’s top targets. Veteran Cole Beasley has been a reliable weapon as usual, hauling in 79 receptions for 950 yards. Devin Singletary and Zack Moss have combined for more than 1,000 rushing yards this season.
They will be facing a New England defense that ranks No. 11 in the NFL, allowing 354.4 yards per game. The Patriots have struggled over the last few weeks, giving up 24 points to Los Angeles and 22 points to Miami.
They will be without reigning Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore, who went down with a knee injury last week. Gilmore likely would have been covering Diggs on Monday night.
The real struggles have come on the offensive side of the ball throughout the season, though. Head coach Bill Belichick refused to answer questions regarding the starting quarterback position earlier this week, but Cam Newton has been named the starter for tonight’s game.
Newton has completed 65.9 percent of his passes, but he has an atrocious 5-to-10 touchdown-to-interception ratio. New England could go with Jarrett Stidham if Newton struggles early. Jakobi Meyers and Damiere Byrd are the top pass catchers, but the Patriots rank No. 30 in the league in passing yards per game.
The rushing attack has been better, averaging a fifth-best 145.5 yards per contest. Running back Damien Harris has 137 carries for 691 yards and two touchdowns, while Newton has added 122 attempts for 489 yards. New England has only mustered 15 combined points over the last two games.
The Patriots have been tough to fade as home underdogs in recent seasons, going 12-1 against-the-spread in their last 13 as home ‘dogs. They are facing a Buffalo team that is 2-6 ATS in its last eight games in the series, but the Bills have covered in their last six games this season.
The pick: Buffalo -7
This is a tricky number to bet, but Buffalo should win this game by double digits. The Bills have been rolling over the last two months and have plenty to play for on Monday night. New England is now eliminated from the playoff picture, so there could be a dip in motivation. The Patriots are also going to be without their best defensive player, which does not bode well against Allen and Diggs. Buffalo has been living in New England’s shadow for several decades, but the Bills are going to make a statement in primetime in this game.