Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots (-7.5, 47.5 o/u)
The last time the Buffalo Bills (5-4, 3-1 Road) made the playoffs, Tom Brady was in his senior year at Michigan. Since he got the starter’s job for the New England Patriots (9-0, 5-0 Home) in 2001, the AFC East has been a one-horse race, and that’s the case again this year. Bills coach Rex Ryan basically conceded the division last week, saying there was no way the Pats lose four games this year.
However, if Buffalo can just deal them one loss, they can end the Pats run at another historic season, while aiding their run at ending the longest playoff drought in pro sports. The Bills will take their best swing at the Pats in New England tonight on Monday Night Football (8:30 PM Eastern).
New England has been the best at pretty much everything this year, hence their record. But injuries continue to pile up against this team, hitting the passing game particularly hard. With WR Julian Edelman and RB Dion Lewis both done for the year, Brady lost two of his favorite third down targets. It’s not all bad news though: the offensive line should be healthier this week, with Sebastian Vollmer and Marcus Cannon slated to return this week and help out against a fierce Buffalo pass rush.
But it will be interesting to see who steps up in the receiving game this week against a strong Buffalo secondary. Taking away Rob Gronkowski figures to be Buffalo’s number one goal, so there should be room for Brandon Lafell, Danny Amendola or even former Bills tight end Scott Chandler to make plays against single coverage. Whoever is open, expect Brady to find them.
Back when these teams met in Week 2, in a hostile Orchard Park, Brady threw for 466 yards and three touchdowns, only getting sacked twice in a 40-32 win. The Bills D has looked better since coming off their bye week, holding two divisional opponents to 17 points each. To expect to limit Bill Belichick’s offense to that type of damage is a pipe dream though. That means they’ll need more from Tyrod Taylor and the offense.
Taylor was a tale of two quarterbacks in their first meeting; after a terrible first half put the Bills in a 37-13 hole, he had a fantastic fourth quarter, leading Buffalo to 19 points and nearly all the way back. Since that game, Taylor’s ball security has been much better: he has just one interception in the past five starts. Bolstered by a finally healthy Sammy Watkins and LeSean McCoy, the Bills offense is poised to have another effective night as long as Taylor can play a clean game. It helps too that star linebacker Jamie Collins is out again tonight.
The Patriots do still boast a ton of playmakers on defense, including (heading into this week) the league-leader in sacks Chandler Jones. The Bills have surrendered 27 sacks this year; in part due to protection and part due to Taylor’s desire to extend plays. Either way, the Pats D ranks top five in points allowed per game and will be a challenge to score against at home.
The Patriots have won five of the last six meetings, with the average margin being 6.2 points. The Bills lone win in that stretch was in Week 17 at Gillette Stadium last season. New England is 3-1-1 ATS as a home team, but Buffalo is 3-1 as a road squad. Something has to give tonight and given how close their last meeting was and how banged up the Patriots are, the Bills should be able to keep it tight again.
Pick: Bills (+7.5).
(Photo Credit: Alan Kotok (Originally uploaded to Flickr)[https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/])
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