Week 13; Thursday Night Football; #BillsMafia @ #ForeverNE

With Week 13 we enter the final third of this NFL regular season, which as usual seems to be disappearing before our eyes. In only the third season of the expanded playoff format where 14 teams make the post season, it looks as though we are going to have four teams returning to the playoffs in each conference (it was four in the AFC and three in the NFC from 2020 to 2021). 

Four of these playoff teams were on display last Thursday on Thanksgiving, with the Patriots also knocking the door. And it’s the Patriots again this week as they host the joint favourites for the AFC, the Buffalo Bills. 

Buffalo Bills -3.5 @ New England Patriots: 43.5

It tells you a lot about the strength of this season’s AFC East that the Patriots are in danger of finishing at the bottom of the division for the first time since 2000 (the first season of the Belichick era) yet are 6-5 and just one game out of the playoffs. Only the NFC East can boast more wins and there is a very real possibility that we see two full divisions make the playoffs this year. 

This is the first meeting between these teams this year, they split the regular season series in 2021, before the Bills trounced the Pats in the wildcard round of the playoffs in January. Everything seems to be pointing towards a close game this time around though. 

Bills

The Bills and Josh Allen haven’t looked like their normal, invincible selves over the last four weeks with Allen struggling with that elbow injury. Fortunately, they have gotten over the line in their last two games against the Lions and Browns and are still very much in the frame for the number one seed in the AFC. 

For context, in this four game span, Allen has thrown for 246 yards/game to go along with four touchdowns and five interceptions. He was averaging 314 yards with 19 touchdowns and six interceptions in his first seven games. It is clear to see that the injury is bothering him, but he has been able keep his team in the game with his legs and stepped up when it matters over the last two weeks. The throw to Diggs to setup the game winning field goal last week was special. It doesn’t feel right but the under on Allen’s 268.5 yard passing line is probably the way to go against a Patriots team allowing just 130 passing yards per game at home (albeit against no one close to Allen’s arm talent). 

As you’d expect, Stefon Diggs’ production has followed Allen’s pretty closely and in recent weeks he has been held pretty quiet for large parts of games but has still come away with 86.5 yards per game and a couple of scores over his last four. In his previous two visits to New England with the Bills, Diggs has four touchdowns and 230 yards on 16 catches. While I am not too enthusiastic about the Bills passing offense in general tonight, Diggs gets a ridiculous share of the targets and will always be a solid bet to hit his over (81.5 yards) or to score a touchdown (6/5 most places). 

Buffalo’s other pass catchers are up and down which is what happens when you target one player as much as Allen targets Diggs. Gabe Davis is the deep threat and is already up to a career high 650 yards for the season on just 33 receptions. The Patriots don’t tend to allow a lot of big plays, so we might see him have a line similar to last week where he managed just 38 yards against the Lions. Isaiah McKenzie had his best performance of the year in that Lions game with 96 yards but hadn’t managed 40 in a game since week 3 before that. And Dawson Knox saw just two targets last week after seeing 17 across the previous three. I am fading all of these guys but in a offense that can be as explosive as Buffalo’s, it’s safer to avoid. 

Despite not yet managing a 100 yard game on the ground this year, Devin Singletary has cemented himself as the RB1 for the Bills. In close games he gets almost all of the work and should be a solid bet for around 15-20 touches depending on game script and so I like him at 6/4 for a touchdown tonight. James Cook is only really a threat to his touches if the game gets out of hand early and Nyheim Hines has been almost exclusively a special teams player since he was acquired from the Colts. 

David Berding/Getty Images

Patriots

The Patriots had a sluggish start to the season but are back in the playoff fold thanks to winning five of six prior to last week’s loss to the Vikings. And despite the loss last week, there were reasons to be positive, with Mac Jones posting a career high in passing yards (382). Jones also had multiple passing touchdowns for the first time this season. 

Historically he has struggled against the Bills, aside from a game last year where he was only asked to attempt THREE passes, but this seasons version of the Bills defense has been disappointing – at least in recent weeks. Kirk Cousins, Jacoby Brissett and Jared Goff have combined for over 900 yards against the Bills over their last three games, so Jones’ line of 230.5 is tempting. 

Jakobi Meyers is one of the most consistent receivers in the league to get you four or five catches for 50-60 yards. He is carrying an injury into this game but is expected to play and if he does, he’s a solid bet to hit over 50.5 yards in what should be a good matchup for him. Davante Parker will play the role of the deep threat and it wouldn’t surprise you if he was either held without a catch or doubled his line of 34.5 yards. Outside of Meyers the receivers are hard to predict with Nelson Agholor having six receptions for 65 yards and a TD last week after not topping 20 yards since Week 4. At tight end, Hunter Henry is always a red zone threat but the Bills tend to shut down tight ends (allowing zero TD’s to the position this season). 

The big story in recent weeks for the Patriots has been Rhamondre Stevenson. With Damien Harris spending most of the season banged up, he has seen an increased role and has taken full advantage of it. He has been impressive on the ground but is really making a name for himself as a receiver with Ekeler and McCaffrey being the only backs with more receptions so far this season. 37.5 yards is his receiving line tonight which feels a little high to take, but I like him to hit the over on 4.5 receptions in a game the Patriots will likely be chasing (and with Harris again ruled out). He has had five or more catches in four of his last five games. 

Who wins?

Since Brady left and Josh Allen developed into one of the best QB’s in the league, the Bills are 3-1 against the Patriots in the regular season, with the one loss being that strange game in the Buffalo wind last year. There is set to be wind again tonight but not on the same scale and so it’s impossible to bet against the Bills. On the points total, leaning to the over on 43.5.

William Hill’s double your odds has a Bills win and TD’s for Stevenson and Singletary at 8/1 which looks a good bet (although these don’t normally go well for me). 

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