The Buffalo Bills pulled their season back from the brink of irrelevance with four wins in their last five games. On Sunday, they can complete the comeback by avenging an early-season loss and beating the last-place team in the AFC East, the New England Patriots.
A win in the 1 p.m. ET game and any one of several other outcomes put the Bills in the playoffs for the fifth consecutive year. A win and a Miami Dolphins loss keep them in the running to defend their division title and sets up a final-week AFC East showdown in South Florida.
The Bills are two-touchdown favourites against a Patriots team that is last in the NFL in scoring offence. The 4-11 Patriots have been so bad, that reports have suggested legendary coach Bill Belichick’s job could be on the line in these final two weeks, but they have shown a slight uptick in play as the season winds down.
Bet on Bills vs. Patriots
This rivalry has been flipped on its head in recent seasons. With Belichick teaming with Tom Brady, New England went 34-9 vs. Buffalo from 2001 to 2019. Since then, Buffalo has won six of the eight matchups, though it dropped the teams’ Oct. 22 game 29-25.
Bills vs. Patriots odds
|Bills Moneyline Odds
|Patriots Moneyline Odds
|40.0 points (over -110, under -110)
|Dec. 31, 1:00 p.m. ET
About the Patriots (4-11 SU, 5-10 ATS, 6-9 o/u)
This season will mark a low point in the Belichick era no matter what owner Robert Kraft decides to do with one of the greatest coaches in NFL history. Since the departure of Brady in 2020, the Patriots have struggled to mount much in the way of offence, but this season that trend has reached a new low. New England is averaging just 14.1 points per game and replaced quarterback Mac Jones with Bailey Zappe around mid-season. Zappe has led a slight resurgence though this team isn’t going to scare many defences. Zappe has gone 2-2 as the starter, including a 26-23 win over the Denver Broncos last week in which he threw for a career-high 256 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
The remainder of this season will be Zappe’s chance to seize the job for 2024 and winning games could help that cause as well, as it will distance New England from a draft pick that might help them nab one of the best college quarterbacks in next April’s draft.
New England’s strength is stopping other teams’ running games. The Pats are second in the NFL, allowing just 84.8 yards per game on the ground to their opponents.
Ezekial Elliott will be hard-pressed to extend his streak of scoring at least eight touchdowns to eight straight seasons. He has four in the Patriots’ first 15 games, two rushing and two receiving. One of the latter came last week when he leapfrogged a Broncos defender on a 15-yard touchdown reception.
About the Bills (9-6 SU, 6-8-1 ATS, 5-10 o/u)
A win here and a Miami loss vs. the AFC-leading Baltimore Ravens would put the AFC East title on the line next week in Miami. The Bills would clinch a playoff berth with another win and one of 13 other results. It has been an impressive run for a Bills team that was 5-5 at one point after dropping four of six games during a mid-season slump.
The Bills have completely revamped their identity since switching offensive coordinators six weeks ago. They have had more than 105 rushing yards in each of their last five games. They’ll be hard-pressed to repeat that performance against a good New England run defence that hasn’t allowed a team to rush for 100 yards in six straight games.
Against that stout New England front, expect the Bills to try to bounce Cook outside, where he does much of his damage. In the past two weeks, Cook has had career highs for carries and yards on the ground. In a rout of the Dallas Cowboys, Cook had 25 carries for 179 yards and, last week, he carried it 20 times for 70 yards.
They were massive favourites last week, too, and barely escaped L.A. with a 24-22 win over the Chargers. The Bills were down 10-0 early before Allen rallied them, throwing for 237 yards, a touchdown and rushing for two TDs.
The Bills’ defence deserves a lot of credit for overcoming, after a mid-season lull, season-ending injuries to key defensive players Matt Milano and Tre’Davious White. The past two weeks, it has been dealing with injuries to elite safety Micah Hyde and pass rusher A.J. Epenesa. Despite all that, the Bills have held tough at 12th in DVOA.
While Cook has benefitted from the switch from Ken Dorsey to Joe Brady at offensive coordinator, Stefon Diggs has seen his production sapped due to a more run-heavy approach. Diggs hasn’t eclipsed 100 yards receiving since Week 6 vs. the New York Giants and he has seen his lowest percentage of targets than at any time during his time in Buffalo.
In the past three weeks combined, Diggs has hauled in just 13 passes for 101 yards and zero touchdowns.
This might be the game for Buffalo to start targeting one of the league’s top receivers more regularly. While the Patriots are stout against the run, with young cornerbacks Alex Austin and Shaun Wade, they are mediocre against the pass, ranking 23rd in the NFL. The emergence of big play threat Gabe Davis and slot receiver Khalil Shakir also has eaten into Diggs’ production, but he still is capable of eating alive a young cornerback, so the Bills would be wise to put the ball in his hands as often as possible.
Josh Allen (BUF) any time touchdown
The Patriots learned Friday that WR Juju Smith-Schuster would miss his third straight week with an ankle injury. TE Hunter Henry (knee), DT Christian Barmore (knee), LB Anfernee Jennings (knee), CB Jonathan Jones, CB Myles Bryant (chest), CB Shaun Wade (hip), S Kyle Dugger (illness), S Jabrill Pepper (hamstring) and ST Matthew Slater (hamstring) all are listed as questionable.
The Bills have four players listed as questionable: DE A.J. Epenesa (ribs), WR Justin Shorter (hamstring), DT Daquon Jones (pectoral) and S Damar Hamlin (shoulder).
Forecasters are calling for some snow showers and temperatures of about 2C at kickoff with light winds at about 9 km/h coming from the East Northeast.
- The average score in Bills’ games this season has added up to 46.2 points. It has averaged 40.1 points in Patriots games. Both totals are higher than the 40 set as the over-under in this one.
- The Bills have been moneyline favourites 12 times this season and gone 8-4 in those contests.
- At +600, the Patriots are the biggest moneyline underdogs they have been all season.
- The Patriots have averaged 19.5 points in divisional games and just 14.1 points in non-divisional games.
Player Prop Trends
- Without Smith-Schuster, Jaelen Reagor could be due for a more sizeable role. Reagor played 86% of the snaps last week and made a big play to help New England take an early lead.
- Belichick often focuses on taking away an opposing offence’s top weapon, which in this case is Diggs. If he’s able to do that, Davis could be in line for a bigger part of the offence. In each game Davis has eclipsed 60 receiving yards this season, he also has scored a touchdown.
- Allen’s 13 rushing touchdowns are second-most for a QB in the NFL. He had two last week against Denver and is even money to score a rushing TD here.
Wagers To Consider
- The Bills are laser-focused on the task at hand and New England’s offence isn’t good enough to keep up, especially playing at Highmark Stadium. Still, 14 points is a lot to lay to a team that already beat you once and Zappe has been slightly better than Jones statistically. The Patriots show few signs of tanking. It might be a spot to take the points and hold your breath.
- The weather forecast isn’t bad enough to tamp down the scoring and Buffalo might be forced to put the ball in the air a bit more than usual, which puts a favourable spotlight on that low over-under total. The scoring averages of both teams point to the over in this one.