The Buffalo Bills are looking to bounce back after a last-second upset loss to a New England Patriots team they had dominated in recent seasons, but Sunday’s loss in Foxborough didn’t come out of nowhere and might represent something of an early-season slump.
The previous week, the Bills had barely salvaged a 14-9 win vs. the New York Giants. And the week before that, they looked jet-lagged in a 25-20 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in London. It’s fair to say this Bills team – which now sits in second place behind the Miami Dolphins in the AFC East it has owned in recent seasons – needs a convincing win on short rest Thursday night. Bookmakers seem to expect it based on the 9.5-point spread the Bills are laying (at bet365) in this 8:15 p.m. ET home game vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Bet on Buccaneers vs. Bills
The Buccaneers have problems of their own, including losses in three of their last four games. Last week’s 16-13 loss to the Atlanta Falcons particularly stung a team with designs on winning the eminently winnable NFC South.
Buccaneers vs. Bills odds
|Buccaneers Moneyline Odds||+350|
|Bills Moneyline Odds||-450|
|Spread odds||Bills -9.5 (-110), Buccaneers +9.5 (-110)|
|Over/Under||43.5 points (over -110, under -110)|
|Time/Date||Oct. 26, 8:15 p.m. ET|
About the Buccaneeers (3-3 SU, 3-3 ATS, 1-5 o/u)
The Bucs didn’t have a full practice on Monday, just a walk-through, but the team announced that quarterback Baker Mayfield did not participate due to a knee injury. That added intrigue to this game and no doubt influenced the line, with bookmakers setting it with the knowledge that Kyle Trask might get the start.
Mayfield did participate in Tuesday’s walk-through and afterward told reporters the injury wasn’t “too bad,” saying he will be good to go on Thursday. The line didn’t budge, however, probably an indication of Tampa’s overall struggles lately.
Mayfield isn’t the only key Bucs player whose status is questionable going into this one, with receiver Chris Godwin dealing with a neck injury and veteran defensive tackle Vita Vea nursing a groin injury. The Bucs haven’t scored much in general and their last two performances, at home, are making people wonder whether they can stay in this game even if Mayfield plays.
Tampa Bay has avoided a losing record so far primarily by winning the turnover battle. This defence’s +7 turnover margin leads the NFL. Perhaps it speaks to their ball-hawking ways, but it also smacks of good luck, which figures to run out at some point and this might be it. If Josh Allen and the Bills take care of the football, this might not be a massive challenge at their home stadium.
About the Bills (4-3 SU, 3-4 ATS, 3-4 o/u)
It always hurts to lose to Bill Belichick and the Pats. To lose to them on a touchdown with 12 seconds remaining is a whole other level of pain.
After that 48-20 demolition of the Dolphins in Week 4, this team seemed to be on a collision course with another Super Bowl run, but injuries, particularly the season-ending loss of linebacker Matt Milano, and underperformance, including at times, by quarterback Allen, have surfaced in recent weeks.
Allen has seven interceptions through seven games, probably the biggest reason to pick apart his play this season. If he doesn’t bounce back this week, against the No. 26 pass defence in the NFL, Buffalo could have a problem on its hands. There has been conjecture that the shoulder injury Allen sustained two weeks ago has affected his throws.
Then again, the Bills are 3-0 at Highmark Stadium – their one home loss was the London game – so this seems like a likely spot for their turnaround to begin, if it’s going to begin.
Allen’s favourite weapon also has looked dangerous in recent weeks. Stefon Diggs eclipsed 100 yards receiving in Week 6 to become just the fifth player in the Super Bowl Era with five 100-yard receiving games through his team’s first six games. He ranks second in the NFL in receptions (55) and receiving touchdowns (six), so he’s always worth considering for player-prop overs.
The Bills’ defence just allowed a Patriots team that had averaged 12 points per game to put up 29 on them. The injuries seem to be taking their toll. The issue is particularly pronounced in coverage, where Milano and Tre’Davious White excelled.
In other words, this Bills’ defence was stout before these injuries, but could be a bit overrated at this point. The question is whether this Tampa Bay passing offence is good enough to exploit the Bills’ sudden weakness. The Bucs haven’t exactly been a juggernaut through the air and now they’re dealing with Chris Godwin’s injury. Expect Mayfield to try to get the ball frequently to his favourite target, Mike Evans, who ranks 20th in the league in receiving yards with 468.
The Bucs can barely run the ball and lately they haven’t even been trying. They rank 29th in rushing yards per game (77.8). They’ll look to air it out to exploit the Bills’ banged-up secondary, but that doesn’t mean it will go well, particularly if Mayfield isn’t 100%.
Buccaneers under 86.5 total rushing yards
For Tampa, in addition to Mayfield’s status, WR Godwin (neck), G Matt Feiler (knee), and DT Vita Vea (groin) are viewed as questionable for this contest. On the bright side, RB Chase Edmonds (knee) was a full participant in Monday’s practice and appears to be a go for Thursday night.
The Bills’ injury woes are mostly confined to their defence. In addition to Milano being out for the season, DT Daquon Jones (pectoral) and CB Tre’Davious White (Achilles) will miss this game. TE Dawson Knox (wrist) is out here, while TE Quintin Morris (ankle) is questionable.
Forecasters are calling for an unseasonably warm late-October evening in western New York, with temperatures of about 17 C, overcast skies and winds out of the southwest at about 19 km/h.
- The Bills have hit the first-quarter game-total over in 16 of their last 22 games.
- The Buccaneers and their opponents have hit the over on this point total (42.5) just once this season.
- The Bucs have not been this big an underdog yet this season, with bet365 pegging them as +350 ‘dogs in this one.
Player prop trends
- Rachaad White has failed to rush for at least 49 yards in back-to-back weeks and in four of his last six games. The Bucs don’t run the ball well in general, so consider taking the under here.
- With Knox out, Buffalo will be forced to find new targets and that could put receiver Khalil Shakir in good position to have his role increased this week. Tampa has a leaky pass defence in general and just allowed Desmond Ridder to pick up 9.4 yards per pass attempt, so keep an eye on Shakir’s overs.
- Allen has thrown for two or more passing TDs in each of his last four games. He’s -140 to record over 1.5 passing TDs.
Wagers to consider
- With Buffalo’s problems in coverage, Mayfield’s determination to play and the Bucs’ unwillingness to run the ball, this game has the capacity to go well over the total. Allen should be getting healthier by the week and he’ll be on the spot to improve after the past few weeks. Against a defence this bad, he should have little trouble doing so. Expect a relatively high-scoring game.
- Typically, quarterbacks look for big targets near the goal line, but with Knox out, Allen might have to adjust on the fly and that means he could scramble a bit more than usual. That, plus the new rule allowing backs to push the quarterback into the end zone make Allen a good play here at +150 as an anytime touchdown scorer.