You might have heard: There’s a big football game Monday night in Buffalo.
First place in not just the AFC East but the entire conference itself for at least one week is on the line when the New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills do battle in western New York.
The Patriots technically occupy the top spot in the AFC by virtue of their 8-4 record paired with Baltimore’s all-or-nothing loss Sunday in Pittsburgh. Buffalo, however, sits just a half-game behind the Patriots in the East and is looking to build on its impressive 2020 performance against its longtime tormentors when the Bills flipped the script and swept the Pats.
Things are a little different this year, though, and “Monday Night Football” will be a true measuring stick for both clubs.
Here’s a quick betting preview of Monday night’s Week 13 finale with betting lines from DraftKings Sportsbook.
New England Patriots at (-2.5) Buffalo Bills
The Patriots have not only won their last six games, but Bill Belichick’s team has covered each of those contests. Unsurprisingly, the Patriots getting points anywhere in the Belichick/Tom Brady era has been rare. But this seems hard to believe: The Patriots have been a regular-season road underdog of a field goal or less just once since the start of the 2016 season. That came last season as a 2-point ‘dog against the Chargers. And for the various issues the Patriots have had since the beginning of last season, they are 4-2 straight-up and against the spread in games with a point spread (going either way) of a field goal or less. Divisional games are no longer the layups they once were, though. The Patriots are 2-1 straight-up and ATS in the AFC East this season, but they are just 5-4 SU and ATS in the division dating back to the start of last season; New England was 18-3 SU and 13-8 ATS in the 21 divisional games prior to 2020.
The Bills are 7-4 with a 6-4-1 ATS record but have covered just two of their five home games in Orchard Park while also pushing one of those games. This short number is also a bit of an odd rarity for the Bills, who have been favored by a field goal or less just twice since the start of last season and four times since the beginning of 2018. They won and covered both instances a year ago. The Bills are 6-1 SU and 4-2-1 ATS in that spot since the start of the 2017 season. Buffalo does have a rest edge here, having played on Thanksgiving night in New Orleans. The Bills are 6-4 ATS with a rest advantage since Sean McDermott was hired.
Here’s one more thing to consider Monday night: Forecasts in Buffalo are calling for increasingly cold temperatures made even colder by strong wind gusts. As VSiN’s Josh Appelbaum pointed out, unders were 35-20 ATS entering play Sunday when the wind was 10 mph or stronger. The lookahead total two weeks ago was 46 and it opened at 45 last Sunday and has fallen all the way to 41 since.
First touchdown scorer
Damien Harris +850
Stefon Diggs +900
Devin Singletary +1000
Josh Allen +1100
Kendrick Bourne +1400
Hunter Henry +1400
Josh Allen over/under 237.5
Mac Jones over/under 198.5
Damien Harris over/under 48.5
Devin Singletary over/under 39.5
Stefon Diggs over/under 61.5
Jakobi Meyers over/under 40.5
Emmanuel Sanders over/under 35.5
Cole Beasley over/under 31.5
Kendrick Bourne over/under 30.5
Mac Jones under 198.5 passing yards — Yep, we’re taking the bait. That number looks wildly low for a quarterback who just threw for 310 yards and a pair of touchdowns last week against Tennessee and made it look pretty easy in the process. However, Jones has failed to eclipse 200 passing yards in three games this season (and didn’t get over 217 in two others), so it’s not completely outlandish. You also have to consider every factor here, starting with the weather. He’s not used to throwing in these sorts of conditions, and while he has good touch, he certainly doesn’t have the sort of arm strength that allows him to cut through 40 mph gusts from hash to hash. The Bills’ defense hasn’t had to face many elite quarterbacks — quite the opposite, in fact — but Buffalo does possess the NFL’s top passing defense by DVOA, though losing Tre’Davious White is worth noting. There’s also the possibility Jones just doesn’t have to throw it much. The Patriots must have been licking their chops after watching film of Buffalo’s Week 11 loss to the Colts in which Indianapolis ran for 264 on 46 (!) attempts en route to a 41-15 blowout. Indy quarterback Carson Wentz finished that game with 106 passing yards. The Patriots certainly have that sort of game in them, as evidenced by their Week 10 win over Cleveland when they ran for 184 yards and Jones finished with 198 through the air.