After clinching a playoff spot last week, the Buffalo Bills will take their best shot at winning the AFC East when they pay a visit to the New England Patriots. Game time is set for 4:30 EST on Saturday, December 21 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. Fans can watch the game on the NFL Network.
Oddsmakers list the Patriots as 6.5-point favorites at home. The over/under for the game is set at 38.5 points. Be sure to check out a full list of the Week 16 NFL betting odds.
As mentioned, the Bills are officially playoff-bound. After suffering a setback against the Ravens two weekends ago, Buffalo scored a road win over the Steelers last week to get to 10-4 and clinch at least a Wild Card spot. The Bills have now reached the playoffs for the second time in three years following an epic 17-year drought.
Despite securing a postseason spot, the Bills are still hoping to usurp the Patriots at the top of the AFC East. Doing that will require Buffalo to win in New England on Saturday and then hope the Patriots lose to the Dolphins in Week 17. Obviously, that scenario is unlikely, even if the Bills pull off the upset this weekend. Nevertheless, Buffalo has at least locked up the top Wild Card spot in the AFC and will be a team nobody wants to face in the playoffs.
Meanwhile, the Patriots were able to bounce back from two straight losses with a convincing 34-13 win over the Bengals. It turns out the reports of New England’s demise were greatly exaggerated. The Patriots have only lost three games this season, with all three losses coming against their fellow AFC division leaders.
The Patriots will now set their sites on locking up the AFC East for the 11th year in a row and the 17th time in the last 19 years. A win over Buffalo on Saturday or a win next week against Miami is all the Patriots need to clinch the division. However, New England needs to win both games to secure a first-round bye in the playoffs and possibly earn the top seed in the AFC if the Ravens slip up late in the year.
New England will also be looking to continue their dominance against the Bills. The Pats have won six in a row against Buffalo, as well as 14 of the last 16 head-to-head meetings. That includes a 16-10 win in Buffalo early this season. However, one could argue the Bills were the better team that day, with New England benefitting from four Buffalo turnovers and a blocked punt that was turned into a touchdown.
With New England’s three losses coming against three playoff-bound teams, I’m a little nervous about laying down the points in this game. The Patriots have beat up on a lot of bad teams, but they’ve had issues with quality teams. Even wins over the mediocre Cowboys and Eagles weren’t that convincing. The Bills will feel like they let one slip through their hands earlier this year. I think they’ll be looking to make amends and at least beat the spread in Foxboro.
During the first game between these teams, the Buffalo defense seemed to have Tom Brady’s number. He completed less than half of his passes for a mere 150 yards. The Bills didn’t record a sack, but they forced an interception and slowed down New England’s running game. Remember, the Patriots didn’t score an offensive touchdown in that game.
Things may not be that different this time around, although the Bills will have to replicate that kind of performance on the road. Other than the Ravens, nobody has scored more than 20 points against the Bills in their last seven games. Buffalo is giving up just 14 points per game during that span. Even the Ravens managed a mere 24 points against the Buffalo defense.
Plus, it’s not as if Brady is lighting up the world lately. He’s been at or below 55% completion percentage in five straight games. Sony Michel and the running game have also been up and down during that span. If the Bills can contain New England’s rushing attack, they should be able to continue their run of holding teams to 20 points or less.
Of course, this game could come down to the play of Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen. He threw three picks against New England earlier this year before being knocked out with a head injury. However, he’s limited himself to just two picks over his last nine games. If he can avoid those same errors, the Bills can let their running game do the heavy lifting. Buffalo has a top-5 rushing attack, largely because of Allen and rookie Devin Singletary, who missed the first meeting with New England but has at least 75 rushing yards in four of his last six games.
In the end, picking this game comes down to how much you trust Allen to avoid critical turnovers. In my opinion, he’s earned the benefit of the doubt. Buffalo has a better rushing attack and they might be a little better defensively. To me, that’s enough to take a chance on the Bills beating the 6.5-point spread and giving the Patriots another tough game.