The New England Patriots will try to snap out of a two-game skid when they host the Buffalo Bills in Week 16. The two AFC East rivals will kick off at 1:00 EST on Sunday, December 16, at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. Fans in certain markets can see the game on CBS.
Oddsmakers list the Patriots as 12.5-point favorites at home. The over/under is set at 44.5 points. Click here to check out all of this week’s NFL betting odds.
December losing streaks are rare in New England, but that’s exactly what the Patriots are facing. First, there was the now infamous Miami Miracle. Last week, the Patriots fell victim to a desperate Steelers team on the road, dropping them to 9-5 on the season. With two weeks left in the season, the Patriots haven’t even officially locked up the AFC East title. They are also at risk of not having a first-round bye in the playoffs.
As it stands, the Patriots only need one win or a Miami loss the final two weeks of the season to secure another division title. However, they will need to win their final two games and hope the Texans lose at least one of their final two games in order to earn a bye. On the bright side, New England is a heavy favorite this week and will likely be so again next week when they host the Jets.
The Bills, meanwhile, are far from the playoff picture one year after ending their long playoff drought. However, Buffalo has looked like an improved team down the stretch. The Bills have won three of their last five games, including last week’s 14-13 win over the Lions to get them to 5-9 on the season. Also, both of Buffalo’s losses during that stretch were close and competitive games that easily could have gone the other way.
Of course, the Bills haven’t had the best of luck in this rivalry. Going back to 2001, the Patriots have won 31 of the last 35 meetings between these teams. For what it’s worth, the Bills have actually won two of their last four trips to Gillette Stadium. However, the Patriots took care of business against the Bills 25-6 on a Monday night earlier this season.
After back-to-back losses, should the Patriots be concerned about their ability to get to another Super Bowl? Maybe, but that shouldn’t have any bearing on this week’s game. New England may have lost two in a row, but both games were on the road, and both could have gone the other way. The Patriots are almost always a safe bet to dismantle the Bills, and even a large spread won’t stop me from eating the points and leaning toward New England to cover.
Going back to the early part of last season, the Patriots have won 13 straight games at home. This year, they are 6-0, and wins against the Chiefs and Texans are the only ones that New England didn’t win by at least two touchdowns. The Pats almost always take care of business against lesser teams at home, and losses the last two weeks doesn’t change that.
More importantly, the Bills aren’t the kind of team that’s going to give New England a lot of problems. The Buffalo offense has been a little improved since Josh Allen returned from an elbow injury, but the Bills are still limited on that side of the ball. Running backs LeSean McCoy and Chris Ivory are both listed as questionable for Sunday, which doesn’t help matters Even if both are able to play, Allen is still the team’s leading rusher on the season. Again, that’s a bad sign for the Buffalo offense.
The Patriots didn’t see Allen earlier this year, but surely they’ve watched enough film on him to know that they have to keep him in the pocket. Word is clearly out about Allen’s abilities as a runner. Even the Lions were able to hold him to 16 yards on nine carries last week. As long as the New England defense can keep Allen confined to the pocket, he can’t hurt them. Despite impressive arm strength, Allen’s accuracy is nowhere near where it needs to be, especially if the Bills want to beat a quality team.
On the other side of the ball, the Buffalo defense may have a chance to keep this game close for a little while. The Bills held the Patriots to just four field goals over the first three quarters when they met earlier this year. Of course, Tom Brady also threw for over 300 yards in that game. The Patriots also didn’t have Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead in that game, so the Bills benefited from facing a watered-down New England offense that lacked a viable threat in the running game. That won’t be the case this week, so the Buffalo defense should have their hands full with Brady and his full complement of skill players.
Yes, the Bills have played better the last five weeks, but all of those games have come against teams with losing records. The Patriots, on the other hand, are angry and a little desperate after back-to-back losses. They are also one of the best home teams in football. I expect the Bills to put up a fight, but I still expect New England to cover.