This week’s playoff rematch between the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars doesn’t have quite as much at stake as their last matchup with both teams coming in 3-7. Game time is at 1:00 EST on Sunday, November 25, at New Era Field in Buffalo, New York. Fans in local markets can see the game on CBS.
According to oddsmakers, the Jaguars are holding steady as 3-point favorites on the road. The over/under for the game is set at 37.5 points. Click here to check out a full list of this week’s NFL betting odds and game previews.
The Jaguars have continued their shocking spiral, blowing a 16-0 2nd half lead against the Steelers last week to lose their sixth consecutive game. The Jacksonville offense has gone stagnant during that stretch, scoring more than 20 points just once in those six games. Even in a somewhat mediocre AFC South, the Jaguars are running out of time and will need to win out in order to have any chance of returning to the playoffs.
Unfortunately, Jacksonville’s schedule isn’t exactly conducive to a late-season run. Starting on Sunday, the Jaguars are on the road for four of their final six games. They also have games remaining against all three of their division rivals, so nothing is going to come easy for the Jags down the stretch.
The Bills, on the other hand, are feeling better themselves after a lopsided win over the Jets leading up to last week’s bye. Starting quarterback Josh Allen is also in line to return on Sunday after missing the last four games with an elbow injury. The Bills underwent a terrible game of quarterback shuffle while Allen was out, scoring less than 10 points in three of those games.
Despite their win over the Jets last time out, the Bills are still 3-7 and have slim odds to return to the playoffs. Outside of a trip to New England, Buffalo’s schedule is somewhat manageable the last six weeks of the season. However, much like the Jags, the Bills will almost have to win out to have a chance at the playoffs.
Of course, one interesting subplot to this game is Doug Marrone’s return to Buffalo. He coached them to a 15-17 record over two seasons before opting out of his deal after not receiving the kind of control he wanted from ownership. The fans in Buffalo have surely been looking forward to his return, especially with his team in the midst of a long losing streak.
How can I possible bet on a road favorite that’s lost six games in a row? On paper, Jacksonville seems like the more talented team. But on the field, the Jaguars have been no better than the Bills over the last six weeks. With Buffalo being home underdogs coming off a win and a bye week, I’ll take my chances with the Bills and the points.
The Jaguars got a big boost a couple of weeks ago when Leonard Fournette returned from injury. However, he’s been largely kept under wraps in his first two games back. More importantly, his presence hasn’t been enough to get the Jaguars a win. The Jacksonville offensive line has struggled during the latter part of the season, making it easier for opposing defenses to keep Fournette bottled up. With the Bills having a solid run defense, they should be able to prevent Fournette from doing too much damage.
Jacksonville’s problem is that without Fournette and the running game, they have no Plan B. Blake Bortles continues to be unreliable. He played well a couple weeks ago in a loss to the Colts, but other than that, he’s been subpar during the team’s losing streak. The leaky offensive line isn’t making things any easier for Bortles to avoid costly turnovers. The Bills have a strong enough defensive line to keep him uncomfortable and continue that trend.
Of course, the Buffalo offense hasn’t been much better this season. For what it’s worth, the Bills are 2-2 in the four games Allen has started and completed. His arm strength and mobility should be able to assist an offense that’s been quite limited the past few weeks without him. The X-factor, of course, is LeSean McCoy, who went off for over 100 yards rushing last time out against the Jets. If the Bills can get him going in support of Allen, they should be in decent shape.
That being said, the Jacksonville defense remains solid despite a lack of support from the offense this season. Even the mighty Steelers were limited to 20 points last week after being shutout in the 1st half. However, the Jags are somewhat average against the run and don’t have the vicious pass rush they had a year ago. That leaves the door somewhat ajar for the Bills to get McCoy going and look halfway competent offensively.
In the end, this game is fairly close to a tossup. Both teams are strong enough defensively and flawed enough offensively to make the under a good bet. Against the spread, I feel a little more comfortable going with the home underdog, especially since the Jaguars haven’t won a game since September.