One week before playing their second playoff game in the last three years, the Buffalo Bills will play their home finale against the New York Jets. Kickoff is set for 1:00 EST on Sunday, December 29 at New Era Field in Orchard Park, New York. Fans in local markets can watch the game on CBS.
Oddsmakers list the Bills as 1.5-point favorites at home with an over/under of 37 points. Click here to check out all of the Week 17 NFL betting odds.
Buffalo had a chance to pull even with the Patriots last week. Alas, they fell a little short against New England for the second time this season. The Bills have now lost two of their last three games, although both were competitive games against a pair of division winners. Despite the losses, they have surpassed all expectations by winning 10 games this season. The Bills won’t win the division, but they are locked into the top Wild Card spot in the AFC and will likely play the Texans next week. Of course, that means Buffalo will have the option of resting some key starters this week, knowing their playoff seed won’t be affected by the outcome of this game.
As for the Jets, they’ve gone from laughing stock and utter disappointment in the first half of the season to a halfway decent team the second half of the season. Adam Gase was facing a lot of heat after a humiliating loss to the Dolphins that dropped New York’s record to 1-7. But the Jets have won five of their last seven games since then. That includes a surprising 16-10 win over the Steelers last week. Of course, while the Jets have shown some life late in the year, they lost some winnable games that ultimately kept them from being in the playoff hunt down the stretch.
While the Jets can’t make the playoffs, they still have a chance to knock off one of their rivals. New York has won four of their last seven games against the Bills, including two of their last three trips to New Era Field. The Jets will also have redemption on their mind after they let a 16-0 lead slip away in Week 1 despite the Bills turning it over four times. That game has actually turned out to be the difference in the Bills already clinching a birth and the Jets being eliminated.
Bills coach Sean McDermott isn’t tipping his hand about resting his starters in Week 17 or not. My guess is they aren’t going to lay down at home against a division rival, especially if it means losing three of their last four games heading into the playoffs. Meanwhile, despite some good results recently, I’m still not ready to buy into the Jets. I’ll side with Buffalo to win by at least a couple of points at home.
The numbers say the Jets have been better defensively over the second half of the season. But they’ve also played a weak schedule during that time, including games with the Bengals, Dolphins, and a Steelers team that can’t decide between a pair of backups. Keep in mind that they’re just two weeks removed from being shredded by the Baltimore offense and giving up 42 points. Obviously, the Bills are a far cry from the Ravens, but that doesn’t make the New York defense any more impressive.
In fairness, the Bills have scored just 17 points in three straight games and are far from the most dynamic offense in the league. However, the Buffalo offense has improved since they faced the Jets in Week 1. Josh Allen was responsible for two interceptions and two lost fumbles in that game. However, he’s thrown just two picks of his last 10 games, so his ball security is much-improved. When the Bills weren’t turning the ball over in that game, they had success both on the ground and through the air, compiling 370 total yards. With a similar output in this game, the Bills should have no problem eclipsing the 20-point plateau.
On the other side of the ball, it’s hard to envision the Jets getting much going offensively. They still aren’t getting anything substantial on the ground. In a close, low-scoring game last week, Le’Veon Bell was able to get 25 carries. However, he only accumulated 72 yards, an average of fewer than three yards per carry. That isn’t likely to improve against the Buffalo defense, which has kept teams in check all season. Even the mighty Baltimore running game had a modest output against the Bills. With an unreliable running game, I still don’t have much faith in Sam Darnold, especially on the road in a cold-weather city.
Admittedly, the Jets deserve some credit for beating Pittsburgh last week. But it took an outstanding effort from their defense against one of the most limited offenses in the NFL to make it happen. The Jets are also 1-6 on the road this year, with that one win coming against the Redskins. Unless the Bills sit a majority of their starters and mentally check out of Week 17, I feel comfortable laying down 1.5 points for Buffalo to win this weekend.