The Buffalo Bills (6-4) and New Orleans Saints (5-5) will meet in the final game on Thanksgiving after both suffered bad losses on Sunday. The Bills allowed a season-high 41 points to the Colts while the Saints allowed their first 40-point game since December 2019, losing 40-29 to the Eagles. Let’s see the NFL odds.
Buffalo Bills vs. New Orleans Saints
Thursday, November 25, 2021 – 08:20 PM EST at Caesars Superdome
The Bills (5-4-1 ATS) are a 4.5-point favorite over the Saints (5-5 ATS) at many of BMR’s top-rated sportsbooks. All six of Buffalo’s wins this season have been by at least 15 points, but Kansas City is currently the only team with a winning record the Bills have beaten. Meanwhile, the Saints are the enigma with wins over Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady and losses to Sam Darnold and Daniel Jones. No outcome is too weird for this season.
Is Buffalo a Paper Tiger?
Buffalo started the week with the best point differential (plus-145) in the NFL, but on closer examination, this team has been feasting on some poor competition, including the Dolphins (twice), Jets, and a 40-0 shutout of the Texans with rookie Davis Mills trying to play in the rain. The Bills also caught Washington and Kansas City when they were playing like the two worst defenses in the NFL.
The Bills entered Week 11 ranked No. 1 in offensive points per drive. They scored 15 points on nine drives (with two missed field goals) against an Indianapolis defense that had struggled against the pass this season. It was not the worst game of the season for Buffalo’s offense thanks to that 9-6 loss in Jacksonville in Week 9, but this game coming so close on the heels of that one is a bad look.
Buffalo has averaged just 15.5 points per game in the only two games this season against defenses ranked in the top half in scoring (Steelers and Colts). The Bills also entered Week 11 ranked No. 1 in defensive points per drive allowed. They allowed the Colts to score 41 points on their first eight drives, led by Jonathan Taylor’s five touchdowns in a stellar performance.
Carson Wentz only passed for 106 yards, but it was Taylor’s 204 yards from scrimmage that carried the Colts. Buffalo also had a fumbled kick return that set up the Colts on a 2-yard touchdown drive to break the game open at 24-7 before halftime. Seven of Buffalo’s 10 games have been against offenses ranked in the bottom 12 in points per drive this season. They allowed an average of 31.7 points per game to the only three above-average offenses they faced (Chiefs, Titans, and Colts).
Basically, the saving grace to this Buffalo season is that 38-20 win in Kansas City in Week 5. It’s the only win the Bills have against a good team, but the Chiefs were anything but good at that time. Since that game, the defense has really improved and the offense did have some self-inflicted turnovers (bad bounces) in that game to help the Bills. I think it would look a lot different if they met this week.
Right now, the Bills are being awfully dependent on Josh Allen, and he is not delivering like in 2020 when he was the MVP runner-up with a 76.6 QBR. His QBR this season is 58.8, which would have ranked 17th a year ago.
The Bills may need to start running the ball more to get defenses out of two-high safety looks, which have become so trendy this season in slowing down top passing attacks. Buffalo only handed the ball off 11 times against the Colts, but those plays gained 73 yards. However, the Saints are usually great against the run, but Sunday told a different story.
Saints: Run to Win?
If there was a matchup the Saints would love to have Alvin Kamara back from his knee injury for, it would be this one after the way Jonathan Taylor ran through the Bills on Sunday. However, it is not certain that Kamara returns for this one. Veteran Mark Ingram was not bad in his place on Sunday, rushing for 88 yards. The problem was the anemic passing offense as Trevor Siemian threw for 60 yards and a back-breaking pick-six in the first half, putting the Saints in a 27-7 hole they couldn’t climb out of.
While Derrick Henry and Taylor have lit up the Bills’ run defense this season, no one else really has. As great as Kamara is, the Saints do not have that strong of an offensive line to dominate the game and hit the big plays. Kamara’s longest run is 23 yards this season and the team’s longest gain is 28 yards. The Saints rank 22nd in yards per carrying.
The lack of passing weapons will not threaten Buffalo’s defense. The Saints only rank 22nd in yards per drive this season as they have feasted on short fields off turnovers. If Allen and the Bills protect the ball, they should be fine in this matchup. If the Bills are looking to improve their run defense from Sunday, then the Saints are in the same boat after allowing 242 yards to the Eagles.
Prior to Sunday, Washington (131 yards) had been the only offense to break 90 rushing yards on the Saints this season. Jalen Hurts did a lot of damage with 69 yards and three touchdowns. Allen is a very mobile quarterback too and could use that to his advantage in this one, but I think the Bills need to use their backs more as well and not get frustrated early with the run.
The Bills have followed each loss with a 15-plus point win this season. The Saints are a higher caliber of opponent compared to the average team Buffalo has faced this year, but they are not one of the best teams in the league anymore. I think the Bills make more corrections on a short week and cover this one as the superior team with the better quarterback.
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