The Buffalo Bills (7-4) host the New England Patriots (8-4) in a battle for first place in the AFC East on Monday Night Football. The Patriots have won six games in a row while the Bills have been alternating wins and losses since Week 5. Will those trends continue, or can the Bills get back on track as the preseason favorite in the division? Let’s see the NFL odds.
New England Patriots vs. Buffalo Bills
Monday, December 6, 2021 – 08:15 PM EST at Highmark Stadium
Buffalo (6-4-1 ATS) is a 2.5-point favorite over the Patriots (8-4 ATS) at many of BMR’s top-rated sportsbooks. The Patriots have won their last four games by at least 18 points. The only other NFL team in the last four seasons to do that was Buffalo earlier this season. Can we get a close one and a classic here?
Put the Word Out That the Patriots Are Back Up
After one season of irrelevancy in the post-Tom Brady era, the Patriots are back to competing for the top seed in the AFC. Much like the early days of the Brady era, head coach Bill Belichick is helping rookie quarterback Mac Jones win games and flourish by putting him in a great situation.
While these two teams have allowed the fewest points in the league this year, New England has yet to have a bye. The Patriots have the No. 1 scoring defense and take the ball away on a league-high 20.3% of drives, or just ahead of Buffalo (20.0%). The turnovers have helped these two offenses have the best starting field position in the league with New England ranked first.
The Patriots are No. 4 in offensive points per drive, but that number would be higher if the offense was better at ending drives in touchdowns. A league-high 25.8% of New England’s drives end with a field goal as the offense ranks 24th in red zone touchdown percentage (55.6%).
The Patriots have rushed for at least 100 yards in eight straight games and do not ask the world of Jones in the way the Bills often rely heavily on Allen (since 2020) to carry the offense. Jones has completed at least two-thirds of his passes in all but two games this year, and the New Orleans game (three interceptions) was the only game where he threw multiple interceptions.
New England catches a break with Buffalo star corner Tre’Davious White’s season-ending with a torn ACL suffered last week. But this may not be the worst matchup to not have him as the Patriots do not threaten with any particular receiver. Kendrick Bourne and Jakobi Meyers have been reliable wideouts and tight end Hunter Henry leads the team with seven touchdown catches.
The Bills still have some solid corners in Levi Wallace and Taron Johnson. It is better to prepare for the game without White than to lose him during it, which is something Belichick and company would capitalize on the fly. Buffalo has not allowed a 100-yard receiver this year.
The Patriots have been playing some injury-ravaged offenses during this winning streak, including the Browns (Baker Mayfield hurt), the Falcons (no Cordarrelle Patterson or Calvin Ridley), and last week the Titans (no Derrick Henry, A.J. Brown, or Julio Jones). But even when the Patriots were 2-4 and not high on confidence, this team hung in there down to the wire with Tampa Bay (19-17 loss) and Dallas (35-29 overtime loss), losing both games after leading in the fourth quarter.
The Patriots can still hang with top-tier teams and offenses, but we’ll see if they can still win these games too with this big test and opportunity in Buffalo.
Bills: Josh Allen vs. Belichick
Buffalo’s last matchup with the Patriots was an emphatic 38-9 thrashing on Monday Night Football in Week 16 last season, leaving no doubt as to who the new rulers in the division were. However, Buffalo’s inconsistent play as of late and this New England winning streak have the Patriots right back in position to take back the AFC East.
A lot of this game will come down to how Josh Allen handles Belichick’s stingy defense. That 38-9 win was the only time in five performances where Allen played really well against the Patriots. He is 2-3 against New England with a 56.4 completion percentage, 7.06 yards per attempt, seven touchdowns, six interceptions, and a 77.4 passer rating. Pretty mediocre numbers across the board, though they are weighed down heavily by the first two games being so awful. Allen is better now, though his 2021 season has still been more up and down than his MVP-caliber season in 2020.
Allen must show he can play well in these big matchups. He already has five games this season with a yard per attempt under 6.0. He had five such games all last season, including his last two playoff games. The Patriots have to make containing Stefon Diggs their main priority. Diggs had 145 yards and three touchdowns in the 38-9 rout. So far, the Patriots have only allowed CeeDee Lamb (149) and Houston’s Chris Moore (109) to go over 100 receiving yards this season. New England has held nine of the 12 quarterbacks faced under an 80.0 passer rating and under 6.5 yards per attempt, including Tom Brady and Justin Herbert.
Historically, one-dimensional, pass-happy offenses do not fare well against Belichick’s Patriots. The Bills rarely go to the ground with their running backs, but they are still the most prolific play-action passing offense this season. They may want to consider that more, both running and play-action, in this one to take some heat off Allen.
The Titans just rushed for 270 yards on the Patriots but still lost the game big because of too many turnovers (mostly fumbles) and missed kicks. It also didn’t help to be without all their good-skill players. The Bills have more than enough talent to win this one, but they must execute better than they have been as of late. The Patriots still pounce on mistakes as well as any team.
Ever since Buffalo lost 9-6 to Jacksonville, there is literally no outcome that could be surprising in this one. These teams are not used to playing close games this season. Every Buffalo win has been by at least 15 points. These teams are a combined 1-6 when trying to come back from a one-score deficit in the fourth quarter. The only win was New England against Houston.
The Patriots were a Cam Newton fumble in the red zone away from knocking off the Bills in Buffalo a year ago, and the gap between these teams was much greater that day than it is now. I am going to trust Belichick to keep the score down in this one and force Allen into enough mistakes to get the cover for your NFL picks to close Week 13.
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