Patriots vs. Bills Odds, Predictions, Picks: How Weather Impacts Our Expert Is Betting Monday Night Football
Getty Images. Pictured: Pats WR Kendrick Bourne & QB Mac Jones, Bills QB Josh Allen & WR Stefon Diggs (left to right)
|Time||8:15 p.m. ET|
The first Monday Night Football game of December is a beauty as the 7-4 Bills host the 8-4 Patriots in a showdown between two contenders in the AFC.
The winner will take over sole possession of first place and put itself in much better position for the highly-coveted No. 1 overall seed in the AFC. Coming into Week 13, New England held the No. 2 overall seed, while Buffalo sat at No. 6 — even though only a half-game separated the two clubs. This is an important game to say the least, especially when you consider a Bills victory would move them to 4-0 in the division and drop the Patriots to 2-2.
Over the past two decades, the Patriots have absolutely dominated this divisional rivalry. From 2000-2019, New England went an astonishing 35-5 against Buffalo. However, the Bills won both meetings last year, sweeping the season series for the first time since 1999.
It’s no coincidence that Buffalo got its last two season sweeps just before Tom Brady arrived in New England in addition to the season after he left for Tampa Bay. Well, there’s a new promising young sheriff in Foxboro under center in Mac Jones, who has been the most impressive rookie quarterback by a wide margin.
Can Jones keep it going in his first career start on Monday night to make it seven straight wins for the Patriots? Or will the Bills get their third consecutive victory over their rival for the first time in over 20 years? Let’s take a closer look at what I’d argue is the most important game of the NFL season to date.
Click the arrow to expand injury reports
Patriots vs. Bills Injury Report
- LB Ronnie Perkins (illness): Out
- C David Andrews (shoulder): Questionable
- DT Christian Barmore (knee): Questionable
- LB Ja’Whaun Bentley (ribs): Questionable
- RB Brandon Bolden (knee): Questionable
- OL Trent Brown (calf): Questionable
- K Nick Folk (left knee): Questionable
- WR Gunner Olszewski (ankle): Questionable
- G Cody Ford (bicep): Questionable
- FB Reggie Gilliam (ankle): Questionable
- DE Efe Obada (hip): Questionable
Patriots vs. Bills Matchup
|Patriots Offense||DVOA Rank||Bills Defense|
|Patriots Defense||DVOA Rank||Bills Offense|
|Football Outsiders’ DVOA measures efficiency by comparing a team’s success on every play to the league average based on situation and opponent.|
Patriots Continue to Fire On All Cylinders
New England is undoubtedly rolling right now. The Patriots currently own the league’s longest winning streak of six games. Over that stretch, they’ve outscored opponents 211-63.
However, they have certainly benefited from a fairly easy schedule of opponents and caught a few of those teams severely shorthanded. Just take a look at those six victories:
- vs. Jets
- at Chargers
- at Panthers (with Sam Darnold)
- vs. Browns (with a hammered Baker Mayfield)
- at Falcons (without Calvin Ridley)
- vs. Titans (without Derrick Henry, Julio Jones or A.J. Brown)
From a DVOA perspective, they’ve still yet to beat a a top-13 opponent (0-3). New England has also benefited from extreme fortune in the turnover department during its current winning streak with a league-leading +13 margin. Its defense deserves a big part of the credit, but subpar opponents have certainly contributed to that unsustainable pace.
As a result of this recent stretch, there’s a good chance in my opinion the Patriots are at the peak of their market value this season. Regardless, this team is a serious contender in the AFC due to one of the top defenses in the conference and the quarterback play of Mac Jones.
Last week, Jones became just the sixth rookie quarterback since 1950 to have three games of 300 passing yards, multiple touchdown passes and no interceptions. And he accomplished that feat in just 12 weeks. He also seems to be improving with each passing week after a remarkably productive November.
Coming into the season, we knew the Patriots would have one of the league’s best offensive lines and a very productive ground game. However, questions remained about the passing attack after last year’s pathetic output in that area. Well, with an improved cast of weapons and the play of Jones, New England now has a competent passing attack to complement the run. That also means teams can’t simply stack the box to effectively shut down the offense like last year.
The Patriots defense had one of its worst seasons under Bill Belichick last year. However, it’s been a quick turnaround after adding some key pieces in free agency, including Jalen Mills, Davon Godchaux, Kyle Van Noy and Matthew Judon. The latter has 11.5 sacks on the seasons and continues to wreak havoc in opposing backfields.
In addition to acquiring four new starters in free agency, the Patriots have also seen the continued development of their younger players on defense. The return of Dont’a Hightower at linebacker after taking the year off has also provided a boost in the middle.
All of that has led to a defense that ranks No. 2 in the NFL in overall DVOA. For reference, they dropped to 26th last year after finishing No. 1 in 2019.
The Patriots defense is back.
Lastly, J.C. Jackson is playing at an All-Pro level at cornerback. That allows the Patriots defense to be much more flexible from a scheme perspective. Since the start of last season, Jackson has only allowed a league-low 30.9 Passer Rating. The next best on that list (min. 100 coverage snaps) is Xavien Howard at 47.7.
All eyes will be on Jackson on Monday night against Stefon Diggs after the star Buffalo wideout cooked him last year.
— Buffalo Sports Talk (@BUFSportsTalk) May 28, 2021
It’s worth noting that the Patriots could have to make do without one of their three key safeties (who are all ranked in the top 30 among safeties this season, per PFF) that play in their base big-nickel defense.
New England placed Kyle Dugger on the COVID list this week and his status remains in doubt. After already losing nickel corner Jonathan Jones, the Patriots don’t have a ton of depth in the secondary. Cole Beasley could benefit the most in the slot if Dugger does not have two negative tests prior to Monday’s kickoff.
Is Bills Offense Poised for Rebound?
Similar to the Patriots, the Bills have played one of the easiest schedules in the league so far. However, even after adjusting for the level of competition, Buffalo still has the No. 1 defense DVOA in the NFL.
Coming into the season, I was super high on the Bills defense after their performance in the second half of last year. Improved health and a few key schematic changes implemented after the bye week led to a drastic improvement in results. I expected that to continue this year with the return of Star Lotulelei to the interior of the defensive line in addition to some nice depth edge rush pieces added in the draft.
We should finally see that Bills front seven fully healthy once again on Monday night as Lotulelei just came off the COVID list after missing three games. Plus, the uber-important Tremaine Edmunds returned to the lineup last time out after a two-game absence. With a full deck up front, this defense is much more equipped to handle New England’s power rushing attack.
It’s not all good news for the Bills defense as Buffalo did lose one of its best players for the season in cornerback Tre White, who suffered an ACL tear against New Orleans. White is a critical piece to a secondary who can throw so many different looks at defenses, knowing White has one side of the field locked down.
The Bills still have one of the best safety tandems in the league and a very strong slot cornerback in Taron Johnson, but the corners on the outside with Levi Wallace and presumably now Dane Jackson are a potential weakness that could end up costing Buffalo in the postseason against high-powered passing attacks.
That said, I don’t think the loss will hurt that much this week. The Patriots aren’t a team that wants to come out and attack deep through the air all game. And more importantly, the extremely windy conditions will make that more difficult to even attempt.
While the defense has lived up to my lofty preseason expectations so far, the offense certainly has not. After finishing fifth overall DVOA in 2020, this unit has performed at a pure league average level, currently sitting at No. 16 overall.
So, what has happened to the explosive Bills offense? A few things.
- Increased pressure
- Bad luck
- Decline in Josh Allen’s accuracy
- Opponent adjustments
The first three on that list shouldn’t be issues moving forward. Allen has had to deal with an uptick in pressure this season as a result of some injuries along the offensive line. When Spencer Brown has been out of the lineup, Daryl Williams has been forced to kick out to right tackle where he’s nowhere near as effective as when he plays inside at guard. Starting guard Jon Feliciano has also been on IR, but is likely to return to the lineup on Monday night.
In the only two games this season that Spencer Brown and Jon Feliciano played together, the Bills put up 31 and 38 points on the road against Tennessee and Kansas City, respectively.
Buffalo also saw the recent return of tight end Dawson Knox from injury. He showed how important he is in New Orleans, particularly in the red zone, with a pair of touchdown catches. Cole Beasley has also dealt with a rib injury that slowed him down a bit at various parts of this season.
The Bills have also had some bad luck in terms of the timing of turnovers, penalties and fourth downs. Those things shouldn’t persist.
However, Bills fans should be more concerned with the other two issues: the drop in Allen’s accuracy and opposing defensive adjustments.
Was last year an anomaly in Allen’s elite accuracy or is the start to this season just a temporary decline? The answer to that question will go a long way in determining if this Buffalo offense ever gets back to the explosive group we saw last year.
Allen’s decision making and accuracy are even more important now as opposing defenses have started to utilize more two-deep looks to take away the explosive plays. Defenses have used a two-high shell on 57% of snaps against the Bills through 12 weeks. Over the past five seasons, only one offense has seen a higher frequency: the 2021 Chiefs.
Patriots vs. Bills Predictions, Picks
Yes, I have significantly upgraded the Patriots in my power ratings since the beginning of the season due the performances of Mac Jones and a revamped defense. However — despite these teams looking close to identical on paper (they are separated by two points in point differential) — I still have the Bills rated a few points higher on a neutral field. Consequently, I see value in laying under a field goal at home with Buffalo.
While home-field advantage doesn’t mean as much in divisional games due to familiarity and closer travel, this is still a rookie quarterback making his first primetime start in a truly hostile environment.
There’s also the element of weather to consider. The weather forecast currently calls for winds of 20-30 miles per hour on Monday night at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park. We know Josh Allen has plenty of familiarity dealing with similar conditions, having played college football in windy Laramie, Wyo. and then three-plus years in Buffalo.
How will Jones deal with these conditions and environment? We will find out on Monday, but he does throw a ball that seems more susceptible to wind than Allen. I believe the uncertainty and situation here makes Buffalo’s home-field advantage worth a bit more than normal against New England. The windy conditions also make the loss of Tre White less of an issue here.
Yes, the Patriots boast a perfect 5-0 record on the road this season, but those victories came against the Jets, Panthers, Chargers, Texans and Falcons. This will obviously be a much tougher test.
Additionally, the Bills had a few extra days of preparation and rest after playing on Thanksgiving night, while the Patriots played last Sunday. That’s important for one of the best coaching staffs in the league.
This is a good spot to sell the Patriots high for some of the reasons I mentioned above. I’m betting the Bills get it done at home to take over first place in the division.
Pick: Bills -2.5 | Bet to: -3
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