The last time these two teams met, the game can be summarized with just one phrase; seven drives, seven touchdowns. For Josh Allen, it was perfection, and for Buffalo Bills' fans it was everything they had been waiting for: an utter destruction of their arch-rival in the playoffs — in front of their home crowd. The Bills had finally turned the tables against the Patriots and showed that they were truly the team to beat in the AFC East. There were some low moments in this rivalry for the folks in Orchard Park, New York. At one point between late 2003 and late 2014, the Bills lost 21 of 22 games to the Patriots, including 15 straight. A run of futility that no doubt made the 30-point playoff win so much sweeter.
As the two teams prepare to square off Thursday night, the Bills are tied on top of the division at 8-3. While New England sits in last place in the AFC East at 6-5. Buffalo has beaten the Patriots in four of their last-five contests. Right now, most sportsbooks have set the line for this game with the Patriots +5 at home and an over/under total of 43.5 points. Let's take a deeper look at those lines and this matchup and see if we can find a betting edge for Thursday night.
How Big of a Factor is the Short Week?
Normally, we have a lot to consider during a Thursday Night Football matchup because both teams are coming off shorter rest than typical. However, this week is different because both teams played road games on Thanksgiving; and have had a full-week of rest between games. While Buffalo hasn't had a home game in several weeks, they haven't had to travel across significant time zones. So for gambling purposes, we can consider this a normal divisional game.
How Big of a Factor is the Patriots' Home-Field Advantage?
For the Patriots, the data would say not very much. New England was one game under .500 last season at home and is one game above .500 in Foxboro so far this year. They are averaging one less point scored at home, and although the defense is allowing nearly six-fewer points in Gillette Stadium, it's hard to pull a lot from that stat because New England allowed 33 points to the Bears and 37 points to the Ravens, both at home. The defensive stat is slightly skewed because they faced Sam Ellinger in coach Frank Reich's last game before he was fired and then beat a Jets offense performing so badly Zach Wilson was benched following the game.
However, the Bills have performed significantly worse outside of Upstate New York. They score 9 points less and allow 5 points more when playing on the road. Josh Allen's quarterback rating is 17 points lower on the road, and he has taken more than twice as many sacks as the visitor.
But, the last two times the Bills played in New England they came away with 12-point and 29-point victories and scored more than 30 points in both contests. With all that said, I wouldn't skew your entire vision of the game beyond the 2-to-3 points against the spread a home team is typically allotted by a bookmaker.
What are the Biggest Mismatches or Statistical Advantages in this Game?
The biggest mismatch is in the red zone when New England has the ball. The Patriots failed to score a touchdown in three attempts against the Vikings' worst-ranked red-zone defense last week. The Patriots' putrid red-zone offense fell to 31st in the league and is massively outmatched by the Bills' No. 4 red-area defense. Whether it has been poor play calling, a lack of execution, or a head-scratching officiating decision to overturn a touchdown, the Patriots can't seem to get the ball into the end zone with a short field.
For a high-scoring offense, the Bills haven't been great in the red zone, but they make up for it with one of the leading big-play offenses in the NFL. How their third-ranked passing offense fairs against the Patriots' ninth-ranked passing defense will likely determine the outcome of this contest.
The other big task for the Bills' offense will be keeping quarterback Josh Allen upright against NFL sack leader Matthew Judon. Buffalo has done a great job this season preventing Allen from getting sacked, while the Patriots have typically rushed the quarterback less against more mobile QBs. The likes of Lamar Jackson and Justin Fields had big days on the ground against the Patriots' defense, so this strategy of a more contained rush has been exposed significantly in the first half of the season.
Are there any Betting Trends or any "Sharp Money" we Should Look Into?
Both the volume of wagers and the big-money bets are coming in on Buffalo to cover the 5-point spread in the early part of the week.
While Thursday Night games have typically gone under this year, the sharper money seems to be on the over in this contest (and remember, both teams had a full-week between games).
As for trends, the biggest is that the Patriots are in a profitable-spot as a home dog in a divisional game. Home dogs are 40-29-3 this year, and the Patriots themselves cover 60% of the time as home dogs.
What about Prop Bets?
Look toward betting the over for Josh Allen rushing yards. Allen has hit the over on this prop 7 out of 11 weeks this year (including on Thanksgiving) and like we mentioned, the Patriots have struggled to prevent athletic quarterbacks from racking up yards on the ground. Allen actually rushed for 66 yards on just six carries in the Bills' playoff win against New England last year. While the line for this prop isn't out as of this article — it will likely be a sharp pick to take the over on anything below 55 yards (last week against Detroit it was set at around 43 yards).
So Now it's Time for the Important Question... Where Should I Put My Money?
I believe the sharpest and smartest bet in this game is over 43.5 points. These teams have gone over that total in four of their last five meetings, and it is likely a lower number than it should be because it is a mid-week contest, but the teams have had a full-week of rest. Mac Jones is coming off his best game of the season, while the Bills have allowed 20 or more points in four of their last five games, with their last three games having totals of more than 53 points. I think this over/under is at least 4 points less than it should be
I will stay away from the spread in this contest. While my math has -6.5 in favor of the visiting Bills as an appropriate number, which would normally earn a bet for Buffalo at -5, I can't wager against divisional home dogs because, as discussed, it is one of the most profitable betting spots in NFL gambling. I will certainly be betting the over on the prop bet for Josh Allen rushing yards, unless the total is set at a completely unreasonable number. The Patriots' defense can't seem to handle QBs who aren't afraid to take off.
I've got this contest as a 31-23 Buffalo win, as the Bills put the pressure on the Dolphins and others in the AFC East to keep pace if they want a chance to win the division. My picks against the spread are 63-48-2 on the year and I believe the over in this game is one of the best bets on the board for week 13.
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