The AFC East has become a race, with this Saturday’s game having some heavy divisional implications. The New England Patriots (11-3) find themselves leading the division and have a chance to clinch this weekend, but the visiting Buffalo Bills (10-4) have a chance to tie as they sit just one game back.
Here is a preview of Saturday afternoon’s contest between the Bills and Patriots, along with odds and a free pick.
By The Numbers
The Bills boast just the 22nd-ranked offense in terms of points (20.8) and total yards (336.1). They’ve been a fairly-one dimensional offense, averaging 201.2 passing yards per game, which ranks in the bottom five of the NFL, compared to having the fifth-most rushing yards per game with 134.9.
However, there’s no disputing the Bills have one of the best defenses in football. Buffalo has allowed the third-fewest yards with 291.9 and the second-fewest points per game with 15.9. The Bills are third in passing yards allowed at 190.5, while also sitting in the top 10 in rushing yards allowed and third-down percentage.
New England is a little bit better in most areas but, for the most part, is also a team with a mediocre offense and elite defense. The Patriots have scored the eighth-most points in football at 26.6 per game, thanks in part to the number of defensive touchdowns they had early on in the season. Still, they’re 18th in yards with 349.9, ninth in passing yards but just 19th in rushing yards.
On defense, the Patriots have dominated almost every week. New England is the league leader in points allowed (12.9) and total yards allowed (268.4). The Patriots give up the second-fewest passing yards per game with 170.3 and the seventh-fewest rushing yards with 98.1, and also have the NFL’s best third-down defense.
Buffalo’s mantra for the game is simple: Run the football. In Week 4, a 16-10 win by New England, the Bills ran for 135 yards, mainly coming from the veteran Frank Gore. That game was also played with Devin Singletary out with an injury and Josh Allen sitting out the fourth quarter with an injury after throwing three interceptions.
Expect Singletary and Allen to run the ball a lot against a defense that allowed a season-high 375 total yards to them earlier this season.
With New England’s running game continuing to struggle, it really needs a strong performance from Tom Brady. Brady, who wasn’t voted into the Pro Bowl for the first time since 2008, has thrown for under 200 yards in three of the past five games.
In his last five games against Buffalo, he has thrown for just three touchdowns to five interceptions, averaging only 216 passing yards per game. He will need to bounce back against a defense that held him to a 46.2 percent completion rate in Week 4, the eighth-worst of his career.
It’s a light injury report for the Bills. Tackle Ty Nsekhe is the only player listed as “out” for the game, while defensive tackle Corey Liuget is questionable to play after being limited in practice all week.
Defensive back Jonathan Jones is nursing a groin injury, and he is the lone Patriot ruled out. A few others, including wide receiver Julian Edelman, cornerback Jason McCourty, and linebacker Jamie Collins, are all questionable after being limited in practice all week.
Odds and Pick
Playing at home in Foxborough, where they are 5-1 this year, the Patriots are favorites at -6. However, the Bills have been just as good away from Buffalo, going 6-1 on the road.
With both sides fielding elite defenses, expect another low-scoring contest just like in Week 4. I’m picking New England to win mostly because of its turnover-forcing defense going up against Allen, who has struggled with turnovers all season.
But the Bills will make it close and keep the game interesting from start to finish. So give me Buffalo +6, but the Patriots to win the game and their 11th straight AFC East title.