Cincinnati Bengals (3-2) at Buffalo Bills (2-3)
In 2011 and 2012, the Bengals were 18-4 against non-playoff teams and 1-11 against playoff teams. This year, they’ve beaten the Packers and Patriots, who are probably playoff teams, but lost to the Browns. It’s very possible that they are just a better team this year, but they lost to the Browns because it was a “sandwich” game between the Packers game and Patriots game. However, this game could be a similar situation, in Buffalo as favorites of more than a touchdown plus, after last week’s big win. Of course, I’m not going to pretend to have a read on the Bengals, who I am 0-4-1 ATS when picking their games (46-25-1 ATS picking everyone else’s).
I also really hate to back the Bills this week, even as touchdown underdogs at home, given their quarterback situation. EJ Manuel is out for at least 6 weeks, so Thaddeus Lewis, signed off the practice squad, will start, after undrafted rookie backup Jeff Tuel went 8 of 20 for 80 yards and a pick six in relief of Manuel last week. I don’t trust a practice squad quarterback who couldn’t even beat out Jeff Tuel for the backup job. Lewis has one career start under his belt, going 22 of 32 for 204 yards, a touchdown, and a pick in a 24-10 loss to the Steelers week 17 last year, as a member of the Browns, the Steelers’ only win in their last 8 games. Who’s to say this couldn’t be a close game late and Lewis throws a pick six for a front door cover?
If I had to pick a side though, it would be Buffalo. I feel this line shift (from Cincinnati -3.5 to Buffalo -7.5) is sufficient enough to adjust for Manuel’s absence. On top of that, the Bills are actually getting healthier on defense as Jairus Byrd and Stephon Gilmore are expected to make their season debut in the secondary for the Bills. They return to a defense that has done a great job of stopping teams without much talent in their secondary. Opponents have moved the chains on just 70% of opportunities this season. The Bills’ defense could keep this a close defensive battle and cover the 7.5. Finally, home dogs of 7.5+ or more are 16-3 ATS since 2011. I’m not confident at all in the Bills though.
Cincinnati Bengals 13 Buffalo Bills 10
Pick against spread: Buffalo +7.5