New England Patriots (0-0) at Buffalo Bills (0-0)
A few weeks ago, this line was at -7.5 in favor of New England. However, EJ Manuel got hurt and the line shot up as it looked like undrafted free agent backup Jeff Tuel (originally the 3rd stringer before Kevin Kolb’s season ending injury) would become the first undrafted free agent to start week 1 since 1967. That put the line into double digits. Manuel is going to play in this one, but the line is still in double figures as there are questions about how well the mobile Manuel can play after minor knee surgery, as well as injuries to shutdown cornerback Stephon Gilmore to elite safety Jairus Byrd that have sunk the Bills’ secondary from passable to laughable.
The injuries in the secondary certainly do make it a lot tougher for the Bills to stop Tom Brady. Leodis McKelvin, Ron Brooks, and Justin Rogers will be their top-3 cornerbacks, while Aaron Williams and Da’Norris Searcy will get the start at safety. However, this line is still huge and we’ve lost all line value. I originally liked the Patriots in this spot because of how well they do week 1 (never lost in the Belichick era), because of how well they do against rookie quarterbacks (13-4), and because the Patriots will have a chip on their shoulder going into this season largely overlooked as a Super Bowl contender with guys like San Francisco, Seattle, and Denver all getting much more attention from them.
That being said, I can’t take the Patriots as double digit road favorites here. There were only 3 instances of double digit road favorites last year. Two were the Broncos against the Chiefs and Raiders, while the other was the Patriots against the Jaguars. Basically, they involved the 3 teams that had the top-3 picks in the draft. I don’t think that’s quite what we’re dealing with here. On top of that, going back to 2011, double digit road favorites are just 1-8 ATS, while 7.5+ road favorites are 2-15 ATS. I can’t put anything on the Patriots for that reason, especially with most of the public action on them, but I do think they’re the right side and that we’ll see a blowout.
Also, one note, I’m changing how I do picks this year. I’ll be grouping my picks into high confidence, medium confidence, low confidence, and no confidence picks. I’ll also have one pick of the week.
New England Patriots 37 Buffalo Bills 20
Pick against spread: New England -10.5