New England Patriots (1-0) at Buffalo Bills (1-0)
The Bills had an impressive surprise week 1 home victory against the Indianapolis Colts last week, knocking off Andrew Luck and company 27-14. Many take that victory to mean that the Bills are a legitimate contender in the AFC, but I think it’s more of an indictment on Indianapolis’ potential as a Super Bowl contender. Many saw the Colts as a top team in the NFL coming into the season, in spite of major issues running the football, stopping the run, and protecting the quarterback, but I think they’ll just continue being an average team outside their terrible division (10-11 in non-divisional games since 2013). The Bills’ victory over the Colts exposed that more than anything positive about the Bills.
The Bills have a strong defense and one that will be even stronger this week with the re-addition of Marcell Dareus, but I still don’t like their offense at all. Tyrod Taylor is a 2011 6th round pick who is only entering his 2nd career start. The offensive line is a mess. LeSean McCoy looks as slowed down as he did last season, even in a victory over Indianapolis. The Colts actually had 8 more first downs than the Bills, 23-15 and the two teams were essentially equal in rate of moving the chains. The Bills won largely because they won the turnover battle by 3, but turnover margins are very inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. In fact, over the past 25 or so years, teams that post a +3 turnover margin in a game, on average, have a +0.1 turnover margin the following week.
The Bills can’t rely on dominating the turnover battle again this week, especially against a New England team that has always been the exception to the turnover margin rule, regularly dominating the turnover margin throughout Tom Brady and Bill Belichick’s tenure together. As a result of their victory last week as a 3 home underdogs, the Bills are now just 1 point home underdogs against a New England team that is better than Indianapolis. That line suggests that the Patriots are just 4 points better than the Bills, further showing how overrated the Bills are right now.
I think we’re getting significant line value with the Patriots, who, while not as good as last season, are still one of the top teams in the NFL and significantly better than the Bills. The Patriots have also been deadly in this spot with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. The Patriots are 47-19 ATS as an underdog or a favorite of fewer than 3 points in the Brady/Belichick era. It also doesn’t hurt that the Patriots have won 20 of their last 22 games against the Bills. In a game where they essentially just have to win to cover, I like the Patriots a good amount. With a longer week off of Thursday Night Football, I trust the Patriots to have a great defensive game plan for Buffalo’s inexperienced quarterback. The one thing that scares me is that the Bills are 11-6 ATS at home since 2013, including 8-2 ATS as home underdogs, but I’d still put money on New England.
New England Patriots 20 Buffalo Bills 10
Pick against spread: New England -1