Cincinnati Bengals (5-0) at Buffalo Bills (3-2)
Ordinarily, I love fading significant line movements because they’re usually overreactions to one week of action and this line moved from Buffalo being favored by 1.5 to now being home underdogs of a field goal. That’s significant. However, I still like the Bengals this week, even with the public all over them. I think that line movement was legitimate and that it was a bad line in the first place. The 5-0 Bengals are a legitimate top contender, ranking 3rd in rate of moving the chains differential, thanks to significantly improved health on both sides of the ball. The Bills, meanwhile, only rank 20th.
The other reason this line is legitimate is because the Bills are expected to be without Tyrod Taylor, who has been a huge boost to this offense this season, likely forcing them to go back to EJ Manuel, who has never been good outside of the pre-season and who will be a big downgrade from Taylor. The Bills are getting healthier around the quarterback on offense, with Sammy Watkins and LeSean McCoy coming back, though the latter has struggled with hamstring problems all year and might not be a big boost to a struggling running game. Their only good running back this season has been rookie Karlos Williams, who is once again out with a concussion. The Bills will miss him and Taylor in this one against what I mentioned is an almost completely healthy Bengals team.
It also helps the Bengals that they’re going into a bye and good teams tend to cover pretty easily going into a bye. I mentioned in the Packers/Chargers write up that 6+ point home favorites going into the bye are 59-19 ATS since 2002. The Bengals, unfortunately, are not at home for this one, but 3+ point road favorites are still 38-23 ATS going into a bye, for the same reason. It’s not as powerful of a trend as the other one, but the logic behind both is the same. The Bills, meanwhile, have the opposite of a bye on deck, as they have to pack up and go to London to face the Jaguars. Teams are just 6-16 ATS all-time before an international game. It’s a small sample size, but the trend makes a ton of sense. I’ll leave this as a low confidence pick for now, but when Taylor is officially ruled out (he’s listed as questionable, but no one is buying it), I’ll move it up to medium and put money on it, unless the line moves above 4.
Update: Taylor won’t be playing. I’d put money on Cincinnati -3.
Cincinnati Bengals 20 Buffalo Bills 13
Pick against the spread: Cincinnati -3