Minnesota Vikings (7-1) at Buffalo Bills (6-2)
In ordinary circumstances, I would like the Bills this week. They lost to the Jets as 11.5-point favorites in a close game last week, but the Jets are at least a decent team and teams tend to bounce back from big upset losses anyway, covering the spread at a 58.3% rate all-time after a loss as 10-point favorites or more. This week, the Bills face the Vikings, who, at 7-1, now have a better record than the Bills, but most of the Vikings’ wins have been close, with six of seven coming by eight points or fewer points or fewer, while four of the Bills’ six wins have come by ten points or more, a trend that dates back to the start of last season, over which time they have a margin of victory of 21.1 points per game in 18 victories, while all but eight of their nine losses have come by seven points or fewer. The Vikings have also benefited from a +6 turnover margin, which is not predictive, while the Bills are only at +1.
Unfortunately, these are not ordinary circumstances, as the Bills are in a terrible injury situation. Not only is quarterback Josh Allen not expected to play because of an elbow injury that could get worse, but the Bills are missing key players on defense as well. Already without talented safety Micah Hyde, the Bills will be without their other talented safety Jordan Poyer, whose absence was felt in the Bills’ loss last week, and also will be without talented edge defender Greg Rousseau, who will miss his first game of the season this week.
Assuming Allen is out, my calculated line is even, with backup Case Keenum being serviceable, but an obvious downgrade. This line is at Buffalo -3, but it probably takes into account the possibility that Allen does play, even if the chances are slim. Allen’s uncertainty makes this game tough to bet, as the Vikings would probably be worth betting at +3 if Allen didn’t play, but there’s still a chance he could and, if he’s ruled out, the line will likely drop. I’m taking the Vikings for a low confidence pick for now, but I could have an update before game time depending on Allen’s status and where this line ends up.
Update: Josh Allen looks like he will unexpectedly play and start for the Bills and, as a result, the line has moved up to 6. If I knew Allen was healthy and would play the whole game, the Bills would be bettable at that number, getting good line value in a good spot, but how well and how much Allen plays is still somewhat in question, so this is going to be a no confidence pick.
Buffalo Bills 27 Minnesota Vikings 20
Pick against the spread: Buffalo -6