Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins: 2019 Week 11 NFL Pick

Buffalo Bills (6-3) at Miami Dolphins (2-7)

The Dolphins have won back-to-back games after getting off to a horrendous 0-7 start, but they still rank dead last in the NFL in first down rate differential at -8.98%. Even in last week’s win in Indianapolis, they lost the first down rate battle by 6.40%, winning by 4 in a game in which Colts backup quarterback Brian Hoyer threw three interceptions. The Dolphins are undeniably a better team with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center, but they still rank dead last overall in my roster rankings. Five of their seven losses have come by double digits this season and getting blown out is a trend that actually dates back a few seasons for them, as they have 20 double digit losses since the start of the 2017 season. 

This could easily be another big loss for the Dolphins, with the Bills coming to town. The Bills rank 7th in the NFL in first down rate differential at +3.90% and, while they’ve faced an easy schedule (31st in opponent’s DVOA) their schedule doesn’t get any harder this week. My roster rankings have the Bills 17th, but that still makes them 9-point favorites on my calculated line, so we’re getting good line value with the Bills at -6.5. I’ll need to know the status of Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes before committing to betting on the Bills because he’s their top defensive lineman and didn’t practice on Friday, but the Bills should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes either way.

Buffalo Bills 26 Miami Dolphins 17

Pick against the spread: Buffalo -6.5

Confidence: Low

Buffalo Bills at Cleveland Browns: 2019 Week 10 NFL Pick

Buffalo Bills (6-2) at Cleveland Browns (2-6)

These two teams have mirror image records, with the Bills at 6-2 and the Browns at 2-6, but it’s fair to wonder if they’d have a similar record if they played the same schedule. While the Browns have faced the 4th toughest schedule in terms of opponents DVOA, the Bills have faced the second easiest. The combined record of the 6 teams the Bills have defeated (by an average of 8.5 points per game) is 9-42 and they’ve lost both games they’ve played against teams with a winning record. The Browns, despite having 4 fewer wins than the Bills, are the only team in this matchup that has defeated a winning team, beating the now 6-2 Ravens 40-25 in Baltimore back in week 4. The Browns’ 6 losses have come against teams that are a combined 34-17.

Unfortunately, we still aren’t getting any line value with the Browns, who are favored by 2.5 points here at home over the Bills. I still have the Bills slightly higher in my roster rankings right now, especially with the Browns missing talented defensive end Olivier Vernon. The Browns are also on a tight turnaround with another game against the Steelers on deck 4 days after this game (favorites cover at a 45% rate all-time before Thursday Night Football), and though I do expect them to be focused, having lost 4 straight, the Bills are in a great spot, with only a trip to Miami on deck (underdogs are 57-36 ATS since 2002 before being road favorites of 4.5+). I have this line calculated at even and, while there’s not enough here to bet the Bills confidently at +2.5, I do like the money line at +120 in a game that should be a toss up. If this line moves up to 3, I might consider a bet on the Bills against the spread as well.

Update: +3s are showing up Sunday morning. If you can get that line, the Bills are worth a bet.

Buffalo Bills 20 Cleveland Browns 19 Upset Pick +120

Pick against the spread: Buffalo +3

Confidence: Medium

Washington Redskins at Buffalo Bills: 2019 Week 9 NFL Pick

Washington Redskins (1-7) at Buffalo Bills (5-2)

It’s unfortunate that the Redskins won’t be starting Case Keenum in this game because I probably would have made a pretty substantial bet on the Redskins this week if he was starting. The Bills are 5-2, but shouldn’t be favored by double digits except anyone except maybe the Dolphins. Despite facing the 2nd easiest schedule in the NFL in terms of DVOA, the Bills have just one win by more than 10 points, with an average margin of victory of 7.2 points per game against 5 teams that are a combined 7-31. Their only win over a team that currently has at least a .500 record came by 7 points against a now 4-4 Titans team that missed 4 field goals in the game.  However, with Keenum still in the concussion protocol, the Redskins will have to turn to first round rookie Dwayne Haskins, which adds a lot of uncertainty to this game.

Haskins still has upside long-term, but he’s been horrendous in limited action thus far, completing just 12 of 22 passes with 4 interceptions, and behind the scenes he likely hasn’t been much better, as the Redskins have been very hesitant to let him play, even with a first round pedigree and an overall lost season. He also was pretty underwhelming in the pre-season, despite playing against mostly backups. Haskins came into the NFL very inexperienced and may ultimately benefit in the long run from being forced into some action as a rookie, but he could also go through some serious growing pains in his first few starts. I still have this line calculated at only Buffalo -7.5 even with Haskins in the lineup, but there’s too much uncertainty for me to bet the Redskins confidently, even with the line moving up to 10.5. 

Buffalo Bills 20 Washington Redskins 13

Pick against the spread: Washington +10.5

Confidence: Low

Philadelphia Eagles at Buffalo Bills: 2019 Week 8 NFL Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (3-4) at Buffalo Bills (5-1)

This was maybe the toughest game of the week to decide, as it’s tough to know what to make of either team. The Bills are 5-1, but they have faced the second easiest schedule in the NFL, with their wins coming against the Jets, Giants, Bengals, Titans, and Dolphins. Some of their games have been close, most concerningly their home win over the Dolphins last week in which they trailed in the fourth quarter, but they have a solid +30 point differential overall (9th in the NFL). Most impressively, they’ve had that point differential without the benefit of consistently winning the turnover battle, as they are -1 on the season. The 8 teams ahead of them in point differential have an average turnover margin of +4.6, but turnover margin tends to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. 

The Bills join the 49ers as one of two teams in the league to have multiple wins in which they lost the turnover battle (Jets and Titans) and in their only loss of the season (at home against New England) they could have easily won if not for a blocked punt that was returned for a touchdown in an eventual 6-point game. In terms of first down rate differential, the Bills rank 5th at +6.13%, which is very impressive even against a relatively easy schedule. However, in my roster rankings, the Bills come in just 17th.

The Eagles, meanwhile, look like the much better team on paper, but they haven’t played like it (20th in first down rate differential at -1.71%) and the injuries are starting to pile up. They are missing starting wide receiver DeSean Jackson, starting left tackle Jason Peters, starting cornerback Avonte Maddox, starting outside linebacker Nigel Bradham, and their 3 of their top-4 defensive tackles, including week 1 starter Malik Jackson. Perhaps more importantly, they seem to have serious problems in the locker room, which would explain why they’ve underachieved thus far.

Of course, all their problems now being out in the open could be what motivates them to play better and prove everyone wrong, which just adds another layer of uncertainty to this game. They could also be exhausted in their 3rd straight road game, a 45% cover spot all-time. The line I ultimately came up with is Buffalo -3, so I’m taking the Bills as 2-point favorites, but this is one of my lowest confidence picks of the week.

Buffalo Bills 20 Philadelphia Eagles 17

Pick against the spread: Buffalo -2

Confidence: None

Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills: 2019 Week 7 NFL Pick

Miami Dolphins (0-5) at Buffalo Bills (4-1)

The Bills are favored by 17 points at home in this matchup with the Dolphins, the first time the Bills have been favored by this many points since the middle of the Jim Kelly era in 1992. The line is understandable though, as the Dolphins are one of the worst teams of all-time, organized by a coaching staff and front office that is transparently not trying to win this season, while the Bills are having one of their best seasons of the past two decades, even if that isn’t saying much. Their +20 point differential is underwhelming considering their 4-1 record and that they’ve faced a relatively easy schedule, but they have that point differential despite a -3 turnover margin. Turnover margin tends to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis and the Bills rank 3rd in first down rate differential at +8.27%, only behind the undefeated Patriots and undefeated 49ers. 

When it seemed like Josh Rosen was going to start this game at quarterback for Miami, I considered betting on the Bills, but the Dolphins are seemingly pulling the plug on Rosen and turning back to veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is at least somewhat proven and has some ability to handle the enormous amounts of pressure the Dolphins’ offensive line lets up. After taking over for Rosen in a battle of winless teams against the Redskins last week, Fitzpatrick was almost able to lead the comeback and has been the noticeably better quarterback this season. I’m still taking the Bills, but this is a no confidence pick. The Bills still don’t have a great offense, so if the Dolphins can make it to double digits, they have a good chance to cover. Whether or not they can make it to double digits against the Bills’ dominant defense is a big question though.

Buffalo Bills 24 Miami Dolphins 6

Pick against the spread: Buffalo -17

Confidence: None

Buffalo Bills at Tennessee Titans: 2019 Week 5 NFL Pick

Buffalo Bills (3-1) at Tennessee Titans (2-2)

The Bills lost their first game of the season last week, but I have a higher opinion of them coming out of that game than going into it. Their 3-0 start came against the Jets, Giants, and Bengals, with the Bills trailing in the fourth quarter in two of those games. Against the also 3-0 Patriots, the Bills were in the game late and could have won had they not had a punt blocked and returned for a touchdown earlier in the game. Their offense predictably struggled against a dominant New England defense, but their defense was very impressive, holding the Patriots’ offense to just a 19.35% first down rate (just 11 first downs and 1 touchdown on 62 snaps) and causing Tom Brady to have one of the worst passing days of his career. In terms of first down rate differential, they actually won by 14.45%, despite losing the game by 6. 

The Titans also had an impressive game last week, winning by 14 in Atlanta against an underrated Falcons team. They’ve been pretty hit or miss over the past couple years, but their two losses this year came before a Thursday game and during a Thursday game, which can be tough situations, while their two wins have both come on the road by double digits. Their defense, which ranked 4th in first down rate allowed last season and ranks 7th in first down rate allowed this season, is a strong unit and quarterback Marcus Mariota is still healthy, which is a big plus because the Titans went 6-2 down the stretch with him healthy last year, with wins over the Cowboys and Patriots. They also get back stud left tackle Taylor Lewan from a four game suspension this week.

Unfortunately, we’ve lost line value with the Titans in the past week, as this line has moved up from Tennessee -1.5 on the early line to Tennessee -3 this week, despite Buffalo’s dominant defensive performance last week. I have this line calculated at Tennessee -4, so we’re still getting some line value with the Titans, but not nearly enough to bet them confidently. They should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes, but this is a low confidence pick.

Tennessee Titans 17 Buffalo Bills 13

Pick against the spread: Tennessee -3

Confidence: Low

New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills: 2019 Week 4 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (3-0) at Buffalo Bills (3-0)

This is a battle between a pair of 3-0 teams in the AFC East, but these two teams have had very different paths to 3-0. While the Patriots have dominated everyone they’ve faced, leading the league with a +21.55% first down rate differential and a +29.7 average point differential, the Bills trailed in the second half against the Jets and Bengals before coming back to narrowly win. Neither team has faced a tough schedule, with the Bills also facing the Giants and the Patriots facing the Steelers, Dolphins, and Jets, but the Steelers with Ben Roethlisberger is the only thing close to a tough opponent that either of these teams have faced and the Patriots dominated them in a 30-point victory. They’ve had a much more impressive start despite these two teams having the same record.

The Patriots’ defense has been especially impressive, not allowing a single touchdown all season and allowing just 32 first downs on 169 snaps, an absurd 18.93% first down rate allowed. I don’t care who you play, these are all professional football players and having a 3-game stretch like that against anyone is worth taking note of. The Patriots’ defensive dominance goes back to the end of last season, when they held the Rams without a touchdown in the Super Bowl, blanked the Chiefs in the first half of the AFC Championship game before a second half offensive explosion, held the Chargers to just one touchdown in the first half of the AFC Divisional before allowing some garbage time points, and held the Jets, Steelers, Bills to a combined 32 points in the final 3 games of the regular season. 

Dating back 9 games, the Patriots have allowed just 3 first half touchdowns and have allowed more than one offensive touchdown total in just 3 of 9 games, with 5 games in which they did not allow an offensive touchdown, including 4 straight. Going back to last year’s bye, they have allowed just 14.0 points per game in their past 12 games. At this point, this is not a fluke. Bill Belichick has somehow quietly built a very deep and versatile defense and has them firing on all cylinders as his own defensive coordinator. Off-season additions of Jamie Collins, Chase Winovich, and Michael Bennett have been key, as have the re-emergence of veteran stars Dont’a Hightower and Devin McCourty and the emergence of budding young shutdown cornerback Jonathan Jones. The Patriots’ probably are not going to allow a first down rate under 20% the rest of the way as their schedule gets tougher, but they should finish among the top few teams in the league in most defensive metrics. 

There’s some concern that the Patriots weren’t a good road team last year, going just 3-5 on the road, with losses to teams like Jaguars, Lions, and Dolphins, but I wouldn’t read too much into that. Home/road splits tend to be inconsistent on a year-to-year basis, with rare exceptions. In fact, the Patriots recently had a stretch from 2016 to 2017 where they won 14 consecutive games away from Gillette, before their road struggles last year. The pendulum could easily swing back the other way this season.

Unfortunately, we aren’t really getting much line value with the Patriots as 7-point favorites on the road in Buffalo. The Bills haven’t been nearly as impressive as the Patriots, but they have a solid team that should still compete for a wild card spot in the AFC and they could easily bring their best effort at home in a huge divisional matchup. The Bills have had a legitimately good defense since the start of last season, finishing last season 7th in first down rate allowed at 34.30% in 2018 and now ranking 6th at 31.75% in first down rate allowed through 3 games. Their offense struggled for most of last year, but it improved significantly down the stretch, with a 37.14% first down rate in their final 7 games of the season, after a 25.85% first down rate in their first 9 games, and that seems to have carried over into this season, as they rank 9th in first down rate at 39.41% thus far. Their competition is about to get a whole lot harder and I have them calculated as 9-point underdogs, but there isn’t quite enough to bet the Patriots with confidence this week.

New England Patriots 23 Buffalo Bills 13

Pick against the spread: New England -7

Confidence: Low