Buffalo Bills at New York Jets: 2018 Week 10 NFL Pick

Buffalo Bills (2-7) at New York Jets (3-6)

I was stalling this write up a little bit because I was hoping we’d get some word today on who the Bills will start under center this week. Derek Anderson remains out with a concussion, but regular starter Josh Allen got some limited practice time in this week and the Bills did not commit to going back to backup Nathan Peterman if Allen can’t go this week, meaning street free agent Matt Barkley is a candidate to start in this one, after less than 2 weeks with the team.

If Allen is ruled out, the Bills are an auto-fade this week and I will likely bet on the Jets. The Bills have been an auto-fade ever since Josh Allen went down, losing all 3 games by an average of 27.7 points and failing to cover in any of them. Allen wasn’t exactly playing well either, but the Bills’ options behind him on the depth chart are so bad and they have a horrible supporting cast around the quarterback on offense. In a league where moving the ball in easier than it’s ever been, the Bills have picked up a first down or touchdown on just 25.85% of offensive snaps, 10.70% below the league average, and they have a ridiculous 16 interceptions to just 3 passing  touchdowns.

The Jets aren’t playing well either, but if Allen is out, they are more than 4 points better than the Bills, which is what this line (Jets -7 at home) suggests. Quarterback Sam Darnold is out with a foot injury, but that might actually be a good thing for this team right now, as Darnold had been playing terribly and they have a capable veteran backup in Josh McCown ready to go behind him on the depth chart.

Remember, McCown had a pretty underwhelming Jets team at 5-7 last season before he got hurt and he had a solid 94.5 QB rating, with 18 passing touchdowns to 9 interceptions. His age (39) and injury history are a concern, but he should be able to give them a couple good spot starts and I think he’s an upgrade over Darnold right now. The Jets also get top cornerback Trumaine Johnson back this week from an extended absence, which will help.

On top of that, the Jets are in a great spot going into their bye, as teams are 55-22 ATS since 2002 as home favorites of 7+ before a bye. Normally that trend is reserved for top level teams, who tend to be very focused with a week off in front of them, but teams with sub-.500 records are also 7-3 ATS in that spot. With no upcoming distractions, the Jets should be able to take care of business at home against an inferior opponent, as long as Allen remains on the sideline.

Conventional wisdom would suggest that’s going to be the case, as it wouldn’t make sense for the Bills to rush Allen back and risk further injury to his throwing arm in a lost season, but the Bills might be so desperate to be competitive in a divisional game that they rush him back. I’m leaving this as a low confidence pick for now, but if/when Allen is ruled out I will bump this up to medium, as long as the line doesn’t move significantly. I’m guessing it won’t and that this line already takes into account that either Peterman or Barkley will likely start this game.

Update: Josh Allen was ruled out Saturday afternoon as expected, leaving Matt Barkley to start this game for the Bills, but this line shifted to 7.5. That might not seem like a significant line movement, but about 1 in 10 games are decided by exactly a touchdown. I’m going to leave this as a low confidence pick unless the line goes back down. The Jets should win this with ease, but asking their offense to cover a 7.5 point line against a capable Bills defense is a lot. Barkley will probably throw a pick six or something to make it easier for the Jets, but that’s not something you can confidently bet on.

Final update: This line has shifted back to -7 Sunday morning, so this is now a medium confidence pick.

New York Jets 20 Buffalo Bills 9

Pick against the spread: NY Jets -7

Confidence: Medium

Chicago Bears at Buffalo Bills: 2018 Week 9 NFL Pick

Chicago Bears (4-3) at Buffalo Bills (2-6)

If the Bills’ quarterback situation went from bad to worse when rookie quarterback Josh Allen got hurt, forcing them to start to street free agent Derek Anderson in his absence, then I’m not sure what the phrase is to describe what happened to their quarterback situation when Anderson suffered a concussion late in his second start last week, forcing to the Bills to turn to 2017 5th round pick Nathan Peterman as their starter this week. Peterman has completed just 45.7% of his 81 career pass attempts in 2 seasons in the league, for an average of 4.44 YPA, 3 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions and has proven on numerous occasions he does not belong on an NFL field at this stage of his career.

Peterman has been so bad that even the Bills, who have been high on him since drafting him and even started him week 1 this year, decided that signing Anderson as a free agent and starting him after less than a week with the organization was a better idea than going back to Peterman. Peterman also will not get any help from his supporting cast on easily the worst offense in the NFL, which ranks dead last, picking up a first down or touchdown on a pathetic 25.42% of offensive snaps.

Making matters worse for Peterman this week, he faces arguably the toughest defense in the NFL with the Chicago Bears coming to town. The Bears are just 4-3, but their 3 losses came by a combined 11 points and they actually won the first down rate battle in 2 of those 3 losses. On the season, they rank 6th in point differential at +50 and 2nd in first down rate differential at +8.03%. They should be able to go into Buffalo and give them their 6th double digit loss of the season and 11th in their last 12 losses, but I’m not confident in them because they’re pretty banged up.

Not only is right guard Kyle Long out for the rest of the regular season, but they could also opt to hold out wide receiver Allen Robinson and edge rusher Khalil Mack against a weak opponent, like they did last week at home against the Jets. The Bills’ offense is horrendous and is probably more likely to allow a defensive touchdown than score an offensive one, but they have a capable defense that could make this one close if the Bears aren’t at 100% and aren’t focused against a weak opponent.

Chicago Bears 20 Buffalo Bills 9

Pick against the spread: Chicago -10

Confidence: None

New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills: 2018 Week 8 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (5-2) at Buffalo Bills (2-5)

The Patriots are favored by 13.5 points on the road in this game in Buffalo, the most a team has been favored by on the road since the Patriots were 14-point favorites in Jacksonville in week 16 of 2012. The rarity of this kind of line of not a reason not to take the Patriots though. In fact, teams are 15-12 ATS as road favorites of 13.5 or more in the past 30 years. That’s not a reason to take the Patriots necessarily, but historically speaking when a team is favored by this many on the road, there’s a good reason for it.

There is certainly a good reason for it in this one, as the Bills are inarguably the worst team in the league with street free agent Derek Anderson under center, while the Patriots have seemingly hit their stride like they always do and should be considered one of the top few teams in the league. I can’t be confident in the Patriots because they are without injured running back Sony Michel and could also be without tight end Rob Gronkowski for the second straight week and because they could sleepwalk through this game a little bit with a tougher game against the Packers on a short week on deck, but even at less than 100% on the road the Patriots could still win this game by two touchdowns.

New England Patriots 27 Buffalo Bills 13

Pick against the spread: New England -13.5

Confidence: None

Buffalo Bills at Indianapolis Colts: 2018 Week 7 NFL Pick

Buffalo Bills (2-4) at Indianapolis Colts (1-5)

After being blown out in the first two weeks of the season by a combined 55 points against the Ravens and Chargers, the Bills have played better football in recent weeks, going 3-1 ATS, pulling off two upset victories (@ Minnesota and vs. Tennessee) and nearly pulling off a third last week in Houston. The defense has been the reason for their improvement and they are now up to 12th in first down rate allowed at 35.45%.

That’s about where the good news ends for the Bills though. Even with an improved defense, the Bills have yet to win the first down rate battle in any of their 6 games, even their two wins, and they rank dead last in first down rate differential at -10.31%. The defense has been solid, but the offense has been horrendous, ranking dead last in first down rate, picking up a first down or touchdown on just 25.14% of offensive snaps.

Making matters worse offensively, the Bills lost starting quarterback Josh Allen for an extended period of time with an elbow injury. Allen was not playing well before the injury, but this offense’s problems go far beyond the quarterback position and, thanks to their bizarre pre-season trade of AJ McCarron to the Raiders for a 5th round pick, the Bills are completely without an even remotely capable backup. Second year quarterback Nathan Peterman has not resembled an NFL quarterback in limited action thus far in his career, so the Bills will have to turn to veteran Derek Anderson, who is 35 years old, hasn’t been a full-time starter since 2010, and just arrived in Buffalo last week. He’ll likely get better as he spends more time with his new teammates, but if Anderson is an upgrade over Peterman this week, it’ll only be by default.

Despite the Allen injury, this line barely moved from last week to this week, as the Colts were 5.5 point favorites on the early line and are now favored by a touchdown. The Colts have injury problems too, but they’ve had them for most of the season and they are actually getting healthier, with left tackle Anthony Castonzo returning two weeks ago against New England, running back Marlon Mack returning last week, and wide receiver TY Hilton and defensive tackle Margus Hunt returning this week.

The Colts are still missing key players like tight end Jack Doyle and defensive tackle Denico Autry, but even without those two I still have this line calculated at Indianapolis -10, so we’re getting good line value with the Colts at -7. The Colts are just 1-5 on the season, but 3 of the 5 losses came by 8 points or fewer, with their other losses coming against the Bengals, who got a late return touchdown to push the margin of victory to multiple scores, and the Patriots, who are one of the better teams in the league.

The Colts are also in a much better spot. While they have another easy game on deck against the Raiders, the Bills have to turn around and play the Patriots on Monday Night Football next week, a game in which they are 10.5 point home underdogs on the early line. Big underdogs tend to struggle before being big underdogs again, going 46-65 ATS as underdogs of 6+ before being underdogs of 6+ the following week, and teams in general tend to struggle before big home games, going 30-54 ATS before being home underdogs of 6+.

All three of the Bills’ covers have come against opponents in bad spots. The Vikings were coming off of a tie with the Packers and had another game against the Rams in 4 days on Thursday Night Football. The Titans were coming off of an overtime upset win over the Eagles and had another tough game against the Ravens on deck. The Texans were coming off of an overtime win over the Cowboys and had a trip to Jacksonville on deck.

This week, it’s the Bills in a bad spot. With a quarterback that just arrived last week with a much bigger game on deck, the Bills could easily not give their best effort and if they don’t they won’t have much chance of keeping this one close. In a week without a good top choice (I may not have any other high confidence picks), the Colts are my Pick of the Week, as they should be able to hand the Bills their 4th double digit loss of the year and their 9th since the start of the 2017 season.

Indianapolis Colts 23 Buffalo Bills 10

Pick against the spread: Indianapolis -7

Confidence: Pick of the Week

Buffalo Bills at Houston Texans: 2018 Week 6 NFL Pick

Buffalo Bills (2-3) at Houston Texans (2-3)

The Bills have the worst offense in the league, but they’ve managed to pull off a couple wins in the past few weeks. That’s partially because their defense has been improved since the first couple weeks of the season, but they also didn’t win the first down rate battle in either of their wins and rank dead last on the season in first down rate differential at -11.10%, so it’s hard to get too excited about their defense.

Both wins also came against teams that were in terrible spots. The Vikings were coming off of a tie with the Packers and had another game against the Rams in 4 days on Thursday Night Football, while the Titans were coming off of an overtime upset win over the Eagles and had another tough game against the Ravens on deck. Despite the two wins, the Bills are still a tough team to bet.

Fortunately, they are facing another opponent in a bad spot this week, as the Texans have a big divisional clash in Jacksonville following this relatively easy home game against the Bills. Big favorites understandably tend to disappoint with a much bigger game on deck, going 37-55 ATS as favorites of 10+ before being underdogs of 3+ since 2002. I also have this line calculated at Houston -8, so we’re getting a little bit of line value with the visitors too. There’s not enough here for me to put money on the Bills, but this is the most I’ve liked the Bills in a game all year and they could easily give the Texans a game if the Texans don’t come out with their best effort.

Houston Texans 20 Buffalo Bills 13

Pick against the spread: Buffalo +10

Confidence: Low

Tennessee Titans at Buffalo Bills: 2018 Week 5 NFL Pick

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

The Titans pulled off an upset win over the Eagles in overtime last week, but they are not nearly in as good of a spot this week. Last week, they only had this easy game against the Bills on deck, while the Eagles had an NFC Championship rematch with the Vikings on deck. This week, the Titans have a much tougher game at home against the Ravens up next. The Titans are 1 point home underdogs in that game on the early line and road favorites tend to struggle before being home underdogs, going 20-40 ATS since 2012.

I know it’s only one point and that line could easily change, but the logic still makes sense. Sandwiched in between a big overtime win over the defending Super Bowl champions and another big game against a possible division winner, the Titans could overlook the Bills a little bit. We’ve also lost a lot of line value with the Titans as a result of their win last week, with this line moving from 3 to 5.5 in favor of the Titans.

All of that being said, I’m still taking the Titans in this one. The Bills are arguably the worst team in the NFL and should only be picked unless you’re getting great line value with them, which is not the case this week, even with the line movement. The Titans are a solid team now that they’re healthy, with quarterback Marcus Mariota and the stud offensive tackle duo Taylor Lewan and Jack Conklin returning from injury in recent weeks, and could easily beat the Bills by a touchdown or more even if they don’t play their best game on the road.

Tennessee Titans 20 Buffalo Bills 13

Pick against the spread: Tennessee -5.5

Confidence: None

Buffalo Bills at Green Bay Packers: 2018 Week 4 NFL Pick

Buffalo Bills (1-2) at Green Bay Packers (1-1-1)

The Bills pulled off the shocking upset in Minnesota last week, winning 27-6 and becoming the first team since 1995 to win as 16.5+ point underdogs. Despite that win, they are still -14.63% on the season in first down rate differential. Not only did they get blown out by the Ravens and Chargers in the first two weeks of the season, but they also lost the first down battle last week, picking up just 16 first downs to 21 by the Vikings.

They won last week in large part as a result of their +3 turnover margin, forcing fumbles in Minnesota territory on the Vikings’ first two drives and putting them down 17-0 early as a result, but turnover margins are unpredictable on a week-to-week basis. For example, teams with a +3 turnover margin, on average, have a turnover margin of +0.0 the following week.  Given their lack of talent, the Bills will probably need to win the turnover battle to be competitive again this week, but the fact that they won the turnover battle last week makes them no more likely to win it this week.

As a result of the Bills win, this line shrunk from 14.5 on the early line last week all the way down to 9.5, which is a major overreaction. The Packers did lose last week in Washington, but the Redskins are an underrated team who I picked to win, so I don’t hold that against them too much. The Packers could easily return home and blowout a Bills team that is still one of the least talented in the league, much like they were blown out in their first two weeks. We’re getting too much line value with the Packers to not bet on them. Teams also have a poor track record historically after big upset wins, going 51-74 ATS since 1989 after a win as 10+ point underdogs.

Green Bay Packers 31 Buffalo Bills 17

Pick against the spread: Green Bay -9.5

Confidence: High