Game: New England Patriots (8-5, 5-7-1 ATS) at Buffalo Bills (5-8, 7-6 ATS)
Spread: Patriots -7.
Overview: Tom Brady and the New England Patriots used to beat the tar out of the perennial AFC East patsies twice a year for the sheer enjoyment of it. If that weren’t enough – and usually, it is – this time around the Patriots have a double-dose of motivation working in their favor against the Buffalo Bills.
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For one, former stronghold on the AFC East has become shaky, thanks to a 1-2 slide in their past three games, which basically relegates this matchup to an unlikely must-win situation.
Moreover, coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots are due for giving Buffalo a shrewd reminder of who holds the upper hand in their long, one-sided rivalry. The Bills threatened to demand some respect in Week 1 when they dominated most of the game on New England’s home turf in front of a Monday Night Football audience as 12-point underdogs.
Brady needed two late touchdown passes and a Buffalo turnover to salvage a 25-24 win; little did the Patriots know at the time just how important that victory would be now.
The Bills have since fired their coach and faded into their familiar abyss, while the Patriots, despite their struggles, still find themselves atop the division.
In order to lock things up and prepare for the stretch run, a dominant performance against the downtrodden Bills would come in handy. This is a good time to bet on it.
Going against the league’s worst defense, New England’s second-ranked offense should have its way, and the Patriots have never had much trouble winning in Buffalo.
Trends: The Patriots are 4-1 ATS against road teams with losing records, and 10-4 ATS as road favorite of three to10 points. The Bills are 4-10 ATS against teams with winning records and 2-9 ATS in their last 11 home games.
Game: Minnesota Vikings (11-2, 8-4-1 ATS) at Carolina Panthers (5-8, 6-7 ATS)
Spread: Vikings -9.
Overview: Twice this year, the Vikings have faced resistance in a road game. Brett Favre and friends lost both of them, dropping games to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals.
This Sunday, it’s likely they will find resistance from an unlikely source, a tough-luck Carolina Panthers club whose disastrous start ruined its season. However, this team will be looking to salvage some pride in a home game in front of a national television audience.
Jake Delhomme’s interception-prone ways, combined with a leaky defense, stuck the Panthers in a 0-3 hole from which they could never recover. Although Carolina battled back to win three of its next four, the Panthers have stumbled again, losing three of their past four. However, with the noted exception of a 17-6 loss to the New York Jets, they have been generally playing much better football. Backup quarterback Matt Moore is 2-0 ATS filling in for the injured Delhomme, making fewer mistakes while relying heavily on the league’s fourth-ranked rushing attack (150 yards per game).
Each of Minnesota’s previous losses have come sandwiched around two big wins, the first coming after a win over the Baltimore Ravens, and ending with a win over the Green Bay Packers. Last week, they beat the Cincinnati Bengals, 30-10, after falling to the Cardinals the previous week.
If you put much stock in trends, this is a spot in which to fade Minnesota. Moreover, the line presents value since it has been bet up from an opening number of -6.5 or -7 at most sportsbooks. Take the points.
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Trends: The Vikings are 4-0-1 ATS against teams with losing records, and 5-1-1 ATS in their last seven against NFC opponents. The Panthers are 4-0 ATS against teams with winning records, and 8-1 ATS in their last nine December games.
Pick: Panthers +9.