Enjoy the "Monday Night Football" game in Week 11 between AFC East rivals Buffalo and New England because it's looking like the only really good matchup remaining on MNF between two playoff-caliber teams until the finale on Dec. 28 when Cincinnati visits Denver.
And boy would a win here cap quite a two-week stretch for Bills coach Rex Ryan. He played down beforehand last Thursday's game at the New York Jets, his former team, but you could tell after the game how much it meant to beat those guys. He was going crazy on the sideline and glowing in the press conference. But the one team that Ryan hates -- and respects -- more than any other is New England. Instead of giving the Pats some bulletin-board material this time around, however, he's being unusually humble. Perhaps he recognizes just how good this Patriots squad is. Ryan has admitted the AFC East title is out of reach: "They're gonna win the division. I don't see them losing four games in the upcoming things."
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Buffalo (5-4), with the longest playoff drought in the NFL, currently holds down the AFC's final wild-card spot. New England (9-0) now has a clear path to the top seed in the AFC with the Bengals' shocking loss at home to Houston on MNF last week -- the fourth straight MNF game to go down to the wire. The Panthers are the only other unbeaten ream remaining. This marks the fourth season in league history with multiple 9-0 teams (1934, 1990, 2009). Entering this year, 19 previous teams in the Super Bowl era had started 9-0. They all made the playoffs and seven won the Super Bowl.
The Pats are +240 to win Super Bowl 50 at Bovada and -140 to win the AFC. The Bills are +4000 to win the AFC.
Bills at Patriots Betting Story Lines
I thought the Patriots had a decent chance to lose last week at the New York Giants, and really they should have, but good teams find a way. New York appeared to have an Odell Beckham five-yard TD catch late in the fourth quarter that would have given the G-Men a 29-24 lead -- probably with the team going for a 2-point conversion. But for some confusing reason that was overturned on review. That was on first-and-goal at the Patriots' 5 with 2:06 left. Had New York run the ball there and not scored, we get to the two-minute warning with the Patriots having only one timeout and the Giants two more downs to run the clock. New York passed on second down and it was incomplete. That's when the two-minute warning hit. New York tried another pass play on third-and-goal, but Eli Manning ate the ball for a sack. Then the Patriots used their last timeout -- one they theoretically shouldn't have had. Thus, after the Giants' go-ahead field goal, Tom Brady still had 1:47 when the Pats got the ball back. Everyone in the building knew that was too much time. He got the Pats to the Giants' 36, and Stephen Gostkowski hit a 54-yard field goal into a crosswind for the 27-26 victory.
That win was very costly, however, as Brady's top receiver, Julian Edelman, was lost to a broken foot. He had surgery this week and probably misses the rest of the regular season. That's a big loss because he's Brady's third-down security blanket in the slot, even more so than tight end Rob Gronkowski. Edelman had 61 catches for 692 yards and seven scores. Then again, the Pats always seem to find someone to step up. Look for more Danny Amendola -- he had 10 catches for 79 yards vs. the Giants and gained a key extra few yards on the play before Gostkowski's winning kick -- and Keshawn Martin in particular. Edelman also was the team's primary punt returner. Don't forget the Patriots lost running back Dion Lewis, a terrific receiver out of the backfield, for the season a couple of weeks ago.
Buffalo enters on a two-game winning streak, although the team nearly blew a 22-3 lead at the Jets. Bills QB Tyrod Taylor was rather quiet for the second straight game, but Buffalo rushed for 148 yards against the NFL's No. 1 run defense. That's Buffalo's bread-and-butter. LeSean McCoy is starting to make that trade with Philly look very one-sided for the Bills as he had a second straight 112-yard rushing game. And rookie Karlos Williams is a touchdown vulture. He scored on a reception vs. the Jets, becoming the second player in NFL history (Patriots' Robert Edwards in 1998) to score a touchdown in each of his first six career games.
In Week 2 in Buffalo, the Bills were actually 2-point favorites, but the Pats won 40-32 behind 466 yards passing from Brady, the second-most of his career and most ever against Buffalo. He also had three touchdown passes, two to Edelman and one to Gronkowski. Edelman caught 11 balls for 97 yards and Gronk seven for 113. Lewis rushed seven times for 40 yards and a TD and caught six balls for 98 yards. So the Bills surely aren't unhappy that Edelman and Lewis aren't around now. Taylor was 23-for-30 for 242 and three scores but was picked off three times and sacked a whopping eight times. The Bills had success on the ground, rushing for 160 yards. They just couldn't stop Brady and Co., who totaled 507 yards.
Bills at Patriots Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , New England is a 7.5-point favorite (+100) with a total of 48. On the moneyline, the Pats are -340 and Bills +280. On the alternate lines, New England is -8 (+105) -7 (-120), -6.5 (-140) and -6 (-148). The Bills are 5-4 against the spread (3-1 on road) and 5-4 "over/under" (2-2 on road). The Patriots are 5-3-1 ATS (3-1-1 at home) and 5-4 O/U (2-3 at home).
Buffalo is 5-1 ATS in its past six vs. the AFC East. It has covered five of its past seven against teams with a winning record. New England is 11-4 ATS in its past 15 in November. It has covered five of its past seven on Monday. The over is 6-1 in the Bills' past seven on Monday. The over is 5-2 in the Pats' past seven on Monday. The underdog is 5-1 in the past six meetings. The over is 7-2 in the previous nine.
Monday Night Football Predictions: Bills at Patriots Betting Picks
New England has won 27 of the past 30 in the series, and one loss was the end of last season when the Pats didn't care and sat guys.
The game plan here is simple for Buffalo: run the ball all night to keep Brady off the field. But the Patriots are No. 2 against the run. And the Bills ran the ball well in the first meeting and it didn't matter. Might the Bills' defense end one streak in this game for New England? The Pats have scored in an NFL-record 35 straight quarters.
The Patriots make it to 10-0, but I'm only giving 6.5 points. Go under the total as it will be in the 20s at kickoff in Foxboro, so that might keep the New England offense somewhat in check.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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