NFL Betting Advice: Are Buffalo Bills a Real Contender?
There are, as always, several surprises in the NFL this year. Some are negative - the struggles of the Bears or Falcons, or the disappointing incompetence of the Browns. And then there are obviously some positives. With the possible exception of the Niners, the biggest positive surprise in the league so far has to be the Buffalo Bills. They sit at -250 to make the playoffs after winning seven of their first 10 games. They have been the Bills for so long that we are conditioned not to expect good things for them. It is quite possible that even the Bills can manage not to screw this up. As the team enters the home stretch, here are five factors to keep in mind as we get ready to handicap their last six games:
The target: The Bills aren't going to catch the Patriots in the AFC East, trailing by two games with six left and with the Pats having a win in the series already. So, it comes down to the wild card - a race that the Bills are currently leading. The AFC is not nearly as tough as it seemed like it could be. At 7-3, the team has a one-win advantage over the Colts and Texans - one of which will likely win the AFC South - and the Raiders. The Colts and Texans play each other once more, but none of the other teams meet. Things could go crazy, but it really feels like 10 wins is likely going to be enough to get into the playoffs as a wild card team. And if 10 wins is enough, then that is fairly good news for the Bills. They have two very winnable games on their schedule - the Broncos and the Jets. And they have two games that the Bills stand a good chance in - against the Cowboys and Steelers. The other two are against the Ravens and Patriots, which are bigger challenges. But if this team plays like it has been playing, then the road to 10 wins - and a playoff spot - is there for the taking.
Schedule: The Bills just haven't played a tough schedule. At all. The combined win percentage of their opponents is .330, which is by far the lowest in the league. They have played the Jets, Giants, Bengals, Dolphins - twice - and Redskins - five truly awful teams. And they have added in the Browns, too - a bad team this year, but one that the Bills still lost to. They also lost to the Patriots and the Eagles. The only decent team that Bills have beaten is the Titans, and at 5-5 they are hardly an unstoppable force. The combined win percentage of the teams they have beaten is a pathetic .214, which is by far the lowest among playoff teams. This team has not exactly been tested. As such, it is tougher to really know what they are than their record might indicate.
Josh Allen: In his second year in the league, Allen is making strides forward. He still isn't putting up world-class numbers, but he is doing much better in terms of completion percentage than last year and is on track to throw solidly more touchdowns and fewer interceptions than last year. He isn't running as much, but that's wise - and he is still going to score more rushing touchdowns than last year. There are still issues - he fumbles too much, for example, and he has been much worse in the three losses than he was against the weaker opponents they have beaten. But he's moving forward without question, and he is a more attractive guy to have on their roster than at least a couple of his draft classmates.
Defense: Jordan Phillips, the DT who leads the Bills in sacks, tackles for a loss, and QB hits, is a good example of how things are falling into place for this team. A second-round pick of the Dolphins, he had just 5.5 sacks in 48 games for Miami. He was placed on waivers in October of 2018 and claimed by Buffalo. He has seven sacks already this year. And he is a cornerstone of a defensive unit that ranks third in the league in both points and yards allowed. They didn't come into the season as the most talented team in the league, but Phillips isn't the only guy on the roster who is leading this team to high levels by playing towards the high end of his potential.
Betting performance: The team is a solid 6-3-1 ATS on the season, which is sixth best in the league. They have gone 1-1-1 ATS in their losses and 5-2 ATS in their wins. They have gone a strong 3-0-1 ATS as an underdog this year and a less impressive 3-3 ATS as favorites. They are favored this week against Denver , and will very likely be favored at home against the Jets in their finale unless they are already in the playoffs and resting players. But they could be a betting underdog in their other four games. They have gone under the total seven times in 10 tries this year, but bettors and oddsmakers are on to them of late. They went under five straight games before their bye, but went over twice in a row, and three of five games, after the bye.
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