NFL

Monday NFL Betting Preview: Can the Bills Keep Pace for the Second Seed in the AFC?

The playoff picture is starting to sort itself out, and one thing we do know is that the Buffalo Bills have already won their division but cannot get home-field advantage. However, that doesn't mean there isn't plenty to play for still, and the second seed still provides many benefits.

One thing that seemed unlikely at the start of the season is that the New England Patriots would miss the playoffs. It will be the first time since 2008 that the Pats haven't been involved in extra football. According to our schedule-adjusted metrics, the Bills are our eighth-ranked team, while the Pats are quite a bit back as the 22nd-ranked squad.

Let's dive into what our model thinks could be some intriguing betting angles for this contest.

There May Not Be An Explosion of Points

This should be an interesting contest -- in recent history, Buffalo has been smashing the over (46.5 points) on a pretty solid basis, covering it in 10 of the last 14 games.

However, these two teams definitely have a history. They've already played once this season (a 24-21 home win for the Bills), and in that contest, Josh Allen tossed for just 154 yards. While Allen has been excellent in Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back -- his 0.30 mark ranks fourth this season -- New England owns the seventh-best passing defense based on our schedule-adjusted metrics. This could be a bit more challenging for New England, though, as they will be without the services of Stephon Gilmore, who is out for the season.

The Pats have struggled this season offensively, and their 22-12 loss to the Miami Dolphins last week was their sixth consecutive under hitting. Cam Newton has been an absolute disaster under center for the Patriots, recording -0.01 Passing NEP per drop back this season. That's right -- in Newton's 328 drop backs, he's actually cost the Patriots points with his play. Yowza.

Per FanDuel Sportsbook, the over has a decent shot of hitting, and our algorithm predicts this one to have a 60.73% chance of going over that mark. This one likely comes down to the play of Newton. In his last four games combined, the veteran signal-caller has passed for 451 yards -- or a good half for Tom Brady.

Per our oddsFire tool, the betting public is siding with the road Bills: 89% of bets and cash have come in this direction, while 61% of cash has come in on the over.

Bets to Consider

The spread hasn't moved much from its opening line of 7.0 points, now sitting at 7.5 on FanDuel Sportsbook, and we see this one as a toss-up, with neither side projected to cover at a better than 50% clip despite public money supporting the division-winning Bills.

As far as props, one interesting mark to look at is Allen's passing yards. Our model has him tossing for about 288 yards, but keep in mind that this has been a struggle spot for Allen. We already highlighted his struggles in an early win over the Pats, and for his career, he has never surpassed 220 yards against New England. Over at the FanDuel Sportsbook, Allen's passing prop sits at 276.5, with even -112 odds on both sides, and the over looks like a challenging prop to hit.

Historical Betting Trends

-- These teams are very different from an against-the-spread (ATS) perspective in 2020. The road Bills are 9-5, but the home Pats are only 6-8.
-- As a home underdog, the Patriots have really shined in this spot. They are 12-1 ATS in their last 13 games in this split.
-- If the moneyline bet is more your speed, the Bills are 12-1 straight-up.