Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots
Kickoff: 1:30 p.m. PT
TV: NFL Network
When it comes to betting unders, only one team (Pittsburgh Steelers) has been able to match Buffalo’s dynamite 11-3 record in that department. The Patriots, with a 9-5 mark toward the under, sit with a slew of teams ranked right behind them.
That’s been the name of the game for both these AFC East rivals this year, as there isn’t another NFL team that has allowed fewer points. Each side has pushed into the postseason on the strength of impressive defensive play leading the way. The result has been a lot more lower-scoring contests, something we’re certainly not accustomed to with New England over the years.
This point was hammered further during the week when the Pro Bowl teams were announced and Tom Brady was not included, snapping a 10-year streak earning such honors. Not only that, the entire Patriots offense went without someone selected.
Don’t think all of this — and, uh, along with the fact that the division title is still up for grabs — won’t have the defending world champions fired up at home in a rare Saturday game on the offensive side of the ball.
It’s a spot I like for Brady despite coming against one of the league’s stingiest defenses. Although the 42-year-old is currently saddled with what would be his lowest passer rating (86.5) in a full season since 2003 (oddly enough, this was the last time the Pats didn’t have anyone on offense make the Pro Bowl but won it all anyway), he’s still shown flashes of his old form that lead me to believe Brady will get it together for the playoff run.
After all, let’s not forget Brady and Co. have been averaging more than 27 points per game every year this decade. Even to call that feat remarkable might be an understatement. Consistency at its finest. This year, it’s easy to forget they’re still clocking in with 26.6 points each week.
Cold weather is expected, with temperatures hovering around 30 degrees, but that’s actually something that benefits Brady. Incredibly, he’s 29-5 in his storied and decorated career (including playoffs) when the temperature is at or below 30 degrees for kickoff, completing 779-of-1,254 passes (62.1 percent) and notching an outstanding 63-20 TD/INT ratio in those outings.
The bigger challenge will be getting something useful from a Bills offense that barely puts up 20 points a game. And on top of that, it involves an assignment opposite the club that surrenders the fewest points (12.9).
Despite this predicament, I’m still thinking Josh Allen can get some activity going on the scoreboard. If nothing else, he’s at least used to playing in cold weather, so the elements shouldn’t affect his game as much.
The second-year signal-caller hasn’t exactly played well since his wonderful Thanksgiving Day performance in Dallas but, coming off a huge win to clinch his first career playoff berth last Sunday night, Allen should be a lot more loose and at ease here. Such a mindset can help the Wyoming product revert back to earlier-season breakout form.
The matchup itself also presents ample opportunity for Allen to do lots of damage on the ground. The Patriots elite defense can be susceptible to scrambling quarterbacks, which was on display when Lamar Jackson got the best of them, and Buffalo’s QB1 certainly carries that label. He’s also had success running it in his prior two encounters with New England.
Simply put, I think the winner of this crucial affair will need to break 20 points to do it. With a close game being anticipated, that may be enough. Play: OVER 37 (-110)
Last Week: Broncos-Chiefs Over 44 (loss)
Zylbert’s 2019 NFL Over/Under Betting Record*: 9-8, -0.5 unit
*Each bet graded as if it were to win 1 unit