Week 16 concludes Monday night with an AFC East showdown between the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots. The 11-3 Bills have won their first division title since 1995 and are now in a strong position for the two-seed in the AFC. The 6-8 Patriots are missing the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
Here is a closer look at both of these division rivals, along with betting trends and a free pick. Buffalo is a comfortable seven-point favorite on the road in this one.
You can make the case that the Bills have been the surprise team of 2020. After years of falling short, Buffalo has looked like a contender for most of the year, particularly in the second half of the season, where they've won seven of their last eight games. They'll now look to close the season out strong against the Pats and Dolphins, with a chance at achieving their most wins in a season in nearly-30 years.
Led by MVP-candidate and third-year quarterback Josh Allen, along with star receiver Stefon Diggs, Buffalo is averaging 29 points per game, seventh in the NFL. They're also seventh with just under 398 yards per game, aided by the third-ranked passing game. They also lead the league with a 51 percent third-down rate.
The Bills, while very good on offense, are just an average defensive team. Buffalo ranks 16th with 24.3 points allowed per game and 15th with 370 total yards allowed per game. Their passing and rushing defenses are fairly even as well, ranking 15th and 19th, respectively. The Bills also have a modest 34 sacks to go along with 12 interceptions as a team.
It has been a season of change in New England. The Patriots, in their first year without the legendary Tom Brady, started 2-1 but proceeded to lose the next four, including a 24-21 loss in Buffalo. While they then won four of five and had an outside shot at the playoffs, losses in their last two games, each by double-digits, eliminated them from contention. The Pats now wish to play spoiler on Monday night before finishing the season out against the Jets.
With quarterback Cam Newton in charge, the Patriots are 27th with 20.6 points per game. Their yards per game is also a measly 24th with 344 yards per game, brought down by the third-worst passing game despite a top-five rushing attack. They also rank 17th with a 40.7% success rate on third downs.
On the flip side, New England has been stingy on defense. The Pats allow just 21.5 points per game, the sixth-fewest in the league, and boast a top-10 mark with 355 yards allowed per game. But while those numbers are good, as is their fifth-ranked pass defense, New England is only 26th in run defense. Furthermore, their 21 team sacks is also bottom-five, but their 16 interceptions is tied for second in the NFL.
Starting with the road team, the 11-3 Bills are 9-5 ATS. They're also 4-3 ATS as the visitors compared to a 5-2 overall record. But not only has Buffalo won seven of their last eight, they're also a perfect 6-0 ATS in their last six weeks. However, they're only 1-5 ATS in their last six divisional games, four of which coming this season.
On the other side, the 6-8 Patriots are also 6-8 ATS, while their 4-2 home record matches for both. They usually play well as the underdog, going 4-1 ATS in their last five games when they're not favored. New England has also owned Buffalo at home, winning 17 of their last 19 meetings in Foxborough.
Back on November 1st, when these teams met for the first time, the Bills escaped with a win after exploiting the Pats for 190 rushing yards. However, Allen was held in check, throwing for just over 150 yards with one interception. Monday, I expect Allen to look much better, but I would be shocked if Bill Belichick doesn't make things somewhat-challenging once again.
I'm picking the Bills to win, but I think the Pats make it close enough to be interesting.
Pick: Patriots +7