Week 11 of the NFL season gets underway Thursday with an AFC East matchup between the Buffalo Bills (-4, 43.5) and New England Patriots from Gillette Stadium. The Bills have won two straight and are tied with the Dolphins atop the East at 8-3. New England is in last place and is coming off a loss to the Vikings but is still only two games back at 6-5.
What can we expect from a betting standpoint for Thursday night's game?
Betting analysts Doug Kezirian, Tyler Fulghum, Joe Fortenbaugh, Anita Marks and Erin Dolan; fantasy and sports betting analysts Eric Moody and Andre Snellings; and ESPN Stats & Information's Seth Walder, ESPN analyst Jason Fitz and Football Outsiders' Aaron Schatz provide their top plays for the matchup.
Note: Lines from Caesars Sportsbook unless otherwise indicated.
The Patriots are in last place in the AFC East but are just two games back of Buffalo and Miami. Who do you like in this game (Bills -3.5, 43.5), and who would you take in a tight division race where the Dolphins (+240 to win AFC East), Bills (-230), Jets (+1500) and Patriots (+3500) are all in the hunt?
Kezirian: For me, there are just too many moving parts right now to find value in a one-way betting market. I am uneasy with the health of Josh Allen's elbow, and obviously the other three teams are outperforming preseason expectations. It's just hard to see an edge.
Fortenbaugh: I don't see anything wrong with taking a shot on the Dolphins at +240, considering that's an implied probability of just 29.4 percent. So, ask yourself this: Do you think Miami has a greater than 29% chance of winning the division? The Dolphins are 8-3 and hold the tiebreaker over Buffalo. Further, their once daunting end-of-season schedule no longer looks so bad now that the Chargers and Packers have turned out to be average-at-best football teams.
Schatz: Give me the Bills in this game, as they are still the No. 1 team in the league by DVOA. The Patriots are 11th, but they're all the way down at 25th on offense and we know offense (where Buffalo ranks sixth) is more predictive than defense going forward. We also know the Patriots specifically have trouble with mobile, scrambling quarterbacks like Josh Allen. As for the odds to win the division, there's a little bit of value there in the Jets and Patriots compared to the Football Outsiders playoff simulation, but it's not much.
Marks: This game will be closer than what most people expect. Mac Jones is coming off his best game of the season against the Vikings, and Josh Allen is still not 100% from his elbow injury. The Pats have one of the best red zone defenses in the league, and the Bills struggle to capitalize to score touchdowns in the red zone. I like the Pats getting the 3.5 points. I'll use them in a two-team six-point teaser, and I like the under at 43.5.
Josh Allen has thrown for 622 yards, eight touchdowns and no interceptions while adding 130 rushing yards in his last two matchups with the Patriots. Do you expect more of the same and are you throwing anything on him to win MVP (+1200)?
Dolan: I expect Allen to throw a pick given he's tied with Davis Mills for the most interceptions (11) this season, but the line is way too juiced. So this may be a little reckless, but I would do a same-game parlay and combine a Mac Jones and Allen interception at +190. Jones is due to throw a pick after a three-game drought without an interception, but he had at least one pick in his first five games of the season with a total of seven over that span. The Bills have 13 defensive interceptions (tied for second best), while the Patriots have 12 defensive interceptions (tied for third best). I expect both QBs to make mistakes.
Schatz: The Patriots had a strong pass defense last year (third in DVOA) and Allen shredded it in the last two meetings between these teams. So I think he'll do well against this year's strong pass defense which is also third in DVOA. But, in particular, I'm looking for rushing yardage. The Pats gave up 110 rushing yards to Lamar Jackson, 79 to Justin Fields and 39 to Sam Ehlinger. Sam Ehlinger! Happy to play Allen over 42.5 rushing yards, even at -137.
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These teams have not yet met this season. The Bills (0-2 in division play) have won the last two matchups and four of five over the Patriots (2-1 division). How do you see the season series going?
Kezirian: I like New England and the points. Sharp money arrived on the Patriots +4 that moved the number to 3.5. This is Buffalo's third game away from home over the past 12 days. Add that to Allen's elbow issue and I believe the right side is New England. Buffalo's defense has been fairly unimpressive recently. It's hard for one of the best teams to play as such throughout all 18 weeks. In a season of peaks and valleys, this feels like a valley right now for the Bills.
Schatz: Mathematically, the odds favor a split of the division series, but I think the Bills just match up particularly well with the Patriots, not just because of Allen's mobility but because Gabriel Davis, Stefon Diggs and Isaiah McKenzie can stretch all levels of the pass defense. I expect the Bills to sweep the two games. Our playoff odds simulation gives the Patriots only a 25% chance of making the postseason if they lose both Bills games compared to 56% if they split and 86% if they somehow win both.
Is there anything else you like or are playing in this matchup?
Dolan: Nick Folk over 1.5 made field goals. New England ranks 31st in red zone efficiency at 38.7%, while the Bills are good at defending the red zone at 48.6% (the fourth-best rate in the league). The Patriots went 0-3 in red zone touchdown opportunities on Thanksgiving. This is a theme that will continue against the Bills. Folk has hit over 1.5 made field goals in five of 11 games played this season, but the Patriots will continue to settle for field goals.
Schatz: Rhamondre Stevenson over 35.5 receiving yards (-129). The Bills rank 21st in DVOA against passes to running backs and Stevenson has a remarkable 26% target share in the last five Patriots games.
Moody: Hunter Henry over 24.5 receiving yards. The Bills rank second in the league in total yards per game (415.9) and points per game (28.1). The Patriots will have to score points and Henry could play a key role in helping New England move the chains. He's coming off of a game in which he had a season-high 63 receiving yards. The Bills allow the fifth-most targets per game to tight ends. Henry has had five games this season in which he's had four or more targets and has had 50 or more receiving yards in four of them. Henry could have a lot of success as a receiver against a Bills defense without Tremaine Edmunds.
Marks: Rhamondre Stevenson over 60.5 rushing yards, 35.5 receiving yards, 4.5 receptions. Damien Harris is not expected to be active Thursday night so Stevenson will be the featured back, as well as over 35.5 receiving yards. He has 39 targets for 273 yards over his past five games. I also like Isaiah McKenzie over 32.5 receiving yards. McKenzie had a huge game the last time he faced the Pats, and with all the attention on Stefon Diggs -- he should have a healthy target share on Thursday night.