The Buffalo Bills went 28 years without being so much as a 12-point favorite before September’s Week 2 matchup with the Miami Dolphins. Now, they will be laying more than 15 points for the second time this season.
The first time worked out just fine, as they blitzed the Dolphins 35-0. Now, they’re favored by anywhere from 15.5 (at DraftKings, among other online sportsbooks) to 16.5 (at FanDuel, among others) for a regular-season finale versus a 4-12 New York Jets team at 4:25 p.m. Sunday.
The game has a lot more meaning than the Bills would like, given that they’ve already locked up a playoff spot.
What’s at stake?
The Bills need to win this game to assure themselves of their second straight division title, so it’s unlikely they’ll rest their starters unless they get pretty far ahead. The team they’re jockeying with in the division, the New England Patriots, plays at the same time against the Dolphins, so the Bills can’t make personnel decisions based on that game’s outcome.
That could work one of two ways: It could inspire them to play harder in the early going, but it could set up a potential late cover by the Jets if the Bills do, in fact, opt to rest quarterback Josh Allen and others in the second half.
One of the beauties of this contest for New York residents is the first chance to wager from the palm of their hands, after the New York Gaming Commission cleared four digital operators to take wagers starting Saturday morning. Caesars, DraftKings, FanDuel and Rush Street Interactive should have their apps up and running well before Sunday’s kickoff in Orchard Park.
Typically, sharp bettors will avoid laying a spread this large, and the underdog has covered in nine of the past 14 games between these division rivals.
If you’re looking for a reason to bet on the heavy chalk here, the Jets are 6-10 against the spread this season while the Bills have gone 8-6-2 ATS, beating the spread by an average of 3.4 points per game. Plus, the Bills had that big 35-point win over the Dolphins, though the Dolphins hadn’t yet hit their stride. That game came seven weeks before Miami’s seven-game winning streak.
The over/under total on this one is set as low as 40 (at Bet365) and as high as 41.5 (FanDuel). The Jets lead the NFL in over percentage (62.5%) while the Bills’ games have hit the over half the time. Given the Bills’ desire to get an early lead and some improvement from the Jets’ offense recently, the over may be a decent proposition Sunday.
When Buffalo has the ball
Devin Singletary has given the Bills a more balanced offense in recent games, edging past Zack Moss and Matt Breida to become Buffalo’s featured back. Singletary has averaged 94.7 yards and more than a touchdown per game on an average of 21 touches in his last three games.
It would make sense for Buffalo to keep giving him the ball this week as the Jets have the fourth-worst rushing defense in the NFL, allowing 136.3 yards per game. The weather forecast is relatively benign, with a kickoff temperature expected to be about 32 degrees, though the wind is expected to pick up as the game goes along, with the possibility of some showers moving in by the fourth quarter.
Buffalo’s game plan can be hard to peg. Back in Week 10, the Bills pounded the Jets 45-17, doing it largely through the air. Allen had 366 yards passing and a pair of touchdowns, and Stefon Diggs caught eight balls for 162 yards and a TD.
When the Jets have the ball
It’s worth noting that Jets quarterback Zach Wilson didn’t play in that prior game due to a knee sprain, and his backup, Mike White, was picked off four times. Wilson has been good of late, riding a streak of 136 straight passes without an interception, and the Jets gave Tampa Bay all it could handle in a 28-24 loss last week.
As bad as the Jets have been, they are improving, and it’s possible to imagine them keeping it close against a superior opponent for the second week in a row.
Photo: Chris Pedota/USA TODAY