New England (2) @ Buffalo (3)
-Bills LG Jon Feliciano (calf) was activated off of IR, but has been ruled out. He last played week 8. Feliciano has been slightly below average throughout his career, but Ike Boettger is still a downgrade.
-Bills DT Star Lotulelei will return after missing multiple games from being listed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Lotulelei has played poorly against the run this season, but has been an above average pass rusher.
-Bills CB Tre'Davious White tore his ACL last week and will miss the remainder of the season. Despite the Bills pass defense, which is arguably the best in the league, they are weak at corner and will miss White's presence. Dane Jackson will fill in.
-Patriots S Kyle Dugger will miss after being placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Dugger has been solid this season, but plays as the Patriots #3 safety in sub packages.
Fun with variance: These two teams are ranked 30th (New England) and 32nd (Buffalo) in variance. And you want to bet on it? You god damn degen, I love you.
When the Patriots have the ball:
The Patriots offense (11th in DVOA, 10th in EPA/play) are led by rookie QB Mac Jones, who's sitting at 6th in PFF passing grades (81.9) while completing 70.3% of his passes (3.4% above expectation) while gaining 7.5 yards per attempt. Jones plays behind an elite offensive line -- it's not that the Patriots are littered with stars, but there isn't a single weak point -- all 5 are grading above average. In today's NFL, it's far better to have 5 solid players than a stars/scrubs combo. The same is true for the receivers, though in that regard you would prefer to see a true number 1. The top receivers by projected targets: Jokobi Meyers (slot), TE Hunter Henry, Kendrick Bourne (outside), Nelson Agholor (outside), and TE Jonnu Smith. Damien Harris and rookie Rhamondre Stevenson will split carries. The Patriots have roughly even run/pass splits in terms of efficiency (11th in DVOA throw, 9th running), but prefer to run the ball -- they rank 21st in early-down neutral pass frequency. On the other side, the Bills are ranked 1st in DVOA, EPA/play, and virtually every advanced metric that measures defensive efficiency. Their pass rush is led by DE Jerry Hughes (31 pressures), DT Ed Oliver (26), DE Mario Addison (35), and DE Gregory Rousseau (21). As a unit, they rank 1st in pressure percentage (30.2%) despite ranking just 14th in blitz percentage (23.2%). Matt Milano has been a solid linebacker, and Micah Hyde/Jordan Poyer are one of the better safety tandems in football. The corners are the weak point of the defense, particularly after the injury to Tre'Davious White (ACL). That leaves Levi Wallace and Dane Jackson as their primary outside corners. Wallace is serviceable as a #2 corner, but will likely struggle in his new role as the top Bills corner, and Jackson is a 7th round pick from 2020 who has played just 86 coverage snaps this season. Taron Johnson will handle slot duties, and he's been one of the better slot corners in the NFL this year, ranking 5th in snaps/reception.
When the Bills have the ball:
The Bills are sitting at 16th in DVOA and 3rd in EPA/play -- the latter stat is likely overrating the Bills due to their schedule of opposing defenses (30th in the league) as well as their variance (dead last). Josh Allen is sitting at 12th in PFF passing grades (77.0) while completing 66.8% (1.7% above expectation) of his passes and gaining 7.5 yards per attempt. The offensive line is riddled with below average players -- they rank 16th in PFF's pass blocking grades and 28th in run blocking. The projected top receivers: Stef Diggs, Cole Beasley (slot), Emmanuel Sanders, and TE Dawson Knox. Devin Singletary and Matt Brieda will split RB carries, with Allen supplementing the ground load. The Bills throw the ball in early-down neutral pass frequency. Allen prefers to throw often, and deep -- he has the 7th highest aDOT at 9.2. The Patriots are 2nd in DVOA and 3rd in EPA/play. They have a solid pass rush, led by DE Matthew Judon (55 pressures), rookie DT Christian Barmore (33), and DE Deatrich Wise Jr (20). They rank 5th in pressure percentage (26.6%) despite a blitz rate of 22.7%, 18th in the league. They're solid at linebacker and safety. JC Jackson has also been one of the better corners in football -- he ranks 1st in the NFL in passer rating when targeted. However, Jalen Mills (outside) and Myles Bryant (slot) have been areas of weaknesses. They've been better against the pass (2nd in DVOA) then the run (10th).
Spread: The model slightly preferred the Patriots at 2.5 point dogs, but even with the line moving to 3 we aren't quite confident enough to recommend it.
Total: The weather, which projects to be really, really shitty (meteorological term) has brought the total down to 40.5. It's a divisional game with 2 great defenses in God-awful weather. I think that number is about right. I'd lay off.
Dawson Knox u2.5 receptions +138 (FanDuel): Combine the weather, the Patriots ability to cover tight ends (they are 1st in DVOA against the position), and the juice, and you get my money on the counter.
Mac Jones o188.5 passing yards -110 (BetMGM, FanDuel, PointBet): The market is overreacting to the weather here. Jones's projection is sitting at 241.9. He's gone over this number in all but 2 games this season.
Gabriel Davis o12.5 receiving yards +100 (FanDuel): Davis has gone over this number in 8 of 11 games. Yes, the weather. Yes, the Patriots have a good defense. His projection is a much more realistic 25.3. We can hit this with a single catch.