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Wild-Card Weekend Betting Preview and Best Bet: Patriots-Bills

Analysis and a best bet for Saturday's Wild-Card matchup between the Bills and Patriots. Which team will triumph in the rubber match?

The primetime Wild-Card Game on Saturday night features a AFC East showdown when Josh Allen and the Bills play host to Mac Jones and the Patriots.

New England, who finished in second place in the AFC East with a 10-7 straight-up (SU) record, also rewarded bettors with an identical 10-7 against the spread (ATS) mark in the regular season. The Patriots, who are 6-2 SU and 5-3 ATS on the road, will look to beat their division rival in Orchard Park for the second time this season. Back in Week 13, quarterback Mac Jones only completed two of three passes for a paltry 19 yards in 14-10 victory that featured 46 running plays for 222 yards.

Check Wild-Card Weekend Lines at SI Sportsbook

Buffalo earned home field in this matchup thanks to winning the AFC East for the 12th time in franchise history after posting an 11-6 SU record, which also helped NFL bettors turn a profit with a 9-6-2 ATS mark. The Bills head into the postseason on a four-game winning streak that also includes a 33-21 victory over the Patriots in the second matchup of the season as 1-point road underdogs in Week 16.

A question bettors will be forced to answer for a third time this season once again comes down to whether you are willing to bet against Bill Belichick when he faces the Bills? Since becoming head coach of the Patriots in 2000, Belichick has a 36-8 record (.818) against Buffalo.

New England Patriots running back Damien Harris (37) drives through the Buffalo Bills for his third touchdown of the day during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 26, 2021, in Foxborough, Mass.

No. 6 New England Patriots (10-7) at No. 3 Buffalo Bills (11-6)

Spread: New England Patriots +4 (-110) | Buffalo Bills -4 (-110)
Moneyline: New England (+165) | Buffalo (-200)
Total: 44 – Over (-110) | Under 44 (-110)
Public (Spread) Betting Percentages: NE 44% | BUF 66%
Game Info: Saturday Jan. 15, 2022 | 8:15 p.m. EST | CBS

Editor's Note - Odds are subject to change

The line has held steady in favor of Buffalo (11-6 SU; 8-6-2 ATS) over New England (10-7 SU; 10-7 ATS) as 4-point home favorites at SI Sportsbook. The biggest line movement witnessed thus far involves the game total, as both public and respected money were aligned on backing a low scoring affair. The total which opened at 44 was driven down to 43 following strong indications that frigid temperatures and windy conditions could be in the forecast. However, early Wednesday morning the total had returned back to the opening number.

After previously enjoying a six-game winning streak, the Patriots aim to rebound from a recent skid that involves a 1-3 SU and ATS mark over the last month. Rookie quarterback Mac Jones, who had previously displayed great decision making, has struggled with ball security over the last four games, throwing five of his 13 interceptions. The former Alabama standout led all rookie signal callers in completion percentage (67.6%), passing yards (3,801) and touchdown passes (22). The Patriots, despite any pro bowl offensive talent, rank 6th in scoring with 27.2 points per game.

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New England features a solid running attack with a trio that consists of Damien Harris, Rhamondre Stevenson and Brandon Bolden. As all fantasy managers are astutely aware, Harris was superb this season, finishing tied for second in the NFL with 15 rushing touchdowns. The bruising back has notched at least one rushing touchdown in 11 of 15 games he has played in this season. Hitting at a 73% clip, Harris is an attractive investment in “Anytime Touchdown” markets at odds of +165 or higher.

On the other side of the ball, Josh Allen pilots an explosive offensive attack that ranks third in scoring averaging 28.4 points per game. Allen, who finished seventh among all quarterbacks with 36 touchdown passes, will face a Patriots defense that ranks 2nd against the pass allowing a paltry 187.1 passing yards per game. The fourth-year veteran, after struggling in the windy conditions in the first matchup, torched the Patriots secondary in New England three weeks ago to the tune of 314 passing yards and three touchdowns - while also adding 64 yards on the ground. As is always the case, Buffalo will be depending on strong production from star wideout Stefon Diggs in the passing game. Diggs, who has seven touchdowns in his last nine games, has scored four touchdowns in five career games against the Patriots.

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie (19) is congratulated by Stefon Diggs (14) after his touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 26, 2021, in Foxborough, Mass. At left is New England Patriots safety Adrian Phillips (21).

On the ground, Devin Singletary has emerged as the lead back in the Bills rushing attack and has produced stellar production. The third-year back has averaged 81 rushing yards per game over the last four games while scoring six total touchdowns. Singletary, despite being unable to top 39 rushing yards in either game against New England this season, made an impact in the passing back in the Week 16 matchup hauling in five receptions. If the weather once again plays a role on Saturday night, bettors will likely find a game featuring a high volume of short passes - so pay attention to the wind reports prior to kickoff.

Buffalo has won three of the last four matchups against the Patriots after losing seven consecutive meetings dating to 2016. We know Belichick has historically dominated Buffalo, but the experienced Allen has drawn early respected money in Las Vegas over the inexperienced Jones in his first playoff game. If this line should fall to a field goal demand ,I would jump on the Bills. However, the total is where I will be placing my investment as I believe these two division foes will play it close to the vest in the third matchup of the season.

BET: Under 44 (-110)

SI BET REVIEW

2021 SI Betting Monday Night Football: 9-8 ATS / Props 16-12 +5.75 units
2021 SI Betting NFL Football Overall YTD: 45-37 ATS & Props +11.12 Units
2020 SI Betting NFL Football: 72-58-1 ATS (55%)

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