Patriots at Bills Odds: The Battle for Early AFC East Position
The New England Patriots have begun this season like they ended last season, a remorseless machine grinding down teams and spitting them out in little pieces. In some ways, this team looks better than the one that lifted a sixth Vince Lombardi trophy in February following their comprehensive shutdown of the Los Angeles Rams.
But wait, what’s this? An early challenger to the throne? From within the kingdom known as the AFC East? The answers are yes, and yes, as Josh Allen leads the upstart Buffalo Bills into the biggest game of his young career Sunday in an unexpected clash of unbeaten division rivals in upstate New York.
Even after just three games, the AFC East is already a two-team race because the New York Jets are bad, and the Miami Dolphins are worse. No one put much stock in Buffalo, a +245 money line pick and 7.5-point home underdog (-125) for this game according to the FanDuel Sports Book, to do much of anything as well given it would be Allen’s first full season under center as part of a rebuild under coach Sean McDermott.
Yet Allen – the seventh overall pick last year – has done plenty with both his arms and legs to put the Bills in position for their first 4-0 start since 2008. He has completed 64.1 percent of his passes for 750 yards and three touchdowns while adding another 102 rushing yards and two scores.
Allen had three runs for 21 yards on Buffalo’s go-ahead touchdown drive in last Sunday’s 21-17 victory over Cincinnati, which was capped by 36-year-old Frank Gore plowing his way in from one yard out with 1:50 to play. It was also Allen’s fourth come-from-behind victory in just 14 starts.
Gore showed he still has something left in the tank, finishing with 76 of Buffalo’s 175 rushing yards in picking up the slack for injured rookie Devlin Montgomery. The team’s third-round pick, Montgomery is nursing a hamstring injury after impressing early with 127 yards on just 10 carries in wins over the Jets and New York Giants and questionable for this contest.
Why Defense is Going to Decide How you Play the Patriots at Bills Odds
Defensively, the Bills have done well in two key areas – forcing turnovers and getting off the field. They rank second in the NFL with seven takeaways and have limited opponents to a 32.5 percent conversion rate on third down, good for eighth.
New England, though, has been playing on a level far higher than the likes of the teams Buffalo has beaten this year as it is off to a fast start in its bid for an 11th consecutive division title. The Patriots have yet to give up a defensive touchdown this year – though two of their wins have come over the hapless Jets and Dolphins – and lead the NFL in almost every defensive category.
Bill Belichick’s team has conceded just 17 points, with those two touchdowns scored by the Jets in last Sunday’s 30-14 victory coming on a muffed punt that rolled into the end zone and a pick-six thrown by rookie backup quarterback Jarrett Stidham.
Offensively, the Patriots have not skipped a beat since the retirement of Rob Gronkowski and shrugged off the one-game contribution from Antonio Brown after they cut him following his latest off-field transgression. Tom Brady continues to amaze at 42 years old and is off to a blazing start, throwing for 911 yards and seven touchdowns with zero interceptions.
The wide receivers have all helped fill Gronkowski’s void as Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett and Josh Gordon all have at least 11 receptions and a touchdown, combining to find the end zone five times. The Patriots also have substantial depth at running back, with Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead splitting carries, while James White remains one of the best pass-catching running backs in the league.
New England’s defense has been airtight against the run, holding opponents to 110 yards and a miniscule 2.29 yards per carry through three games. The Patriots also have yet to give up a run longer than nine yards on 48 rushing attempts.
Brady has known almost nothing but success in this rivalry. He is 30-3 lifetime against the Bills, including 15-2 in Buffalo, where he has won seven consecutive games. New England has won the last five between the teams since a 16-0 victory in New England in 2016 – when Brady was serving a suspension for his role in “Deflategate.”
Buffalo has not recorded a meaningful win over the Patriots with Brady under center since a 34-31 victory in 2011, and they overcame giving up 387 passing yards and four touchdowns by picking off the future Hall of Famer four times. The Bills did record a 17-9 win in the 2014 season finale in which Brady played the first half as a tune-up for the playoffs – a place the Bills hope to return for the second time in three years.