Bills fading fast in puzzling AFC

November 23, 2021 05:53 PM

Not long ago, the Bills were posted as Super Bowl favorites at most sportsbooks, and quarterback Josh Allen was an MVP contender. Actually, that was true just a week ago.

It now seems more fantasy than reality. Buffalo (6-4) is barely hanging in the puzzling AFC playoff bracket this week and serves as a prime example for an unpredictable season.

“The NFL is absolutely insane this year,” DraftKings sportsbook director John Avello said. “If you’re looking for a favorite, it’s hard to find one. I don’t know what to think of the Bills. The Bills are a good team, but if the playoffs started tomorrow, they would be eliminated quickly.”

The enigmatic Allen threw two interceptions Sunday in the Bills’ embarrassing 41-15 loss to the Colts, who were 7-point road underdogs. Buffalo slipped a half-game behind New England atop the AFC East, with the Bills and Patriots set to face off twice in the next five weeks.

The Buccaneers, who stopped a two-game losing skid Monday night by beating the hopeless Giants, are now the + 550 Super Bowl favorites at BetMGM. Kansas City (+ 600) is the second choice on the odds board. Buffalo has fallen from + 550 last week to + 800.

“All of a sudden the Chiefs are on a nice little streak, and they appear to be back,” Avello said. “The Chiefs look like the team to beat again in the AFC.”

The Bills get an opportunity to bounce back quickly when they play the Saints (5-5) in the last of three Thanksgiving games. Buffalo is favored by 4.5 to 5 points at New Orleans, which is falling from contention with a three-game losing streak.

The Colts’ Jonathan Taylor, who rushed for 185 yards and four touchdowns, was too much for the Bills to handle in the blowout. It would help the Saints hope to get star running back Alvin Kamara back from a knee injury. The offense has sputtered for various reasons with Trevor Siemian at quarterback, but Siemian actually has played better than public perception with eight touchdown passes and two interceptions.

Las Vegas bookmakers are expecting the betting public to stick with Allen and the Bills, who have been popular all season. Faith in the fizzling Saints is hard to find, but I’m backing the desperate 5-point home dogs.

“I think you will see public play on the Bills and sharp play on the Saints,” said Jeff Benson, Circa sportsbook operations manager. “The AFC is really, really wide open when you look at the Bills’ loss to the Colts.”

The NFL is serving a rare turkey for Thanksgiving — all six teams in action are coming off a loss.

Bears (-3.5) at Lions: Detroit is 0-9-1, and its winless streak has reached 14 games. The Lions’ last win was a 34-30 decision at Chicago almost a year ago, when Matthew Stafford was their quarterback.

Stafford is with the Rams after trading places with Jared Goff in the offseason, but it’s more of the same misery for the Lions. Goff is expected to return from injury to start Thursday. In Goff’s absence Sunday, Tim Boyle passed for 77 yards with two interceptions in a 13-10 loss at Cleveland.

The Lions are not hopeless, posting a 6-4 record against the spread, and running back D’Andre Swift has energized the offense to some extent. Swift carried 14 times for 136 yards against the Browns. I hate to bet on Detroit, but the home dog looks like the right side.

The Bears (3-7) just blew a late lead in a 16-13 loss to the Ravens that puts coach Matt Nagy’s future in further doubt. Rookie quarterback Justin Fields left the game with a rib injury, and Andy Dalton passed for two touchdowns in a nearly heroic relief effort. Fields is questionable, so the “Red Rifle” could be pulling the trigger on Thanksgiving.

“I think the bettors want to bet on the Lions to win a game, and this is probably a decent spot for them to get one,” Avello said.

Raiders at Cowboys (-7): Dak Prescott’s run at MVP hit a roadblock Sunday in a 19-9 loss at Kansas City. Dallas went into the game averaging 31.9 points, but Prescott was under intense pressure, threw two interceptions and was without top receiver Amari Cooper, who tested positive for COVID-19 and is unvaccinated, meaning he’s out again Thursday.

The Cowboys also lost No. 2 wideout CeeDee Lamb to a concussion before halftime. Dallas needs more production from its running attack, though overpaid underachiever Ezekiel Elliott has rarely made an impact this season.

It would seem Las Vegas is catching Dallas at the right time, but everything is going wrong for the Raiders on and off the field, and it’s time to question whether they can get Over their season win total of 7.5. The Raiders were 5-2 and the No. 2 seed in the AFC in late October before quarterback Derek Carr’s slump and a three-game losing streak.

While the Bears-Lions game will draw the least betting interest Thursday, the second and third games will be a wagering feast, with most parlays and teasers linked to the Bills and Cowboys.

“The Raiders are just in a tailspin,” Avello said. “Carr makes a lot of mistakes, and that team is falling apart. The Dallas game is a perfect fit for Thanksgiving Day. It’s two public teams and it will be heavily bet, but this is a bad spot for the Raiders.”

Ohio State-Michigan: The most intriguing college matchup of Rivalry Week is in Ann Arbor, Mich. The last regular-season game is always a bad spot for the Wolverines and coach Jim Harbaugh, who’s 0-5 against Ohio State. The Buckeyes have delivered 56-27 and 62-39 beatdowns in the last two meetings.

Michigan will make it more competitive this time, due to an improved defense and an offense that displays some big-play potential, but I have to see it to believe it with the Harbaugh hype. Ohio State’s offense appears too explosive for the Wolverines to hang in a shootout, so I’ll go with the Buckeyes (-8) by double digits.

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