Statistically, the New England Patriots (-6.5) once again looked like champions in Saturday’s 24-17 win over the Buffalo Bills.
Though the game was tight all the way, the Pats dominated the most important indicator stats used by professional wagerers to evaluate teams. They won total yardage 414-268, yards per play 6.1 to 5.1, third-down conversions 50% to 18% and red-zone touchdown percentage 50% (2/4) to 33% (1/3).
It’s a credit to the feisty Bills that the road dogs could carry a lead into the fourth quarter and finish within one score given those numbers. Should the teams meet again in the playoffs, there’s not much reason to fear an upset loss. Though both defenses are elite, Tom Brady’s offense is much better than Josh Allen’s offense at moving the ball and finishing drives.
New England’s victory clinched its 11th straight AFC East title. But the Pats will enter the AFC brackets as slight futures board underdogs to the Baltimore Ravens. Buffalo had clinched a playoff spot before kickoff. It will be a wild-card weekend visitor against a divisional champion to be determined.
Of particular interest to sports bettors:
— New England (12-3) cleared its Regular Season Win Total of 11.5 with a week to spare heading into Sunday’s season finale against Miami. That’s a win for Over bettors and a loss for skeptics taking the Under. Buffalo (10-5) had long ago passed its projection of 7.5 wins. The Bills finish the season Sunday against the New York Jets.
— New England clinched a profitable record against the spread with Saturday’s tight cover. The Patriots are 8-6-1 ATS with one game left. Buffalo shocked markets all season and still possesses a stellar 9-4-2 ATS mark despite the failure in Foxborough.
— Saturday’s game sneaked Over the total of 39.5 points with 41 on the final scoreboard. Despite that Over, the Pats are 6-9 to the Under this season, the Bills 4-11 to the Under.
— Early college football bowl results often miss point spreads by a mile because of the volatile mix of skill sets and intangibles. That was certainly the story this weekend. The first five bowls missed the market by double digits. Buffalo covered by 15 over Charlotte, Kent State covered by 17 over Utah State, San Diego State covered by 33 over Central Michigan, Liberty covered by 11 over Georgia Southern and Florida Atlantic covered by 31 over SMU. Underdogs won three of those outright.
— Boston College will have to wait until next year to make a statement as an underdog against Cincinnati in the Birmingham Bowl on Jan. 2 (3 p.m., ESPN). Cincinnati has been sitting at -7 for several days. Professional bettors and the public have learned it’s best to wait until game day to invest because of possible suspension or injury news involving key players.