The Patriots opened as 9.5-point favorites as they visit the surprising 2-0 Buffalo Bills in Week 3.
New England’s offense has looked unstoppable through two weeks, and the defense has made enough plays to get by. The Pats have been one of the darlings of the national media. So it would probably surprise more than a few casual observers to learn that the 2-0 Bills have actually scored more points AND given up fewer points than the Patriots so far this year. True story. Please feel free to use that information this weekend to win a bar bet. I promise you’ll find a taker somewhere.
The biggest question is whether Buffalo’s hot start is a mirage based on the level of competition they’ve faced (the Raiders are a .500 team at best, and I’m not sure if Kansas City could beat Boston College right now). Despite those questions, the numbers for Buffalo are hard to ignore. While much of the attention has been focused on QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (7 TDs, 1 INT), Buffalo’s running game has set the tone for the offense. The Bills are averaging an astonishing 190 yards per game on the ground, tops in the league. They’ve played well with a lead against Kansas City, and they’ve come from behind against Oakland. The Bills defense is still a bit of a work in progress. They were gashed for 131 yards on the ground last week, and their overall defense was one of the league’s worst last season. They have shown signs of improvement this year, but it’s hard to imagine them shutting down Brady and Company this week. The New England offense will get theirs; covering this spread will come down to the Buffalo offense vs. the Pats D.
The Patriots are a virtual lock to put up 30+ points and could easily approach the 40s. The question is, can they hold the Bills under the 26 or so points it would take to cover this spread? As we saw last week, the Patriots have a knack for shutting down a team’s biggest weapon and keeping everything in front of them. If they can shut down the running game and force the Bills to throw, they should be able to limit the damage.
And finally, don’t discount the psychological edge the Patriots have in this series. New England has beaten Buffalo something like 400 straight times (or thereabouts). If the Patriots jump on top 14-0, will the Bills be able to respond? If the Bills go up by a score and then watch New England march right down the field and put the ball in the end zone, will the Bills be able to maintain their composure? That is a tall order for a team that has been down as long as Buffalo.
I like New England to cover the spread, and I also would take the over at 51 ½.
Other Lines I Like
Steelers (-10.5) @ Colts
The Colts are an absolute mess right now. The offense was built to throw, and the defense was built to protect leads. But they can’t do either of those things without Peyton Manning on the field. They have had trouble sustaining drives against middle-of-the-road defenses in Houston and Cleveland, ranking 24th in first downs, 28th in scoring and dead last in time of possession. If they can’t put up decent numbers against those teams, what is Pittsburgh going to do to them?
San Diego (-15) vs. Kansas City
There is an unwritten rule somewhere about not giving up this many points in a game between division rivals, but after watching KC have more ACL tears among key starters (2) than TDs (1) the past two weeks, I’m throwing that rulebook out of the nearest car window. KC could be well on their way to winning the Andrew Luck sweepstakes. They’ve been outscored 89-10 the past two weeks against Buffalo and Detroit. If you can invent a scenario that includes KC going on the road and keeping this game close, feel free to point out the err of my ways in the comments section. If this is a cover, it almost has to be of the backdoor variety. I just don't see it.
Arizona (-3) @ Seattle
This line looks like a gift. I know that Seattle typically plays better at home, but they’ve done pretty much everything wrong so far this year. Opposing QBs are hitting nearly 75 percent of passes, the Seahawks rank last in rushing offense and second-to-last in scoring, and Tavaris Jackson is still somehow under center. Granted, Arizona has serious issues stopping the pass, but the 49ers proved that you don’t have to have an elite defense to shut down Tavaris Jackson. Kevin Kolb has been clicking in the Arizona offense. I think they’ll score plenty enough to hold off the Seahawks on the road.
2010 Record ATS: 25-17-1
2011 Record ATS: 5-7