It won’t be a cold night in Buffalo – at least not to the extent that one might expect with Halloween around the corner. Unseasonable warmth is invading Western New York, which could be a metaphor for a Bills team that hasn’t been able to play to their forecast this season. They suffered losses at New England and to the Jaguars in London, which sandwiched a narrow win in their last prime time hosting duty against the Giants two weeks ago.
Even though they had the second-highest rating going into last season, the Buccaneers finished 8-9 and barely made the playoffs despite getting 17 starts from the greatest quarterback of all time. After covering the spread in the first two games, they covered just twice in the final 16 games, including the playoffs. The market never accepted how mediocre the 2022 Bucs were because Tom Brady was still omnipresent. Each week’s point spread felt like a discount to many bettors – but it rarely was.
Even though Brady was replaced by Baker Mayfield, rating Tampa Bay below average, the team could lose its next two games and have the same record as last year’s outfit. But the comparison here is for their opponent. Because of defensive injuries, Buffalo might be in the midst of a season similar to Tampa’s last year, only without the forgiving divisional schedule. It can’t be a coincidence that three straight non-covers (nearly all losses as a significant favorite) came after Tre’Davious White Sr., Matt Milano, and DaQuan Jones hit the IR.
The market kept backing the 2022 Bucs only to be disappointed. Their rating would subsequently lower a notch or two, and they’d disappoint again. And the cycle would repeat. By the end, Tampa Bay went from a highly rated 11-win team to a below-average one. If that can happen to a club with the GOAT under center, is Josh Allen impervious to such a fate?
Fundamentally, there are excuses for the Bills’ recent woes, but with another point spread over a touchdown, it’s unlikely that the market is downgrading them quickly enough. With back-to-back losses, the Bucs aren’t the most trustworthy outfit – especially to win outright – but neither were the Giants or the Patriots. Until the Bills (with the 26th-highest defensive yards per play allowed) prove they can cover a sizeable point spread, there’s still a way to go before we’re down to an appropriate rating for Buffalo. So we’ll take our chances that the underdog can stay within the number.
Allen might be concerned about the offense, but the Bills have a 4-3 record this season despite the fourth-most yards per play, the third-best offensive defense-adjusted value over average and a tough-to-maintain 71.4% red zone efficiency. However, no team has been better than Tampa Bay at stopping opponents from crossing the goal line once they’re in the red zone.
Pick: Buccaneers (+8.5)
Dalton Kincaid: Over 37.5 receiving yards (-110)
Allen has thrown 56 passes to tight ends this season – roughly eight per game. With Dawson Knox out, rookie Dalton Kincaid should get those looks. He collected 75 yards on eight catches last week in New England, pushing his total receptions to 25 of the 27 balls thrown his way. That’s more impressive than Knox’s 15 of 28 in one more game. So, while his total is higher than it’s been all season, it’s only by 7-17 yards – and Allen’s apparent connection with Kincaid can make up for the higher expectation.
On the flip side, the Bucs’ defense has covered the position well, but opponents have still been optimistic enough to throw to tight ends sixth-most in the NFL.
Josh Allen: Anytime touchdown (+185)
Kirk Cousins, Derek Carr and Jared Goff didn’t score rushing touchdowns against the Bucs this season, but Justin Fields, Jalen Hurts and Desmond Ridder all have. With four touchdowns in his last five games via calling his own number, which skill set category do you think Allen fits into?
Odds of +150 suggest that there’s only a 40% chance that Allen scores on the ground, but he’s done so in 42% of his games since Ken Dorsey took over as the play-caller in Buffalo. Any price longer than +150 provides value for someone looking to take matters into his own hands.
Matt Russell is the lead betting analyst for theScore. If there’s a bad beat to be had, Matt will find it. Find him on social media @mrussauthentic.