Buffalo Bills (8-6, 7-6-1 ATS) at New England Patriots (9-5, 9-5), 1 p.m.
Brolley’s Bills Stats and Trends
Buffalo is 5-2 ATS and it has played over the total in seven straight games as an underdog.
Josh Allen has thrown for multiple TD passes in five of his last six games, and the lone exception came in this matchup in Week 13, which was played in near-gale force winds in Buffalo. Allen finished with 145/1 passing and 6/39 rushing in that Week 13 matchup. A big complaint coming out of that game was Allen’s lack of involvement in the running game, which is something to keep an eye on this week. The Patriots have been the league’s toughest matchup when there aren’t blustery conditions, and they haven’t allowed more than one touchdown pass in a game since Justin Herbert did it in Week 8.
Stefon Diggs continues to be good but not great this season with 10 performances between 12.2-20.4 FP this season. He finished with 4/35/1 receiving on seven targets in a tougher matchup against the Panthers last week, which gives him 4+ catches in nine straight games. Diggs managed just 4/51 receiving on seven targets in the wind game three weeks ago, but he did have an opportunity for a long score in that game.
Gabriel Davis scored his third and fourth touchdowns in the last three weeks, which was his first full contest with Emmanuel Sanders (knee) out of the lineup. Davis stepped into a more prominent role with a team-best 5/85/2 receiving on seven targets (21% share) in a tough matchup against the Panthers in Week 15. Davis ran a route on 89% of Allen’s dropbacks, and he’s reached double-digit FP in three straight games. Sanders is trying to return this week, and they’re going to need him with both Davis and Cole Beasley landing on the COVID list. Sanders hasn’t hit 30+ receiving yards in five straight games before missing last week with his knee injury. Isaiah McKenzie will likely step into Beasley’s spot in the lineup. Davis scored Buffalo’s lone TD against the Patriots in Week 13, which is just one of two double-digit FP performances against the New England in their last six games.
Dawson Knox had a miserable performance against the Patriots in Week 13 with a bad drop and critical false start penalty on Buffalo’s final drive on his way to finishing with 2/14 receiving on six targets. He’s rebounded since then with 11/98/1 receiving on 14 targets, and he should get a boost with Beasley out of the lineup. The Patriots are giving up the fewest FPG (6.7) to TEs this season, and Austin Hooper and Dalton Schultz are the only TEs to reach double-digit FP against them.
The Bills are done fiddling around with Zack Moss and Matt Breida, making Devin Singletary the bellcow back the last two weeks. He posted season-highs in snap share (93%), touches (23), and scrimmage yards (96) on his way to 16.6 FP against the Panthers. Singletary finished with 10/36 rushing against the Patriots back in Week 13, but Moss saw 10/33 scrimmage in that contest because of the bad conditions, and he's since been phased out of the offense. The Bills will try to get Singletary going a bit since the Patriots are giving up the seventh-most rushing yards per game (104.8) and 4.6 YPC to RBs.
Brolley’s Patriots Stats and Trends
The Patriots had their seven-game outright and ATS winning streak snapped in Week 15 in their 10-point loss to the Colts.
New England has played over the total in four straight home games.
Mac Jones went from throwing an NFL-low three passes in New England’s victory over the Bills in Week 13 to throwing 45 times in their loss to the Colts in Week 14. He completed 26 of those attempts (57.8%) for 299 yards (6.6 YPA), two TDs, and two INTs for 19.2 FP in New England’s failed comeback bid against Indy. The Patriots ideally want to get back to dominating Bills on the ground this week, and the Bills are giving up the second-fewest FPG (13.5) to QBs this season.
Rhamondre Stevenson (10/36 rushing) and Brandon Bolden (4/3) couldn’t get going in the run game last week with Damien Harris out of the lineup with a hamstring injury. Harris sparked this rushing attack with his 64-yard touchdown run against the Bills in Week 13 before he left the game with his hamstring injury. Harris did get limited practices last week before the Patriots ultimately held him out, so he’s got a solid chance to play this week. The Patriots grounded out the Bills with 46/222/1 rushing in Week 13, and they’ll look to use that same recipe if they can this week.
Kendrick Bourne is averaging career-bests in YPR (14.8) and in catch rate (80.4%), but landed on the COVID list on Monday. He’s been experiencing no symptoms so he’s got a chance to play on Sunday if he’s vaccinated. Nelson Agholor left with a potential concussion in New England’s Week 15 loss, which led to Bourne’s second-highest snap share of the season at 71%. The increased playing time resulted in 3/44 receiving and 2/19 rushing in New England’s comeback attempt against the Colts. The Bills are giving up a league-low 119.9 receiving yards per game (119.9) to WRs this season.
Jakobi Meyers is coming off a 6/44 receiving performance on 12 targets against the Colts, which gives him 4+ catches in 12-of-14 games this season. The Patriots receiving corps could be thinned out this week depending on the statuses of Bourne, Agholor, and N’Keal Harry. The Bills are giving up the seventh-fewest catches per game (11.7) to WRs this season, but Chris Godwin did go for 10/105 receiving in this matchup two weeks ago.
Hunter Henry could also be called upon for a bigger role, and he answered the bell last week with a season-best 6/77/2 receiving on eight targets for 25.7 FP against the Colts. Henry had topped 42+ receiving yards just once this season, and he had just 4/41 receiving and 8.1 FP in his previous three contests. The Bills have given up just three touchdowns to tight ends this season, including just one score since Week 5.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Pace (seconds in between plays): 27.3 (8th)
Plays per game: 62.4 (21st)
Pass: 66.4% (4th) | Run: 33.6% (Y)
Pace: 32.2 (32nd)
Plays per game: 61.0 (24th)
Pass: 47.7% (31st) | Run: 52.3% (2nd)
All pace / play data is from the last eight weeks.
The Patriots beatdown of the Bills a few weeks back is still burned on everyone’s mind, but they may have no other option but to roll out another extremely run-heavy game plan here. Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor are both in danger of this game, which means that the Pats’ might have to turn to N’Keal Harry as their top outside WR against this Bills secondary. Not great, Bob!
Meanwhile, the Bills live and die with Josh Allen and his arm – but I think they’d be wise to run it just a bit more here. While New England has the best pass defense in the league for my money, they are getting shredded on the ground to the tune of 5.52 YPC over the last eight weeks. Plus, Allen has been dominant against everyone… besides these Patriots. Allen has been held under 14 fantasy points just six times in his last 48 games over the last three seasons (including playoffs). Three of those performances of 14 or fewer FP have come against New England.
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
If J.C. Jackson manages to ghost Stefon Diggs in Week 16, he will only have Jacksonville and Miami standing in his way of being a significant player alongside Aaron Donald, Myles Garrett, and Micah Parsons for the AP Defensive Player of the Year Award. And he already (kinda) achieved that result in Week 13. Granted, the game was played in extremely poor Orchard Park conditions that only resulted in three passing attempts out of the Patriots, but Jackson still limited Diggsy to 2/32/0 of his 4/51/0 receiving line on 27 coverage snaps where the two crossed paths.
We may see some occasionally strong-ish winds, but the weather forecast in Foxboro for this Sunday will be well-suited to moving the ball through the air. We can view this as a difficult test for both parties. To date, Jackson has only been scored upon once (a 50:50 ball to Chris Moore in Week 5) vs. 18 targets that have either been intercepted or deflected away by Jackson. One of the most insane statistics that you’ll find anywhere, opposing QBs have targeted Jackson’s coverage at the seventh-highest rate, and they’ve gone after Jalen Mills’ responsibilities at the ninth-lowest rate – de gustibus non est disputandum. Targeting Jackson returns a 39.6 passer rating (the lowest) – the exact equivalent of spiking the ball on every dropback, and throws toward Mills are rewarded a 118.7 TPR (fourth-highest).
I’ve written about the excellent coverage of slot CBs Bryce Callahan, Tavierre Thomas, P.J. Williams, Avonte Maddox, and Nate Hobbs at various points this season. Another of the very elite that I believe I have somehow managed to have not written up beyond a passing comment is Taron Johnson. You’ll need to embark on an extensive search to uncover another with higher upside expectations for Jakobi Meyers’ future, but this is one matchup where I draw the line.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
You know you’re starting Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs, and likely TE Dawson Knox for the Bills this week. But what about RB Devin Singletary?
Bills dominate the Panthers. In my observations:— Joe Buscaglia (@JoeBuscaglia) December 20, 2021
-Why strong Singletary usage indicates he’s not just 1A anymore
-Why Phillips is becoming one of their more important defenders
-An ominous preview they must address
The big picture & more @TheAthletic: https://t.co/WNs7HZpHHN
Here’s Jake Tribbey from the DFS Early Look on the Bills’ potentially new found run game:
Devin Singletary last 2 weeks:— Jake Tribbey (@JakeTribbey) December 20, 2021
*129/148 snaps (87%)
*33/37 backfield opportunities (89%)
*63/78 backfield routes (81%)
*5/5 red zone carries
This backfield only averages 19.4 FPG (25th-most), but if Singletary can continue to capture 80%+ of usage, he's looking at ~15.5 FPG.
“Don’t look now, but Devin Singletary may be the bell cow of the Buffalo backfield. Leading the Bills’ backfield certainly isn’t the most valuable role in fantasy, but if this usage continues, Singletary is likely a high-end RB2 with upside for the remainder of the season. And let’s not forget that our estimate of 15.5 FPG would rank 7th-best among slate-eligible RBs for Week 16. Assuming a continuation of his current usage, Singletary is a glaring value this week agnostic of matchup.
And the matchup itself certainly can’t be considered a negative, given New England ranks middle of the pack in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed (-0.6), and 8th-worst in receiving FPG allowed to opposing RBs (12.0).
With that said, no Buffalo RB has scored more than 18.1 fantasy points in an individual game this season, so Singletary’s ceiling may be limited.”
The bad news is the Bills have three linemen — Dion Dawkins, John Feliciano, and Cody Ford — on the COVID list, which will be a huge issue against this Patriots front if none get cleared.
With the unvaccinated Cole Beasley and young stud Gabriel Davis on the COVID list, the Bills could get a boost in with Emmanuel Sanders (knee) if he is available to play.
If Emmanuel Sanders is healthy, I'd like to see him get time in the slot in Beasley's absence. I thought when they signed him and still think he can be very good there. Obviously Isaiah McKenzie is a very capable replacement and I'd expect him to get plenty of work there.— Sal Capaccio 🏈 (@SalSports) December 21, 2021
Given the likely absence of both Beasley and Davis, Sanders will probably play outside and Isaiah McKenzie in the slot if you’re looking for a desperation WR3 option.
The Pats are well-positioned to make a playoff run here, but for fantasy, they are not a particularly appealing team. That could change if they get Damien Harris back this week.
Damien Harris took a handoff during drills and was fired up. Started shouting in Mac Jones’ direction. Safe to say Harris was pumped to be at practice. #Patriots— Evan Lazar (@ezlazar) December 22, 2021
Harris was inactive in last Saturday’s loss to the Colts with a hamstring injury suffered in Week 13, which indicates that injury was pretty damn nasty given he couldn’t heal up over the bye. However, in his stead in Week 15, rookie RB Rhamondre Stevenson laid a massive egg. He carried just 10 times for 36 yards and caught a single pass for 4 yards while playing 46% of the offensive snaps with the Pats playing from behind. Perhaps more importantly, Stevenson fumbled for the second time this year, and though he didn’t lose it, coach Bill Belichick had benched him for mistakes earlier this season. If Harris is healthy, he may lead this backfield. Meanwhile, Stevenson has missed multiple practices this week with an illness. Harris is right back on the RB2 radar.
The Patriots may have no choice but to run it early and often. WR Kendrick Bourne is on the COVID list, while Nelson Agholor is dealing with a concussion.
Here’s Graham again, this time on Jakobi Meyers, who should have increased opportunity this week but a terrible matchup:
“The Patriots weren’t spared of the NFL’s COVID outbreak here as Kendrick Bourne is in jeopardy of missing this week’s game. Despite being down their No. 2 receiver, this still isn’t a spot to boost up Jakobi Meyers in your ranks. Meyers has scored over 14 FP in just 4-of-13 games this season and draws a brutally tough matchup here against this Bills secondary that is limiting opposing slot WRs to the third-fewest points per game. Meyers is nothing more than a low-upside WR4, especially since the Patriots will likely take some copy of their run-heavy game-plan from Week 13 here.”