2021 Betting Preview: Buffalo Bills

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2021 Betting Preview: Buffalo Bills

The Bills finally had a season to remember in 2020 after so many long Buffalo winters since they were once annual title contenders in the early ’90s. Buffalo experienced a meteoric rise last season because of Josh Allen’s emergence as one of the league’s top quarterbacks, and the acquisition of Stefon Diggs certainly played a big part. Buffalo started last season 4-0 for the first time since 2008 and they tied a franchise-best record at 13-3 (11-5 ATS), which they last did in 1991 and 1990. The Bills won their first AFC East title (+125 odds) since 1995 and they reached the playoffs (-190) for the third time in four years under Sean McDermott. They also won their first playoff victory since 1995 and they reached their first AFC Championship Game since 1993.

Diggs led the league with 1535 receiving yards (+4000), which helped the Bills to finish second in the league in points per game (31.3). Buffalo gave up the 16th-most points per game (23.4), and they finished with a 10-5-1 mark toward over totals. The Bills finished 5-1 in one-score games with their only loss coming on the last-second “Hail Murray” touchdown against the Cardinals. They also finished 3-1 in contests decided by three scores or more, which helped them finish with the fifth-best point differential (+126).

Buffalo’s 2021 win total (10.5) climbed by two wins after last year’s unexpected run to the AFC Championship Game. The Bills cruised past their 2020 win total by 4.5 wins and they passed their total with their ninth victory of the season over the Steelers in Week 14. Entering this season, I have the Bills power rated as the third-best team in the NFL (+1100 to win Super Bowl LVI), as the second-best team in the AFC (+600 to win the conference), and as the best team in the AFC East (-150).

2021 Schedule

Spreads are first-look lines from the SuperBook, which were released in early June.

WeekOpponentSpreadTime
1Pittsburgh Steelers-61
2@Miami Dolphins-3.51
3Washington Football Team-7.51
4Houston Texans-141
5@Kansas City Chiefs+4.58:20
6@Tennessee Titans-2.58:15 (Mon)
7Bye
8Miami Dolphins-71
9@Jacksonville Jaguars-6.51
10@New York Jets-71
11Indianapolis Colts-61
12@New Orleans Saints-1.58:20 (Thurs)
13New England Patriots-78:15 (Mon)
14@Tampa Bay Buccaneers+44:25
15Carolina Panthers-9.5TBD
16@New England Patriots-3.51
17Atlanta Falcons-8.51
18New York Jets-6.51

The Good

The Bills will face the eighth-easiest schedule this season based on 2021 win totals (per Sharp Football), and they’re one of 11 teams to not face an opponent coming off a bye week. Buffalo landed one of the easier schedules thanks to four games with three of the NFL’s worst teams in the Texans, Jaguars, and Jets (x2). They have a brutal stretch of games in Weeks 11-14 before their schedule eases up in the final four weeks with matchups against the Panthers, Falcons, and Jets in that stretch.

The Bad

After the franchise broke out of their two-decade slumber, the NFL will be featuring the Bills four times in primetime games this season. Two of those contests come in their toughest stretch of the season in Weeks 11-14 when they’ll square off with four teams that are lined at 9+ wins in the Colts, Saints, Patriots, and Buccaneers. To make things a little tougher, they’ll play two of the NFC’s best teams, the Saints and Buccaneers, on the road with short weeks of rest during that brutal stretch.

Key Off-season Moves

AdditionsDraftDepartures
Emmanuel Sanders (WR)Gregory Rousseau (DE)John Brown (WR, LV)
Mitchell Trubisky (QB)Carlos Basham (DE)Andre Roberts (KR/PR, Hou)
Matt Breida (RB)Spencer Brown (OT)Brian Winters (OG, Ari)
Jacob Hollister (TE)Marquez Stevenson (WR)Quinton Jefferson (DL, LV)
Tyrell Adams (LB)Tommy Doyle (OT)Josh Norman (CB)
Forrest Lamp (OG)

2021 Season Odds

Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook

Team FuturesOdds
Season Win Total (O/U)11 (-110/-110)
AFC East-150
Playoffs (Y/N)-370/+285
AFC Championship+600
Super Bowl+1100

Season Prop Movement

  • Win Total: 10.5 (-110) in late March to 11 (-110)

  • Super Bowl: +1200 in early February to +1100

Reasons to Bet Over the Season Win Total

Sean McDermott took over the Bills in 2017 and his teams have exceeded expectations in each of his first four seasons as head coach. The Bills are 4-0 toward the over on their season win totals under McDermott, the last three of which have come with Josh Allen at quarterback. McDermott and GM Brandon Beane have quickly built one of the best and deepest rosters in the league, which doesn’t feature any glaring weaknesses.

Allen is coming off a breakout season in which he finished second in the MVP race to Aaron Rodgers while setting single-season franchise records for passing yards (4544), passing TDs (37), and completion percentage (69.2%). The Bills went from being a bottom-eight team in pass rate in Allen’s first two seasons to ranking 11th last season while attempting passes 61.7% of the time. Brian Daboll has masterfully orchestrated the offense in each of Allen’s first three seasons, and the Bills will keep their offensive continuity this season after Daboll failed to land one of the seven head coaching vacancies this off-season.

The Bills are built to be AFC championship contenders for years to come with Allen at quarterback and with their current roster, but they have to get to Patrick Mahomes like the Buccaneers were able to do in the Super Bowl. It wasn’t surprising to see the Bills invest capital on a pair of EDGE rushers in Gregory Rousseau and Carlos Basham with their first two picks in the draft with Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison getting long in the tooth.

Reasons to Bet Under the Season Win Total

The big question for the Bills this season is can Allen maintain his high level of play after he made an incredible jump in his third season. He combined for just 30 TD passes and 5163 passing yards in his first two seasons before throwing for 37 TDs and 4544 yards in 2020. He’s bound to regress some off of his special season, but he can’t afford to step back too much since the Bills now have to reach 11 wins to clear their win total.

I’m not worried about complacency with a McDermott-coached squad, but they don’t necessarily have anything to prove in the regular season like they did when they broke through to the upper echelon of teams last season. I’m slightly worried if the Bills will have the same weekly fire this season after they broke a 25-year drought in the AFC East and after reaching the AFC Championship. The bigger issue could be that their schedule is a little more difficult this season with the AFC East improving across the board from 2020. They’ll also face seven playoff teams from a year ago from their slate of 11 non-divisional games.

The Bills also became the face of the anti-vaccine debate among American sports teams this spring, and we’ll see if it has any lingering effects this season. The NFL Players Association disapproved of Beane’s comments about cutting players if they don’t get vaccinated while Allen and Cole Beasley have openly been skeptical about the vaccination. At the most basic level, unvaccinated players will be at a bit of a competitive disadvantage since the NFL is planning to subject them to COVID-19 testing and restrictions.

Notable Player Props

Josh Allen: passing yards (4500.5), MVP (+1200), most passing yards (+850)

Fantasy Points Projection: passing yards (4315)

  • Best-Case Scenario: Allen keeps the momentum going off his break-through 2020 campaign by resetting all of the Buffalo passing records he set last season on his way to winning the 2021 MVP.

  • Worst-Case-Scenario: Allen can’t maintain his extremely high level of play and he takes a step back in 2021 with some of his inconsistency and accuracy issues creeping back in.

Stefon Diggs: receiving yards (1345.5), OPOY (+2000), most receiving yards (+800)

Fantasy Points Projection: receiving yards (1305)

  • Best-Case Scenario: Diggs’ chemistry with Josh Allen gets even stronger and he makes a run at back-to-back receiving yard titles after he came from the middle of the pack to win at a healthy +4000 odds last season.
  • Worst-Case-Scenario: Diggs isn’t quite as dominant in his second season with the Bills with Josh Allen regressing a bit and he can’t keep up his streak of double-digit FP performances from 2020.

Brolley’s Bets

Best Bets

Buffalo Bills over 10.5 wins (-150, William Hill). Risk two units to win 1.33 units — The Bills treated me well last year by winning the AFC East and cashing a nice plus-price ticket, and I’m expecting Buffalo to be even better this season even if they don’t match their impressive 13-3 record from 2020. Sean McDermott is trying to keep up with his mentor Andy Reid’s start in Kansas City. Reid has gone over his season win total in each of his eight seasons with the Chiefs and McDermott is also off to a perfect 4-0 start in Buffalo. The Bills have continuity across the board with their coaching staff and with their roster. All of their major starters are back on both sides of the ball except for John Brown, who was replaced by an arguably better player in Emmanuel Sanders. Buffalo also attacked its biggest weakness from last season by selecting a pair of defensive lineman in Gregory Rousseau and Carlos Basham in the draft. I could see the Bills slipping up against the Chiefs and Buccaneers and potentially dropping a game to the Patriots and Dolphins in division play, but there’s still some wiggle room for two more losses with this line. I also like betting the Bills over 11 victories (don’t lay anything more than -110) but I’d rather pay the juice up to -150 at over 10.5 wins to take a potential push out of play if Buffalo finishes with an 11-6 record.

Leans

Josh Allen to win the MVP (+1200, BetMGM) — I’m obviously bullish on the Bills since I’m betting them over a pretty big win total, and I don’t mind taking flyers on their other season-long props. I actually think Allen has some room for growth in 2021. He’ll get another year to build his already strong chemistry with Stefon Diggs while young receivers Gabriel Davis and Dawson Knox should improve after flashing last season. I also think Emmanuel Sanders will bring more to the table than John Brown did last season after he struggled through injuries. I’d be all over Allen to win the MVP if his odds were north of +1600 but his odds are just a little too short for me to give this out as a play.

Tom is a Senior Writer at Fantasy Points who specializes in fantasy and betting analysis. He’ll be helping you to navigate the waiver wire and manage your fantasy teams while also keeping our betting content robust all year long, especially during the season. Tom's Best Bets against the spread won at 61.5% clip in 2019 and he was a perfect 8-0 on his Best Bets for season win totals in 2020.

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