New England Patriots (8-4, 8-4 ATS) at Buffalo Bills (7-4, 6-4-1), 8:15 p.m., MNF
Brolley’s Patriots Stats and Trends
The Patriots have won and covered in six straight games.
They’re not only winning but they’ve been winning big, sporting an average cover margin of +20.5 points in their last six games.
New England is 6-2 toward overs in its last eight games.
The Patriots sit atop the league in point differential at +146.
Mac Jones posted his second performance with 20+ FP last week thanks to a little extra volume. He completed 23/32 passes for 310 yards (9.7 YPA) and two TDs for 21.5 FP against the Titans. New England’s offense has vastly improved since the first five weeks of the season, but they’ve been blowing out teams, which has led to just 24.8 attempts per game in Weeks 9-12. That shouldn’t be the case this week, but Buffalo’s defense is giving up the fewest FPG (12.1) to QBs. They did, however, lose top CB Tre’Davious White to a season-ending knee injury, which is a major blow to one of the league’s top defenses.
Kendrick Bourne has 4+ receptions in seven of his last 10 games, and he’s gone for 23+ FP in two of his last three games after hanging 5/61/2 receiving on six targets against the Titans in Week 12. He’s still playing behind Nelson Agholor (83% snap share) after seeing a 55% snap share last week, but he’s now averaging career-best in YPR (14.8) and in catch rate (79.2%). The Bills are giving up a miserly 9.9 YPR to WRs this season.
Jakobi Meyers had fallen below 50 receiving yards in six consecutive games before he erupted for season-high 98 yards on five catches and eight targets against the Titans last week. The Bills are giving up the 11th-fewest receptions per game (12.1) to WRs this season.
Hunter Henry has failed to score in consecutive games after scoring seven TDs in seven games in Weeks 4-10. Henry hasn’t topped 40+ yards in seven consecutive games and in 10-of-12 contests, and he’s fallen below 10+ FP in four of his last five contests. The Bills hadn’t allowed a touchdown to a TE in five straight games before Nick Vannett found paydirt against them last week.
Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson continued to split the lead-runner duties last week, and Brandon Bolden has cut them out of receiving duties. Harris led the way with 12/51/1 scrimmage on 37% of the snaps while Stevenson had 9/46 rushing on a 33% snap share. Passing back Bolden caught all four of his targets for 54 yards on 32% of the snaps last week, which gives him 9+ FP in four of his last six games. The Bills are allowing just 108.6 scrimmage yards per game and the third-fewest FPG (20.0) to RBs this season.
Brolley’s Bills Stats and Trends
The Bills are 4-0-1 ATS in their last five AFC East contests.
Buffalo got back on track with a dominant 31-6 victory over the Saints on Thanksgiving Day.
Josh Allen was downright excellent on Thanksgiving Day against the Saints outside of two INTs. He completed 82.1% of his passes (23/28), averaged 9.3 YPA (260 yards), and he threw for four TDs. Allen had a miserable first game (154/0 passing) against the Patriots in Week 8 last season before he exploded for 320/4 passing in their final matchup in Week 16. The Patriots have limited four straight QBs to fewer than 10 FP, but it’s not exactly a 2021 All-Pro lineup (Tannehill, Ryan, Mayfield, Darnold).
Stefon Diggs is rolling again with six touchdowns in his last six games, and he’s posted 5+ catches in five of those six games. Diggs exploded for a combined 15/237/3 receiving in two matchups against the Patriots last season. He was especially good in Week 16 when he posted 9/145/3 receiving, and 4/87/2 came against J.C. Jackson, who could be his primary opponent this week.
Cole Beasley hasn’t reached 10+ FP in three straight games with just 12 targets in that span, and he’s fallen below 50+ receiving yards in four consecutive contests. Beasley managed just 5/41 receiving on seven targets in two games against the Patriots last season.
Emmanuel Sanders has vanished since Buffalo’s Week 7 bye, failing to top 30+ receiving yards in four of his last five games with just 29.0 FP combined in that span. The Patriots are giving up just 12.6 YPR to WRs this season.
Dawson Knox scored his sixth and seventh touchdowns of the season last week, which was the fifth time he’s posted 14+ FP in nine contests. The Patriots haven’t allowed a TE to reach 30+ receiving yards in a game since Week 6. Knox had 3/51 receiving on four targets in his lone matchup against the Patriots late last season.
The Bills pulled the plug on second-year RB Zack Moss on Thanksgiving Day, electing to make him a healthy scratch in favor of veteran Matt Breida. Devin Singletary led the backfield with a 68% snap share against the Saints, turning his 16 opportunities into 48 scrimmage yards. Meanwhile, Breida continued to make the most plays in the backfield, catching both of his targets for 29 yards and a touchdown while posting 9/26 rushing on a 32% snap share. The Patriots are giving up 4.6 YPC and a generous 160.4 scrimmage yards per game to RBs.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Pace (seconds in between plays): 30.5 (29th)
Plays per game: 62.3 (20th)
Pass: 50.6% (31st) | Run: 49.4% (2nd)
Pace: 27.2 (11th)
Plays per game: 61.1 (23rd)
Pass: 65.0% (5th) | Run: 35.0% (28th)
All pace / play data is from the last eight weeks.
Over their last eight games, the Patriots offense has turned into an absolute juggernaut. They play slow and methodical, run the ball at the second-highest rate (only the Eagles run it more), and score. A lot. In fact, no team has generated a score (FG or TD) more often on their possessions than New England (55.3%) and no team has generated more red-zone possessions per game (4.4) since Week 5. It’s absolutely wild how well-oiled this attack is already in Mac Jones’ first year.
The Bills have hit some mid-season road bumps, but they can take control of the AFC East with a home win here. Josh Allen (8.7 FP > 20.6 FP > 12.5 FP > 32.3 FP) has exchanged weak and spiked fantasy performances in his last four meetings with the Patriots and it’ll be interesting to see if the Bills come out and try to run the ball just a bit more than usual on MNF. Over the last eight weeks, the Patriots have faced a run at +4.3% above expectation in close games (fifth-highest rate) because their secondary is playing much better and their front-seven is getting home with pressure.
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
Can we trust the Patriot RBs? If Rhamondre Stevenson had complete control over this backfield, he would be a plug-and-play option on a weekly basis, without hesitation. He combines the size-and-quickness combination to exceed in even the most difficult spots. That’s not to say Damien Harris is without skill — only that Stevenson is a pretty rare talent.
Outside of allowing Jonathan Taylor to go ballistic on them in Week 11, Buffalo has been a stout run defense this season. But I view the run game from the Pats as their path to victory. And I do see New England stealing this game on the road. Brandon Bolden should be spending 100% of his time on kickoffs and punts. If he touches the ball even once on offense, it’s a missed opportunity with extremely low chances of success.
Patriot CB J.C. Jackson altered my approach with Stefon Diggs. Jackson is simply a different player this season. He and Kyle Van Noy should be squarely within the group being considered for the NFL Defensive MVP Award.
Emmanuel Sanders is a big-time fade with Jalen Mills in coverage. After Diggs, Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis have the best chances for success against Myles Bryant and Shaun Wade, respectively. With strong safety Kyle Dugger landing on the COVID list, Dawson Knox could also see some space.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
The Patriots have a true, near-even-split, three-man rotation among Damien Harris, Rhamondre Stevenson, and Brandon Bolden in their backfield. Here’s Graham from Start/Sit on the difficulties of this Patriot run game for fantasy:
“The good news? Harris and Stevenson both look awesome as the Patriots have switched to a very run-heavy approach.
The bad news? You are playing for a touchdown with both.
The Patriots are moving the ball extremely well and scoring a ton as of late, but the problem for our game is that none of their guys are trustworthy. This offense is a total sum of the parts. Over their last two games, Damien Harris (38% snap rate), Rhamondre Stevenson (33%), and Brandon Bolden (29%) have formed a true three-man rotation with Harris and Stevenson sharing the early-down work and Bolden mixing in on passing downs. In fact, Harris and Stevenson both have 22 carries while Harris (10 red-zone snaps) leads the way over Stevenson (5) and Bolden (5) on their 20 plays inside-the-20 in their last two games. Gross. I don’t think the matchup is overly difficult – we’ve seen great running teams like the Titans and Colts roll against the Bills – but the lack of passing down work and shared red-zone snaps make both Harris and Stevenson TD-dependent FLEX plays.”
So, what of their passing game? It’s certainly worth noting that WR Kendrick Bourne has had 4 or more targets in six straight games, is coming off a 2-TD performance last week, and the Bills will be without their top CB Tre’Davious White after he tore his ACL on Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, slot CB Taron Johnson provides a difficult match for Jakobi Meyers. This is still a tough draw for QB Mac Jones, but White being out really opens things up if you want to take a shot on Bourne or Nelson Agholor.
If there’s one Bill player who is going to get the Bill Belichick treatment this week, I’d put my money on Stefon Diggs. While JC Jackson has been spectacular this year, as Wes noted above, Diggs crushed him last season. And his numbers are now approaching that spectacular 2020 campaign. Here’s Graham from Stat-Pack:
Even after a slow-ish start, Stefon Diggs has scored a TD or gone over 60 yards in every game this year.
Since Week 6, Diggs is averaging 20.4 FPG – making him the WR3 in this span behind only Cooper Kupp (26.4) and Deebo Samuel (20.6).
I liked Wes’ points about Dawson Knox and Emmanuel Sanders, but I’m also focused on the backfield here in the event the Bills make their change permanent. Zack Moss was a healthy scratch in Week 12, and the Bills went with a Devin Singletary and Matt Breida split.
Singletary played 68% of the snaps to 32% for Breida, and led the way in carries (15 to 9) and routes (28 to 10). But he also played 24 of the Bills’ 28 second-half snaps with them nursing a big lead. It’s possible in a more competitive game they use closer to an even split to utilize — as Diggs put it — Breida’s “spice.” Both are FLEX options.
One big positive for the Bills this week — they could have T Spencer Brown (COVID) and G Jon Feliciano (calf) back from extended absences, which would help their inconsistent offense.