The Spread and Total
Buffalo Bills at Jacksonville Jaguars (-9, 39 O/U), courtesy of Bovada.
Buffalo Bills: 9-7 SU (9-6-1 ATS); 2nd AFC East
Jacksonville Jaguars: 10-6 SU (9-7 ATS); 1st AFC South
RB LeSean McCoy (ankle), questionable; CB Shareece Wright (concussion), questionable; WR Deonte Thompson (shoulder), questionable; T Jordan Mills (ankle), questionable.
WR Marqise Lee (ankle), questionable; TE Marcedes Lewis (ankle), questionable; T Cam Robinson (abdomen), probable.
Nov. 27, 2016 (New Era Field, Orchard Park): Buffalo 28, Jacksonville 21
Oct. 25, 2015 (Wembley Stadium, London): Jacksonville 34, Buffalo 31
Dec. 15, 2013 (EverBank Field, Jacksonville): Buffalo 27, Jacksonville 20
Dec. 2, 2012 (Ralph Wilson Stadium, Orchard Park): Buffalo 34, Jacksonville 18
Interesting note: the first-ever meeting between these two teams came in the 1996 Wild Card Round. The Jaguars won 30-27.
Significant ATS Trends
The Jaguars have covered four of their past five home games.
The Bills have covered four of their past six games, overall.
The Jaguars are 4-1 ATS this season after a straight-up loss.
The total has only gone OVER once in Buffalo’s last six games.
The total has gone OVER in the last five meetings between these teams.
To those Bills fans just waking up after their week-long playoff-qualification celebration: congratulations! Your team mercifully ended the longest playoff drought in North American sports at 18 years. (One more year and your playoff drought would’ve been old enough to have quite the weekend up in Toronto.) Now the bad news, if LeSean McCoy doesn’t get healthy this week, your first playoff trip of the 21st century will be a very brief one.
The Jaguars come into this game with a few questions themselves, having lost two straight while getting 2016-type performances from QB Blake Bortles. But offensive concerns be damned! Jacksonville broke its own decade-long postseason drought thanks to a defense that’s neck and neck with Minnesota for the title of league’s best. They don’t need a great offensive showing this weekend to best Buffalo, especially if the Bills’ main offensive weapon is on the sideline.
McCoy accounted for nearly 33-percent of Buffalo’s total yards from scrimmage, and over a quarter of their total touchdowns. His backup, Marcus Murphy, didn’t even have a carry in the NFL until last week. If McCoy isn’t in the lineup, the only playmaker the Bills will have is under center.
It’s insane that, at one point, Buffalo thought benching quarterback Tyrod Taylor was a good idea. His ability to extend plays and stretch defenses is all the more impressive when you look at his supporting cast. The Bills best wide receiver this year was Deonte Thompson, a guy even the WR-starved Bears didn’t want. The 12th-ranked QB in the league according to Pro Football Focus, Taylor avoids giving the ball away, and has been efficient throwing against pressure, which is good news, because he’s going to see a ton of it.
Although the Steelers passed them in Week 17 for the league-lead in sacks, I don’t know anyone who would argue against Jacksonville having the league’s most fearsome front four. Calais Campbell, Yannick Ngakoue, and Malik Jackson are all matchup nightmares, and the Bills had trouble blocking the most average of pass rushers this season. Ranking 31st in the NFL in adjusted sack rate, it looks like Taylor will spend the entire afternoon on the run.
With Buffalo’s offense bracing for a rough afternoon, this game will be decided by how effective the Jaguars offense can be. The Bills are weak against the ground game allowing the fourth-most rushing yards in the league. A heavy dose of Leonard Fournette and the NFL’s number one run game (in terms of yards) should be enough to put this one away.
That is, if Bortles doesn’t continue to be careless with the ball. Tre’Davious White and the Bills D can come up with a timely takeaway when needed. Turnovers are the great equalizer in the playoffs, and if you exclude games started by Nathan Peterman, Buffalo’s offense had just eight giveaways, while the defense generated 25 takeaways.
This is a great matchup for Jacksonville on paper, and yet my best advice for this game might be to pair them with Kansas City on a 6.5-point teaser, bringing both lines down to 2.5. While it may ultimately be an unnecessary precaution, I have a bad feeling about the Jags ability to close the door on a scrappy Buffalo team.
Betting on Bortles in the playoffs feels weird enough; it feels insane taking him to cover a nine-point spread. However, straight-up winners are 35-2-1 ATS on Wild Card weekend, so if you like Jacksonville to win outright, your best option on the spread is taking them to cover.
Also, in case you couldn’t tell, this game is gonna be ugly and low-scoring.
Pick: Jacksonville (-9) and UNDER (39).