Thursday Night Football: Bills-Patriots betting preview (odds, lines, best bets)

Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) throws a pass as Minnesota Vikings linebacker Danielle Hunter (99) rushes in during the first quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Bet Bills-Patriots o43.5 points: PFF Greenline's top game-market bet, the over is valuable with New England coming off its second-best EPA output of season, Buffalo currently with NFL's second-most WAR lost to injury on ‘D.'

• The best of the Patriots' number is gone, but any additional line movement past -3.5 would mark good buy-low opportunity on Buffalo.

Bet Patriots TE Jonnu Smith u1.5 receptions: After running nine total routes on Thanksgiving — his fewest since Week 7 — Smith has a 32.8% route share.

Last updated: Dec. 1, 12:45 p.m.

Estimated reading time: 5 min


The naysayers won’t believe it, but we have a quality “Thursday Night Football” matchup on tap between the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots. Let’s dive into the best bets to make using PFF’s suite of betting tools

GAME LINES

The injury concerns are real for a Bills team that has the second-most current WAR lost to injury of any defensive unit in football. 

Can New England take advantage after a Thanksgiving performance with its second-best EPA output of 2022?: It's the most pressing initial question to this handicap. Jumping out to an early lead looks like the only viable path to pulling off the upset at home. 

Patriots allow the lowest EPA/pass in the NFL and rank top 10 in coverage based on PFF grade: Indeed, their defense matches up well with Buffalo, whose biggest weakness — facing cover-1 — is New England's strength. The Patriots play cover-1 at the second-highest rate in the NFL, and they have the second-best PFF coverage grade specific to that coverage scheme. The Bills' receiving unit ranks 11th in PFF receiving grade, but when they face off against cover-1, it drops to the 28th-graded receiving unit. 

Buffalo has yet to solve man coverage this season: Meaning the Bills could rely heavily on Allen’s rushing ability to move the chains in crucial third down situations. 

The market priced in this expectation with the +6 lookahead line, reopening at +5.5 before dropping all the way to +3.5: The best of the Patriots number is gone, but if we get any further line movement, the Bills look like a good buy-low spot with the market correcting too heavily in their direction. 

PFF Greenline finds Over 43.5 as the best game-market bet in this matchup: If the spread movement is correct, it plays into a game script that favors the over, with the Bills forced to play catchup against a better-than-expected Patriots offense. 

Bet: Over 43.5 (-110 BetMGM)

Bet Gameplan: Playable to -115

PLAYER PROPS

Player props continue to be one of the best approaches to betting on the NFL. If interested in macro trends from the past three seasons, check out my midseason prop article here.

One way to consistently find defined edges without blindly betting unders is by utilizing PFF's player props tool. The ability to adjust both number and price means you are always certain of the expected value for each prop bet. Let’s dive into the best player props to bet for the NFL Thursday night game. 

Bet: Stefon Diggs — Over  6.5 receptions (+105 BetMGM)

Bet Gameplan: Playable to -110

Diggs has a 90.7 receiving grade against all other coverages but drops to 69.6 against cover-1: Buffalo’s struggles against man coverage — and specifically cover-1 — could be resulting from Diggs struggling against man coverage in 2022. But it's an outlier season for Diggs in this area, as he has a better receiving grade in every prior season against cover-1. 

This looks more like a blip because of small sample size, not a new trend in Diggs career: Which makes this a spot that could easily be corrected on Thursday night. With the Bills dealing with some injuries to their offensive line, expect Diggs to be involved early and often on scripted plays, leading to an uptick in volume. If he also turns into the third-down coverage breaker in crucial situations, he will easily eclipse this reception prop number en route to a monster Thursday-night performance.

 Diggs vs Jonathan Jones tilts in the Patriots' favor: But PFF’s WR/CB matchup chart sees Diggs with enough routes to run against other coverage players to still be successful. 

As Ian Hartitz noted in his matchup mismatches: Even if he shadows Diggs, Jones has had enough recent let-down spots — and shadowing hasn’t exactly slowed down Diggs in the past. 

Bet: Patriots TE Jonnu Smith — Under 1.5 receptions (+105 BetMGM)

Bet Gameplan: Playable to -115

PFF Player Props tool's top TNF value: Smith going under his reception prop looks like the best bet to make on Thursday night. After running nine total routes on Thanksgiving — his fewest since Week 7 — Smith has a 32.8% route percentage share this season. 

Hunter Henry is clearly the 1A tight end in Patriots offense: With Smith becoming more and more of an afterthought each week. If New England jumps out to an early lead, expect a heavy dose of Rhamondre Stevenson, with the secondary receiving options seeing little-to-no volume in the second half. 

Without a manufactured target on the scripted play set, it looks highly unlikely that Smith will go over this number. 


Ben's overall record (college/NFL) this season is 77-95 (-3.37 units).

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