Game Preview

Monday Night Football Preview: Bills at Patriots

MNF Week 16

In the 2020 MNF finale, we have an AFC East showdown that, to many, will feel like a dynamic shift within the division. The Buffalo Bills will take on the New England Patriots, the franchise that has lorded over the AFC East for decades; winning all but one division championship since 2003 (losing out to Miami in 2008). They have lost their crown in 2020 however, as the Bills have officially secured the division title in what has been their franchise’s best season in this millennium. Both teams will look to end their seasons strong and will look to conclude what has been an interesting MNF slate with another great contest.

– Monday Night Football Preview –

Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots

Bills (-7.5) at Patriots | Over/Under: 46.5

Vegas Odds

For the first time in Gillette Stadium history, the Bills will be coming to town as the favored team to win, at least in the eyes of Vegas. In fact, Buffalo, who are 7.5 points favorites on Monday night, has not been favored over New England by a margin that high in over 27 years when these teams played on November 7th, 1993 at Foxboro Stadium (Buffalo was 9.5 point favorites that day). This is great news if you like the Bills, and their NFL odds are sure to benefit according to major bookmakers like FOX Bet. This will be an experience many prospective betters will likely be encountering for the first time, as they will have to weigh the options of trusting Buffalo to continue their amazing 2020 run or believe that Bill Belichick and company will have what it takes to keep this game within seven points. The Patriots were able to keep things close in their Week 8 matchup but both squads have been trending in different directions since that game. The Bills have covered the spread in all of their games since then and have been a solid betting option in several prospectives. Expect that to continue on Monday night. Bet the Bills and the Over this week.

Quarterbacks

For the first time in his career, Josh Allen has been selected to the Pro Bowl after having a stellar 2020 season. Allen has erupted this season with 4000 passing yards on a 68.7% completion percentage for 30 touchdowns and nine interceptions while also adding 383 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns through 14 games. This on-field production has led to fantasy reverence as well, ranking as the QB3 on the season. Allen has been incredibly consistent for fantasy owners, only having five performances (depending on scoring format) in which he finished outside of the top 15 quarterbacks on the week. He has been especially solid in recent weeks, ranking as the QB1 for Weeks 12-15, and will look to maintain that momentum on Monday night. Allen had one of his worst games of the season when these teams faced off in Week 8, which will surely worry anyone looking to start him this week. But, when you look back at that game, the Bills took a very different approach to that contest than they had done in previous weeks or even in games since.

Buffalo rushed the ball 38 total times in that game, a season-high through Week 15, in an attempt to control the clock versus the Patriots. Those attempts made up roughly 68% of their total offensive attempts in Week 8, the highest percentage of rushes this season. But it was not just Allen who carried the ball that day, who had ten carries for one touchdown himself. The Bills’ backfield had 28 rushes themselves, making up 74% of the total rushes that day. Allen’s usage in the offense has only increased since Week 8 and he will continue to be an elite option on Monday night. Feel confident in starting Allen this week.

Cam Newton PatriotsDespite starting the season as a top tier fantasy option, Cam Newton has been anything but in recent weeks. Newton only has one weekly finish inside the top 25 quarterbacks since Week 12 (Week 13 where he was the QB9 depending on scoring format) but that was also a game in which he threw for less than 70 yards. Newton has settled into the streaming tier of fantasy quarterback and is not someone who should be started this week. While he had a fine game against Buffalo in Week 8 (228 combined yards with one rushing touchdown and a fumble lost), the Bills’ defense has clamped down against fantasy quarterbacks in recent weeks. They have allowed an average weekly finish of QB19 in their last four games and have not allowed a quarterback to gain more than 40 rushing yards since Week 10. Keep Newton on your bench/waiver wire this week.

Running Backs

The Patriots have continued to use a running back committee this season consisting of Damien Harris, Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, and J.J. Taylor at various points this season. In recent weeks, however, this congested backfield has widdled down to Harris, Michel, and White taking up a majority of the work. Harris suffered an injury in Week 14, so his status for Monday night is questionable; leaving Michel and White projected to get a majority of the work versus the Bills. Both players of these players were either inactive or ineffective in New England’s Week 8 game versus Buffalo so it will be interesting to see how they will fare on Monday night. The Bills defense has been up and down against running backs in recent weeks. They have allowed an average of 80 rushing yards and 36 receiving yards to the position group in their last four games, which sounds good, but they also have allowed two top eight weekly finishes in that same timeframe (Austin Ekeler in Week 12 and Melvin Gordon in Week 15). While they will likely finish somewhere in the middle, Michel has RB3/Flex upside on Monday night while White is someone who should be on your bench/waiver wire this week.

Both Devin Singletary and Zack Moss have shined briefly in certain games this season but have not been able to put together enough consistency to stand out as solid fantasy options week to week. Singletary has gotten the start in every game through Week 15 but has been out-snapped by Moss in five of the eleven games they both have been active this season, showing the Buffalo coaching staff has been committed to featuring both running backs in some way every game. Both players had dominant performances in Week 8, especially Moss who went for 81 yards on 14 rushes for two touchdowns. Singletary and Moss will look to find a way to repeat those performances on Monday night and should have some an opportunity to do so. New England has allowed three top eleven performances by a fantasy running back (in PPR scoring format) in their last four games including two consecutive games allowing a 100-yard rusher. While there will be plenty of better options out there, both Singletary and Moss are great Flex options with RB2 upside on Monday night.

Wide Receivers

stefon diggsStefon Diggs is exactly what Buffalo was looking for when they made their blockbuster trade back in March. Diggs has been one of the league’s best wide receivers this season with 111 receptions on 147 targets for 1314 yards and five touchdowns. He has been a great fantasy option as well, ranking as the WR3 in PPR scoring formats and being a consistent option for the Bills and those who have him in their fantasy lineups each week. While New England is a daunting matchup, Diggs is still worth starting and believing in this week. Start Diggs on Monday night.

When looking at the other key players in the Bills wide receiver group, only Cole Beasley stands out as someone who players have relied on for weekly production. While he has been one of the most variable wide receivers this season, (for example, in Weeks 10-15, he has finished either inside the top twelve on the week, including two top-three performances; or has finished outside the top 40 wide receivers) Beasley has shown that in games he shines in, he shines extremely bright. One of Beasley’s dud games was in Week 8 when these teams last played so his starting status for many is shaky at best. But, with the overall improvement of Buffalo’s passing game in recent weeks and the effect that has had on Beasley’s numbers (he has seen ten or more targets in four of his last four games and averages eight receptions for 98 yards in each of those contests) will give Beasley enough upside to give me confidence in him this week. Start Beasley on Monday night.

No Patriots wide receiver is ranked within the top 50 so far this season and their entire group has suffered throughout 2020 due to the lack of a true passing attack in New England. Their entire position group has only posted three double-digit performances (in PPR scoring formats) in their last five games (Damiere Byrd in Week 11 and Jakobi Meyers in Weeks 12 and 15) and have been almost entirely avoidable for fantasy purposes in that same stretch. The same remains to be said for Monday night, as Buffalo has been the third-best defense against fantasy wide receivers this season (depending on scoring format). Stay away from Patriots wide receivers this week.

Tight Ends

Neither of these teams has used the tight end position at a significant rate this season, at least from a fantasy perspective. Dawson Knox of Buffalo is the highest-ranked tight end on either team (in PPR scoring formats) as the TE39 but even he is not someone who can be consistently started each week, especially for those lucky few in a fantasy championship game this week. I would avoid all tight ends in this matchup with Knox having the highest upside since he has caught touchdowns in three of his last four games but he is a risky play in of himself.

Defense/Special Teams

After being one of the most dominant D/ST units in fantasy history in 2019, the Patriots have taken a major step backward in 2020. There is a myriad of factors that have contributed to this but for this season they have been a streaming option, really only to be started when they have a favorable matchup. The same can be said for the Bills D/ST, who ranks 14th best in the league (depending on scoring format), but overall they have not been a unit that can be relied on weekly. Both units will look to make an impact on Monday night but neither one has an overly impressive amount of upside. New England will have to contend with one of the hottest offenses in the NFL (averaging 34 points and over 400 total yards in each of their last four games) while also dealing with major injuries to their defense. Their unit is one I would stay away from this week. For Buffalo, while the matchup seems enticing (The Patriots have only averaged 20 points and 248 total yards per game in their last four), their unit has been impressive enough in recent weeks for me to consider them over some of the other potential options available. If there are no other solid prospects in your league, the Bills D/ST is a startable option for Monday night and should yield decent production but I would look elsewhere before settling on them this week.

Prediction

With both teams’ postseason fate already sealed, some may say there is not much worth playing for on Monday night. The Patriots will be missing the playoffs regardless of a win or loss and Buffalo is the divisional champ no matter what. But, there is still a lot to take away from this matchup. The Bills will look to keep their momentum going as they gear up for a deep postseason run. New England has been known for their tough demeanor and professionalism in the Belichick era so I have no doubt they will also be coming into Monday night ready for the upset and start evaluating their players for next season and beyond. Based on how well Buffalo has played in recent weeks, however, this should be another dominant performance for them on Monday night. I have this game going to Buffalo 31-21.

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