Wild Card Saturday Showdown DFS Primer (Patriots at Bills)
This is the rubber match between the Patriots and the Bills. The two AFC East foes exchanged wins as underdogs on the opposition’s home field. Will the Patriots hold serve, winning as a road underdog against the Bills? It was an extremely windy contest when New England defeated Buffalo in their first matchup. This time, it’s expected to be extremely cold. However, the wind isn’t projected to be significant. Might the cold lead to some issues gripping or catching the football? Maybe. So, that enhances the case of using either or both defenses. Nonetheless, I don’t expect it to completely derail the offenses. Below, I highlight the players in my defensible player mix, adding team-by-team analysis to whittle things down to my absolute favorite options.
Game: New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills
Spread: BUF -4.0 Points
Over/Under: 44.0 Points
Patriots Analysis: It's not an error of omission, failing to include Mac Jones above. He's an easy fade for me. First, according to Football Outsiders, the Bills are first in pass defense Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA). Second, Jones attempted only 35 passes in the two regular-season meetings. The rookie was especially overwhelmed in Buffalo's second look at him, completing only 14 of 32 passes for 145 scoreless yards and two interceptions.
If you're investing in the passing attack, Jakobi Meyers and Hunter Henry are the top options. Meyers received a team-high eight targets in the games against Buffalo, pacing the team with six receptions and 59 receiving yards. Meanwhile, Henry is a favorite in the red zone. According to our red zone stats, Henry led the Patriots in targets (18) and touchdowns (nine) inside the 20.
In addition, Jonnu Smith and Brandon Bolden are sneaky passing-attack options. Smith had 10 targets inside the 20 and two rush attempts. Bolden had eight rush attempts and corraled all nine of his targets in the red zone, scoring three touchdowns. Moreover, according to Pro Football Focus, from Week 14 through the end of the regular season, Bolden's 74 routes were considerably more than Rhamondre Stevenson's 31 and Damien Harris's 20.
But, of course, Harris and Stevenson are the backs to back if you expect the Patriots to keep it close or lead. According to Sharp Football Stats, since Week 10, when the offensive scoring margin was between trailing by six points and leading by six points, the Patriots ran at the highest rate (65% versus 44% for the league average). Furthermore, the Bills have had lapses defending the run this year, and they're easier to beat on the ground, ranking 11th in rush defense DVOA. Harris is the better pick between him and Stevenson. However, Stevenson is a nifty contrarian alternative.
Bills Analysis: The Bills did an exquisite job of involving Devin Singletary down the stretch, trimming the fat in the backfield by nearly entirely eliminating the usage of inferior options, Zack Moss and Matt Breida. However, let's not lose sight of the Bills remaining a pass-first offense. From Week 15 until the end of the year, in neutral game scripts, Buffalo passed at the third-highest rate (63%).
It wasn't always pretty for Josh Allen down the stretch or in the entirety of 2021, but his highs were cathedral high. For example, in Week 16, against the Patriots, he lit them up for 314 passing yards, three touchdowns, and 64 rushing yards. In addition, Allen rushed for more than 60 yards in four of his last five games. As a result, he's the highest-ceiling player on this single-game slate and a lock-button, game-script-proof pick.
The top passing-game option to stack with Allen is No. 1 receiver, Stefon Diggs. Buffalo's superstar receiver captured the team's receiving triple crown, leading the team in targets (164), receptions per game (6.1), receiving yards per game (72.1), and touchdowns (10). He's also carved up the Patriots. In four games with the Bills, facing the Patriots, he's produced lines of 6-92-0, 9-145-2, 5-51-0, and 7-85-1. I'm not overthinking this. So, I'm locking in Diggs with Allen.
Behind Diggs, it gets interesting in the passing attack. I'm inclined to gravitate toward red-zone weapons, Dawson Knox and Gabriel Davis. Knox secured 12 of 19 targets inside the 20, producing six touchdowns. Meanwhile, Davis reeled in nine of 18 targets for six touchdowns. Thankfully, neither player is a touchdown-or-bust option, either. From Week 14 through Week 18, Knox was second on the team in routes (201) and Davis was third (163).
Finally, Isaiah McKenzie is a rock-solid speculative play after carving up the Patriots in Week 16. Of course, Davis and Cole Beasley were on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. However, it would be unwise to handwave away McKenzie's 11-125-1 performance on 12 targets in the last meeting. Further, veteran film analyst Greg Cosell speculated McKenzie's speed makes him a better stylistic fit than Beasley for beating man coverage in his Week 17 Preview appearance on the Ross Tucker Football Podcast (the following clip should start at the 12:24 mark when Greg and Ross start discussing McKenzie).
"Motor" is the other piece of Buffalo's offense I'm using and touting. Singletary has earned feature-back duty for the Bills. The third-year back has touched the ball 17 times or more in the previous four games, besting 75 yards in five straight contests. He rushed for 39 yards and a score, adding five receptions for 39 scoreless yards in the previous meeting against the Patriots. Finally, with the Bills favored, he might be leaned on to salt the game away if it goes according to the betting market.
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