This Thursday Night we’ll have an interesting matchup between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Buffalo Bills. We saw the spread open up at -8 or -7.5 in this one, before settling at -8.5 pretty much across the board.
The total sits around 42 at most books after hovering between here and 43.5 for most of the day. Both teams are coming off comical losses that have you wondering why we wager actual dollars on this league.
The Buffalo Bills have a real problem on defense after injuries to three of their top defensive players (LB Matt Milano, CB Tre’Davious White, DT DaQuon Jones). After routing the Dolphins in Week 4, the Bills have lost to the Jags in London, barely beat the Giants at home and then lost in Foxborough to the then 1-5 Patriots.
In recent performances, the Bills offense has looked out of sync. From the eye test, Josh Allen has looked like he’s made more mistakes with the football and has turned the ball over multiple times. However, he’s still 3rd in the league in EPA/per play.
It’s noteworthy that during this current streak of struggling, the Bills have gotten off to an extremely slow start. They scored just 7 points in the first half against Jacksonville, before being held scoreless against New York and managing just a field goal against New England.
The ability of this offense should allow them to dig out of holes, but they don’t have the luxury of an elite defense that they had going into the season. The injuries have been significant and some combination of untimely performance and perhaps conservative play call has been handcuffing the Buffalo Bills.
They made a miraculous comeback against New England where the offense completed two touchdown drives to take the league in just over five minutes of game time, before the defense allowed an 8 play 75-yard touchdown drive by Mac Jones and the Patriots to lose the game in regulation. Simply put, the offense is going to need to play a lot better until the Bills can figure things out and get healthier on defense.
Looking over at the Tampa Bay side, we’re looking at the pinnacle of average in the NFL in 2023. For the Bucs, this might seem like they are beating expectations, after much of the media wrote this team off after Tom Brady’s retirement this offseason. The Bucs have responded sort of as I expected.
Their defense has been good, not great, 14th in defensive DVOA, and they’ve been able to stay in games holding their opponents to 20 points or less in four of their six games. The offense, however, led by Baker Mayfield only ranks 25th in offensive OVOA.
They still have an elite skill position group with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin leading the WR room but have no semblance of a running game right now. Baker Mayfield has had a surprisingly decent season, limiting turnovers and performing to the 12th best EPA/play in the league. That being said, the offense has still struggled as a whole, unable to consistently finish off scoring drives and eclipsing 20 points just twice this season.
I’m worried that we are beginning to see some cracks in the armor on defense as the Falcons’ 16 points in Week 7 was a far cry from where this offense could have been. Falcons QB Desmond Ridder fumbled the football three times in the red zone on Sunday, including TWICE at the goal line.
While the defense deserves some credit for forcing these plays, fumbles can be flukey and we can’t expect that type of outcome every time. If the Falcons finished those drives with touchdowns or even field goals, we’d be looking at this Tampa Bay defense a whole lot differently.
To be frank, I’m glad this game stayed within teaser range, as it presents the best opportunity to attack this one. I do think the Buffalo Bills need to “get right” on offense, but the short week against a potentially tricky Tampa Bay defense might not be the spot to do so. 8.5 points feels like a lot to spot this Tampa Bay team that has a capable passing offense against what has become a poor and injured Bills secondary.
Despite this, I think Baker Mayfield is banged up (currently listed as Questionable on the injury report) and the Bills should be able to stop the run given the Bucs woes in that element of their game. The Bills do not want to fall to .500 and I think they should be able to win this game by a field goal. There is a myriad of teaser partners on the Week 8 board for this one so we'll roll with Baltimore against the Cardinals in this one.
The play: Bills -2.5 / Baltimore -2.5 6-point teaser (1%). Remember you may need to shop around on your teasers. Don’t tease at above -120.