NFL upset of the week: Bills find relief in Tampa Bay

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We speculated last week that there could be some value in backing the Falcons at +400 against the Buccaneers. After all, they had stayed within three points of Tampa Bay heading into the fourth quarter in three straight meetings. Sure enough, the Falcons were down by three late in the third quarter on Sunday. Like in previous matchups, they let an against-the-spread cover slip through their fingers - specifically, Russell Gage's fingers.

We're still ahead on the season (plus-4.9 units), but it's no coincidence that there are fewer outright upsets because market realizations and teams' motivations have changed since September. This week, we're looking at a more immediate reaction to find a modest upset on the card as the Bills head to Florida to take on the Super Bowl champions.

The spot

I'm not overly comfortable with betting against Tom Brady again. Wins over the Giants, Colts, and Falcons have the Bucs back on everyone's radar, which validates us rating Tampa Bay No. 1 in the league despite many early-season overreactions anointing various other teams. One of those teams was the Bills after their big road win over the Chiefs and various comfortable destructions of the dregs of the NFL.

Now, the football world is selling on Buffalo after an embarrassing performance from the offense and coaching staff on Monday Night Football. This has created a market that has pushed the line to Tampa Bay -3.5/moneyline +150, which is just high enough to qualify as a bona fide upset.

Bills offense vs. Buccaneers defense

Let's look at this logically. We're disappointed that the Bills didn't throw the ball more, didn't spread out the Patriots and use Josh Allen in the run game, and generally used their running backs less. But that all happened because the Patriots excel in games that are a grind. Shouldn't we be excited that Buffalo's downfield passing offense will be unrestrained in what should be perfect conditions in Tampa Bay?

The Buccaneers pride themselves on stopping the run, so shouldn't we be confident that the Bills will change their game plan to throw more against a thin Tampa secondary?

To me, this is a perfect fit for the Bills' offense to show what they would have wanted to do on Monday if it weren't for gale-force and snow-squall winds.

Bills defense vs. Buccaneers offense

If you hadn't heard, Mac Jones only threw it three times. Brady will throw it a little more than that. While Tre'Davious White's absence will be more relevant in a game like this, the Bills' defense is less likely to get pummelled on the ground based on volume. For all the hand-wringing about the yards Buffalo gave up in the run game, the Patriots were bound to break some long rushes with the number of attempts they had. It wouldn't have been as much of an issue if the Bills had scored first to put pressure on the Pats.

This will be a more typical game for Buffalo, where there isn't a decisive coaching disadvantage and unfamiliar circumstances due to the weather. Instead, the Bills can put together a more standard game plan focused on getting pressure on Brady, playing the game straight up with good traction underfoot.

Most importantly, with a more consistent environment, I can trust my ratings more. Since those ratings rely on the concept of a neutral field void of weather advantages and radical game plans, I still have the Bills as a top-three team in the NFL. The gap between them and the Buccaneers doesn't warrant a point spread over -2.5, so the moneyline at anything above +150 odds is a value for Sunday's showdown.

Pick: Bills moneyline (+155)

Matt Russell is a betting writer for theScore. If there’s a bad beat to be had, Matt will find it. Find him on Twitter @mrussauthentic.

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NFL upset of the week: Bills find relief in Tampa Bay
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