Patriots-Bills best bets: Can Belichick work magic in Buffalo?

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First place in the AFC East is up for grabs Monday night as the Buffalo Bills host the red-hot New England Patriots for the teams' first of two meetings this season.

Here's how we're betting Pats-Bills:

C Jackson Cowart: Patriots +3 (-120)

If you take this line at face value, it suggests that oddsmakers see these teams as near-equals, if not a slight lean to the Bills. What exactly supports that thesis?

The Patriots have a better record than Buffalo with a better point differential despite facing a tougher schedule thus far. They also rank higher by DVOA (No. 2 vs. No. 3) and PFF grades (No. 1 vs No. 9), plus they've boasted football's best scoring offense (35.2 PPG) and defense (10.5) since Week 7.

Mac Jones also owns the best passer rating (106.4) of any starter in that stretch, and he'll have the upper hand against a Bills secondary that's gone from dangerous to dangerously thin after losing All-Pro corner Tre'Davious White to a season-ending injury. Perception dies hard in the NFL, but Buffalo, which isn't the AFC East juggernaut that it once was, will be fortunate to win outright Monday.

Alex Moretto: Under 42

This number has ticked down but is still playable at the current number. Both teams are playing well and looking to make a statement in a wide-open AFC, though neither has been tested much of late. On offense, the Patriots grow more impressive by the week while the Bills pack some real explosiveness. But it's the two defenses I trust more in this marquee showdown for the top spot in the AFC East.

The loss of Tre'Davious White is big against an underrated New England passing attack, but Sean McDermott's defense has built up plenty of big-game experience and has had extra time to prepare. This is the most hostile environment Mac Jones has played in, and since the Bills should be able to key in on the run thanks to the weather, I don't expect New England to score much.

Bill Belichick's defense is also playing lights out and will make life difficult on turnover-prone Josh Allen and this one-dimensional Bills offense. Perhaps Buffalo chips away with an effective short passing game to open up some deep shots, but either way, it won't be enough to push this over. Add in likely kicking troubles given the strong winds, and points will be at a premium in what should be a fascinating encounter.

Matt Russell: Bills -3 (+100)

This matchup, the teams' first of two in three weeks, is more important to the Bills than it is to the Patriots. Buffalo needs to hold serve at home, while the Patriots can settle for a split. New England is getting a ton of credit for a win and cover streak that's up to six games, but pulling this number down to a field goal, when I still have this game lined over the key number, is too much of an adjustment.

Additionally, Jones will get his first feel of a hyped Bills Mafia, while Buffalo will have any game against Belichick's Patriots circled on their calendar. The last time the Bills were fully focused on a critical game? Their trip to Kansas City earlier this season, which got everyone buying into them.

Between a defense with something to prove and an offense that's adjusted personnel, lay the short price with the Bills and be ready for Bill's revenge in two weeks.

Patriots-Bills best bets: Can Belichick work magic in Buffalo?
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