Pick Patriots -8.5 vs. Bills for NFL Week 17

Jason Lake

Monday, December 23, 2013 1:53 PM GMT

The New England Patriots have clinched the AFC East title. They can still win the whole AFC, provided they beat the Buffalo Bills in Week 17 and the Denver Broncos lose. The Patriots are laying as many as 10 points on the early NFL lines.

Jason’s record on his final NFL picks for 2013, up to December 21 inclusive:

39-31-2 ATS

1-1 ML (+0.71 units)

9-17-1 Totals

Another year, another AFC East title. The New England Patriots (11-4 SU, 7-8 ATS) will be in the playoffs for the 11th time in 13 years since Tom Brady took over as the starting quarterback. But that doesn’t mean the Patriots are going to take a knee in Week 17 when they host the Buffalo Bills (6-9 SU, 8-7 ATS). A win over the Bills will earn New England a valuable first-round bye; if the Denver Broncos happen to lose, New England will win the AFC and enjoy home-field advantage all the way to the Super Bowl.

The Bills would like to put the kibosh on those ideas. It’s been another disappointing year, their ninth straight losing season and 14th in a row without a trip to the playoffs (cough cough Flutie cough). However, Buffalo has made some positive strides in Year One under head coach Doug Marrone, and the Bills have won back-to-back games SU and ATS going into Sunday’s matchup (1:00 p.m. ET, CBS) at Gillette Stadium. The early Week 17 NFL lines have Buffalo getting up to 10 points with a total of 47.

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Blount = Smoking

The Patriots might not have TE Rob Gronkowski (knee) for the rest of the season, but that didn’t stop them from putting a 41-7 pounding on the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, cashing in as 1.5-point road faves to halt their 0-3 ATS slide. That score included a pair of late defensive touchdowns to inflate the winning margin. Most of New England’s offense was on the ground, where LeGarrette Blount and Stevan Ridley combined for 130 yards and a pair of TDs.

That’s a pretty darned impressive performance against the No. 6-ranked rushing defense in the league. Good thing, too; without Gronkowski (42 TDs in four NFL seasons) or rookie WR Kenbrell Thompkins (32 catches, four TDs), Brady only attempted 26 passes against Baltimore. It was his second-lowest total of the season. Brady lost yet another one of his targets on Sunday when RB Shane Vereen (43 catches, one TD) went down with a groin injury. Vereen’s status for Week 17 is uncertain as we go to press.

Bill-ious Invective

Buffalo is coming off an impressive 19-0 shutout of the Miami Dolphins, sacking QB Ryan Tannehill seven times to cash in as a 1-point home chalk. It was a textbook performance by the No. 4-ranked defense (No. 2 pass, No. 18 rush) in the nation heading into Week 16. But the Bills also put some of that old Ground Chuck on display; RB Fred Jackson took off for 111 yards on 19 carries, and RB C.J. Spiller added 77 yards on 20 touches.

It’s imperative for the Bills to keep this up. They had the No. 25-ranked offense (No. 29 pass, No. 18 rush) before blanking Miami, hobbled all year long by injuries to their quarterbacks. Thad Lewis (80.2 passer rating) got the start against the Dolphins after EJ Manuel (77.7 passer rating) was sidelined for the third time this season with a knee injury. Marrone told The Buffalo News that Manuel is “110 percent” certain to start in Week 17. We shall see.

Given that the Patriots have something more than pride to play for on Sunday, and they’re playing at home, I’m inclined to go with New England. It’s not a five-star pick, though. Buffalo should put some effort into spoiling things for their AFC East rivals, and as a cold-weather team, the Bills shouldn’t have any trouble with the near-freezing conditions expected in Foxborough. Grab those odds at the best price you can find, and may the prolate spheroid be with you this holiday season.

NFL Pick: Take the Patriots –8.5 at Pinnacle