NFL Odds: Bills vs. Jets
Prior to this season, we hadn’t seen a team start out 0-6 against the spread since 2013. Well, we’ve seen two accomplish this rare feat in 2020: The New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys have both failed to cover in each of their first six games.
Listen, I’ve been driving the “don’t bet on the Jets” bus all season — well, actually even before it even started as their preseason win total under was one of my favorite preseason bets.
I’ve avoided New York like the plague, but it was time to try to catch this falling knife. Let’s take a closer look at both teams and then dive into why I finally took the plunge — at the right price.
The Bills have dropped two straight after racing out to a 4-0 start. In fairness, those two losses came against two of the better teams in the AFC in the Titans and Chiefs. The schedule also did head coach Sean McDermott’s bunch no favors. The Bills played in Nashville on a Tuesday because COVID-19 complications pushed back the game two days. That in turn forced Buffalo to play Kansas City on a short week with the Chiefs getting two extra days of preparation.
The scheduling fallout will only continue. Instead of facing the Jets after an extended break, the Bills will have another short week against a team that gets an extra day of preparation.
From an on-the-field perspective, Buffalo isn’t without issues. Its highly touted defense coming into the season ranks 28th overall in Football Outsiders’ DVOA — 25th against the run and 28th against the pass. Not great.
There are also major issues in the trenches on both sides of the ball. The Bills’ offensive line was supposed to take a leap forward this year with all of its continuity, but that hasn’t been the case. Buffalo’s O-line ranks 31st in Adjusted Line Yards (per Football Outsiders).
The Jets’ defensive line actually ranks third overall in that same statistic, one of their few statistical bright spots. Quinnen Williams and Folorunso Fatukasi have played well on the interior and could cause some problems for Buffalo and open up blitzing lanes.
Things remain murky along the offensive line after Buffalo cut guard Quinton Spain this past week. Spain started every snap for the Bills last season. Spain’s replacement over the past two games, Cody Ford, also left last week’s game with an injury and is listed as “week to week.” Buffalo hopes Jon Feliciano can return from injured reserve (pectoral injury) and suit up this weekend to fill in at guard. Regardless, the situation is fluid and this unit doesn’t have the continuity many in Buffalo hoped would pay dividends in 2020.
Meanwhile, the Bills’ much-maligned defensive line ranks outside the top 20 in Adjusted Line Yards.
As a result of the struggles up front, McDermott even decided to make Harrison Phillips and Trent Murphy healthy scratches last week in favor of a few practice squad players. The Chiefs took full advantage by running right down Buffalo’s throat for 60 minutes. It’ll be interesting to see if there’s any fallout in the locker room from that decision.
Outside of Jerry Hughes, everybody on the Buffalo defensive line has underperformed, especially against the run. Defensive tackle Ed Oliver has been particularly poor. Per Pro Football Focus, the No. 9 overall pick of 2019 ranks 105th in run defense among 111 interior defensive linemen with at least 100 snaps. Quinton Jefferson hasn’t fared much better at No. 91. Vernon Butler is the highest-graded Bill on that list at 79th.
The Bills apparently miss Star Lotulelei (injured reserve) more than I thought they would. (Hey Buffalo, go get Geno Atkins!) Their linebacker production really drops off a cliff when Matt Milano isn’t on the field. He’s missed quite a bit of time this season but at least practiced on Thursday, unlike fellow linebacker Tyrel Dodson.
Even star corner Tre White has had a down season so far albeit in a very small sample size. I’m assuming he’ll be fine over the course of the season. The only consistent part of Buffalo’s defense has been its safety play with Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer.
I also might have just overrated this Buffalo defense coming into the year. Just take a look at the quarterbacks the Bills beat in their 10 wins last season:
- Sam Darnold (by one point)
- Eli Manning
- Andy Dalton
- Marcus Mariota
- Ryan Fitzpatrick (twice)
- Dwayne Haskins
- Brandon Allen
- Dak Prescott
- Devin Hodges
Eight of those 10 QBs have been backups at some point this season. Yikes.
New York isn’t really doing much on offense but could actually have success with basic runs against this reeling Bills rush defense. With Jamison Crowder out due to a groin injury, the Jets could get a boost at receiver with the potential debut of rookie Denzel Mims, who I’m high on.
New York Jets
The Jets stink. I won’t tell you otherwise. I currently have them as the worst team in the NFL, rated 10 points below an average team on a neutral field. For reference, I had the Jaguars as the worst team in my power ratings coming into the season at about 7.5 points below average.
[Stuckey’s NFL Power Ratings help power our new PRO Projections]
That said, the Jets are still an NFL team with pride (I think). This is still a roster with players playing for their futures in the league, contract incentives and job security. But mainly, I believe the market has just oversold New York too much, in my humble opinion.
If you need some confidence in backing this horror show, just take a look at the Week 7 results of the only other three teams to start out 0-6 against the spread over the past decade:
- 2011: Rams +13.5 at Saints (won outright by 10)
- 2011: Dolphins +9.5 at Giants (lost by 3)
- 2013: Texans: +7 at Chiefs (lost by 1)
Yes, the 0-6 straight-up and against the spread 2011 Rams, who finished 2-14, won on the road against the 5-2 Saints. The St. Louis quarterback that day? A.J. Feeley. The Rams led 17-0 at the half and held Drew Brees and Co. to just eight total first downs.
That same week, the 0-6 straight-up and against the spread Dolphins, led by Matt Moore at quarterback, covered easily on the road against the eventual Super Bowl champion Giants. Fresh off a bye with a 4-2 record, New York needed 10 unanswered fourth-quarter points to squeak out a 20-17 win.
Lastly, in 2013, the 2-4 straight-up and 0-6 against the spread Texans, who also finished 2-14, came up one point short in Arrowhead against the 6-0 Chiefs. With Case Keenum under center, Houston had to settle for a field goal after having first and goal at the 1-yard-line in the third quarter. That ended up being the difference in a 17-16 Kansas City victory.
Those three 0-6 against the spread teams with two combined wins on the season all covered with ease on the road against eventual playoff teams. And with Case Keenum, A.J. Feeley and Matt Moore starting at QB.
Yes, it’s a statistically insignificant sample size of three. But my point here is this is the NFL. Those things happen.
Plus, it looks as if Sam Darnold (questionable) may return under center. I’m not a huge Darnold guy, but he’s an upgrade over Joe Flacco if for no other reason than he has much more mobility than the statuesque Flacco.
I expect Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams to blitz a ton, as usual. That could work in his favor by forcing Bills quarterback Josh Allen into quick throws underneath, where he lacks accuracy. It also could backfire with a few big deep shots (that Allen certainly isn’t shy about taking) to Stefon Diggs and/or John Brown, although Brown has been ruled out due to a knee injury. Meanwhile, tight end Dawson Knox was one of four Bills players placed on the COVID-19 list, and he will also miss the game.
It’s worth mentioning that Jets kicker Sam Ficken was limited in practice this week with an injury and is listed as doubtful. Kicker Sergio Castillo will likely be promoted from the practice squad.
I mainly just see enough line value in the Jets for the first time all season. I make this spread right around Bills -10 after adjusting them down a tad for the impact of back-to-back short weeks. For you trend players, double-digit home underdogs in the NFL have gone 53-41 against the spread (56.4%) since 2003, per our Bet Labs data.
It’s a fairly favorable situational spot for the Jets, who have an extra day of preparation. I’m also not sure how much Buffalo will show on offense with a gauntlet of a schedule coming up, starting with a showdown against the Patriots next weekend. That game could go a long way in determining the top of the AFC East.
You could argue this is a get-right game for Buffalo, as it will want to take its frustrations out on an inferior opponent after two consecutive losses. However, I could just as easily argue the Bills could come out flat against an 0-6 team on the road in an empty stadium after playing two emotional games against AFC contenders, and with games against the Patriots and Seahawks on deck. There’s a good chance they go vanilla and just try to get out of dodge healthy with a 7-10 point win.
Ultimately, it comes down to my number.
I bet the Jets at +13 earlier in the week, but that’s down to +10.5 as of writing — it’s why it’s so important to lock-in value early. Still, I see value at anything +11 or better if the line moves again before kickoff (shop for real-time lines here).
This should be the bottom for this falling knife — a decent indicator we’ve reached the bottom on a team is when 0-16 prop tweets start showing up more frequently.:
Hopefully, I’m not covered in blood by the second quarter. If so, I can kill two birds with one stone at the hospital. I can get my hand stitched up while also having my head examined for losing actual dollars on this raging dumpster fire.
Although by having locked in the +13, I could also avoid an ER visit with a knife wound if the Jets sneak in the backdoor with a late touchdown down by say 17 late. The Jets offense has pretty much done nothing all year except for in the final drives of games in garbage time. That was actually the exact scenario in their Week 1 matchup — the Jets scored a touchdown in the final minute to lose by a much more respectable 27-17 final.
Pray for me.
PICK: Jets +13 (down to +11)