Home team in CAPS:
Patriots (+4.5, UNDER 43.5) over BILLS
We can’t do anything about it, other than study heaven and earth to properly evaluate it, but the projected weather readings in Orchard Park cannot be ignored. Especially given the projected high of 11 degrees, with lows reaching 5 degrees — if not worse. Playing at night doesn’t help.
Both of these two AFC East rivals have spoiled one another’s nests already this season. In the earlier game played at Highmark Stadium, similar frigid conditions prevailed — but the Patriots engineered a full-fledged ball-control game in the wind, passed but three times, and escaped, triumphant.
Slick young Bills QB Josh Allen engineered quick revenge, just three weeks later, on 2021’s final Sunday. The memory remains fresh in Foxborough, and it will take all of Bill Belichick’s renowned coaching sorcery to extend New England’s season into late January.
Belichick doesn’t monopolize all the high cards anymore, he can no longer force his gridiron will on most. As promising as QB Mac Jones is for New England in terms of the squad’s signal-calling future — and Jones has picked up plenty — the Patriots’ best hope is that Jones has absorbed enough sheer pigskin savvy to join forces with Maven Bill B and, as long as young QB Jones remains precocious, manage to take this desperation battle royal to the wire. Most reluctant to fade Belichick here.
BENGALS (-5.5, OVER 49) over Raiders
We can hardly wait for this fascinating display of diversified talent, especially on the offensive side.
The Cincinnati faithful figure to be amply rewarded for their patience in waiting for the likes of the 2020 NFL Draft’s top choice, Joe Burrow. The LSU product is no doubt delighted to be able to reconnect with top-drawer star receiver Ja’Marr Chase. Anyone who has had any sustained exposure to the talents of these two can’t help but be anxious to see more.
Las Vegas has endured a turbulent year, especially after the midseason departure head coach Jon Gruden. The field to replace him is open, and includes Rich Bassicia, the decades-long assistant coach and current Raiders interim coach.
The favorite for the job — still on the course, from all reports — is current Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, but we’re not interested in launching half-baked guesses. All shall be revealed, sooner or later.
The Raiders are working off a cramped work week, having just narrowly escaped NFL Week 18 with an overtime victory over the Chargers, who did everything but win and advance last Sunday night, before Raiders QB David Carr carried the day and brought us to this point.
We won’t deny that we believe Burrow may turn out even better than many of his most ardent admirers expect.