Patriots vs Bills Week 18 Picks and Predictions: New England Chases, Stevenson Profits in Finale

The Patriots have a shot at the playoffs in Week 18, with a win securing their spot. Set to face an emotionally charged crowd in Buffalo, our NFL picks expect the Pats to be chasing the Bills — which sets up nicely for a bright spot in New England.

Last Updated: Jan 8, 2023 8:11 AM ET Read Time: 4 min
Rhamondre Stevenson New England Patriots
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After their Week 17 game in Cincinnati was cut short as safety Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest, the Buffalo Bills return home to close out their regular season schedule in Week 18.

The Bills will not only be buoyed by the unwavering love of their community and the Bills Mafia, which fills Orchard Park every week, but also by the terrific news that Hamlin's neurological function remains intact and he is breathing on his own. 

On the other side of this moving story is a Patriots team in the thick of a crowded playoff field. New England can clinch a postseason spot with a win, otherwise, it'll need help from a trio of teams.

Here are my free NFL picks and predictions for Patriots vs. Bills.

Patriots vs Bills best odds

Patriots vs Bills picks and predictions

Damien Harris returned last week for the Patriots after the running back had been out since Week 12. Harris cut into Rhamondre Stevenson’s snap share and workload, but books may have overadjusted the better pass catcher’s receiving totals heading into a matchup that should see the Patriots chasing points early and often.

New England comes into the meeting as a 7-point road dog and has been outscored 106 to 48 over the last three meetings including that 47-17 beatdown Mac Jones & Co. took last January in Buffalo.

We know that Jones is one of the shorter passers in football, ranking 23rd in adjusted air yards per attempt, and the offense managed just one play of 20-plus yards in the last meeting, in which Jones finished with 5.4 yards per attempt. More short passing is in store for Week 18.

New England running backs have accounted for 27% of the team’s receptions this season, with Stevenson catching 64 of his 83 targets. Stevenson has just eight catches over his last four games but still saw the majority of the passing downs last week with Harris involved. 

In the 10 games that both have played, Stevenson has 51 targets and 46 catches to Harris’ 16 catches on 18 targets.

Bettors might be swayed by last week’s two-catch day from Stevenson but it’s because of that we’re getting a great number this week. At 18.5 yards, his total is six yards shorter than last week and 22 yards shorter than his season-high four games ago vs. the Cardinals. Stevenson saw eight targets in the Week 13 meeting with Harris out.

My best betRhamondre Stevenson Over 18.5 receiving yards (-114)

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Patriots vs Bills spread analysis

The Patriots need to win to make the playoffs Sunday but being a 7-point underdog vs. the Bills at Orchard Park is not likely the setting the Pats want to earn a postseason berth.

Buffalo has owned the Pats over the last three meetings, including a 47-17 win the last time Mac Jones & Co. visited Highmark Stadium last January. 

Looking at form, New England is 2-4 SU in its last six games with its only two wins coming against a Skylar Thompson-led Miami team last week and Colt McCoy and the Cards in Week 14.

On the season, the Patriots’ victories have been anything but impressive, as this is the list of quarterbacks they’ve beaten this season: Mitch Trubisky, early-season Jared Goff, Jacoby Brissett, Zach Wilson, Sam Ehlinger, Wilson again, McCoy, and Thompson. 

This is also a New England offense that ranks 17th in scoring, 26th on third-down conversions, and dead last in red-zone scoring percentage. I understand it’s a divisional game with a lot on the line, but New England can’t score enough to keep this close. Getting this spread at -7 is important after it was -8.5 Sunday night, and then reopened at -7.5 at plenty of books. 

In the last meeting, in Week 13, New England finished 3-for-12 on third downs, ran just 51 plays for 242 yards, and failed to score on its only red-zone trip. 

The list of quarterbacks the Pats have beaten is eye-opening but it’s also the foundation this defense has built its reputation on. Joe Burrow and the Bengals posted just 22 points vs. the Pats on Christmas Eve, but Cincinnati finished with 28 first downs to the Pats’ 15, New England ran 25 fewer plays, and if they hadn't gotten three turnovers, things could have looked uglier for New England. 

The week before that, Jones threw for 112 yards on 13 of 31 passing vs. the 31st-ranked EPA/dropback defense in the Raiders indoors. A game against Buffalo’s No. 4-ranked defense in points allowed, third on third-down conversions, and league-best red-zone defense is going to expose this offense for what it is and leave the Patriots with a lot of questions heading into the offseason. 

The market is down on the Bills mainly due to the lack of preparation for the home team and this is not an easy game to handicap objectively with everything that has happened since Monday night. In saying that, I’m still expecting the Pats’ offense to continue to struggle on key down situations and in the red zone, and I think their record and form are built on wins over poor opposing QBs — which Josh Allen is not.

Patriots vs Bills Over/Under analysis

It’s hard for me to project two-way scoring when the Patriots are the worst team in the red zone while the Bills have the best defense inside the 20. Jones isn’t a quarterback that pushes the ball down the field and he’s been one of the worst passers when facing pressure, with a 34.6% completion rate while ranking 61st in EPA, per Player Profiler. 

Looking at the Bills’ offense, Allen was dealing with an ankle and elbow injury before coming off the injury report Thursday. The lack of prep is slightly concerning from a full-health standpoint as the Buffalo players have had more important things on their minds than conditioning and preparation. 

I also haven’t forgotten about Allen’s turnover issues, as he leads the league in giveaways since Week 6 and has seen his completion percentage fall to 60%, which ranks 30th, since beating the Chiefs. His legs have been a huge reason for the team’s third-down success and if Allen isn’t 100% on that ankle, we could see an extra punt or two from the Bills Sunday.

Both defenses rank in the Top 5 in takeaways per game and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Jones or Allen cost a long drive with a poor decision in the red zone — aiding the Under.

I can’t see the Buffalo offense hanging another 40 points at home vs. the Pats. The emergence of James Cook, who had a season-high 14 carries vs. the Pats in the last meeting, could mean a higher run percentage from the home side, whose rushing percentage is up over five percent over the last three games compared to its season average.

It’s a lean on the Under at 43.5 and likely the reason it hasn’t hit the key number of 44 as there will likely be a quick hit on the Under.

Patriots vs Bills betting trend to know

The Patriots are 0-4 ATS in their last four games vs. a team with a winning record. Find more NFL betting trends for Patriots vs. Bills.

Patriots vs Bills game info

Location: Highmark Stadium, Buffalo, NY
Date: Sunday, January 8, 2023
Kickoff: 1:00 p.m. ET
Opening odds: Bills -7.5, O/U 42.5

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