Buffalo Bills @ New England Patriots: Allen and Diggs highlight AFC East changing of the guard

Josh Allen and his receivers have been incredible all season

The last Monday night game of the year sees the New England Patriots face the newly crowned AFC East champions, Buffalo Bills. Ben Steele previews the action...

"Allen, who is just 359 yards short of breaking Buffalo's single season passing record, has struck up a prolific partnership with wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley, who have combined for 180 catches, 2,264 yards and nine touchdowns."

Buffalo Bills @ New England Patriots
Tuesday, 01:15 GMT
Live on Sky Sports Main Event and Channel 5

Passing game drives home Bills 2020 dominance

For the first time since 2008, the AFC East has a new champion with the Buffalo Bills ending the New England Patriots dominance in emphatic style. Powered by their multi-talented quarterback Josh Allen the Bills wrapped up the division last week with a 48-19 victory over the Denver Broncos. Allen, who is just 359 yards short of breaking Buffalo's single season passing record, has struck up a prolific partnership with wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley, who have combined for 180 catches, 2,264 yards and nine touchdowns.

Former Minnesota Viking, Stefon Diggs, has done the majority of the lifting in that partnership, with 111 catches and a league leading 1,314 receiving yards as he has proved to be one of the best offseason acquisitions this season. Allen has relied on both Diggs and Beasley with regularity this season completing over 50% of his passes to the pair. Facing a Patriots defence who have been relatively effective against the pass I would expect that reliance to increase on Monday night as the Bills looks to complete a clean sweep of the division for the first time ever.

Patriots cornerback J.C Jackson has intercepted opposing quarterbacks, including Allen, eight times already this season and his teammate Stephon Gilmore was voted to the Pro Bowl earlier this week but I still think Allen will have some joy against a Pats side with nothing but pride to play for, look for Diggs to have Over 83.5 receiving yards and Beasley Over 50.5 himself as Buffalo assert their dominance.

Quarterback confusion hampers New England

The 2020 season has been somewhat of a lost year for coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots. They lost Tom Brady to free agency, a number of defensive starters opted out of the whole season due to COVID-19 concerns and Brady's replacement Cam Newton has had the worst passing season of his NFL career. A loss tonight would secure New England's first losing season since 2000 and is likely to signal the start of the search for Newton's replacement.

Cam Newton.jpg

There were rumours this week that Jarrett Stidham would be taking over the role of starter but those seem to have quietened as the week has progressed. However, the fact that option was even being discussed shows the short leash that Newton is on, and Stidham may well see game time if New England go behind early. While he is still a running threat Newton hasn't really covered himself in glory throwing the ball in recent weeks, in his last four outings he is averaging 120 yards per game and has thrown just the one touchdown.

With Stidham waiting in the wings for his audition for the starting job and the Bills defence having already shown that they can keep Newton in check I'll be backing the Patriots starter to have Under 168.5 passing yards in the game.

Goal line Buffalo can punch it in

In Week 8, Buffalo beat New England 24-21 in a game that came that was dominated by the running game. While I expect Buffalo to have more success with the pass tonight than they did in the reverse fixture, the Bills run game is still well worth keeping an eye on. Zach Moss and Devin Singletary are both solid, but unspectacular, running backs who act as the perfect foil to the explosive Buffalo passing game.

Between them Moss and Singletary have 287 times this season and have fumbled the ball just once in that time, Singletary in a Week 12 victory over the LA Chargers. The dependable nature of the backfield allows Allen to take a few more risks when he throws, or decides to run himself; and that is where the Bills rushing attack comes in to its own. Quarterback Allen accounts for eight of Buffalo's 13 rushing touchdowns this season as he has developed in to the go to running option when the team get in to short yardage situations.

The Patriots have allowed five rushing touchdowns to quarterbacks this season, including three in the last two weeks to Dolphins rookie Tua Tagovailoa and the relative immobile Jared Goff from near the goal line, which suggests a weakness that Allen and head coach Sean McDermott will look to exploit. In the final Monday Night game of the season I'm backing Josh Allen to find the endzone for the ninth time this season in a comfortable Buffalo victory at 21/10.

Ben Steele NFL P/L:

Staked: 53 points
Returned: 57.9 points
P/L: +4.9 points

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