Buffalo Bills @ San Francisco 49ers: Allen tips the balance of desert battle

San Francisco 49ers
Buffalo's offence will look to score the first touchdown for the 10th time this season.

The Buffalo Bills and San Francisco 49ers travel to Arizona for a Monday night game that is crucial in the playoff race. Ben Steele previews the action...

"Sean McDermott's Bills side have opened the scoring in eight games (seven touchdowns, one field goal) and have been the first team in the endzone nine times in 2020."

Buffalo Bills @ San Francisco 49ers
Tuesday, 01:15 GMT
Live on Sky Sports Main Event and Channel 5

Allen poses multi-talented threat for San Francisco

The Buffalo Bills are in the unusual position of leading the AFC East. They have one of the most entertaining offences of the season and a big part of that is the versatility of quarterback Josh Allen, who has become a top level dual threat quarterback.

After 11 games, the 24-year-old has already thrown a career high 22 touchdowns and he's even found time to score seven touchdowns himself. Three weeks ago, during Buffalo's last trip to Arizona a trick play against the Cardinals saw Allen catch the second receiving touchdown of his career but it is in the running game where Buffalo's quarterback poses the real consistent threat.

Allen has rushed for a touchdown 23 times in his career. In 2020, he's effectively playing the role of Buffalo's short yardage running back and proving to be a much more effective force than running backs Devin Singletary and Zack Moss when the Bills get down into the redzone. In fact, Allen is one of the best players in the entire NFL when it comes to the redzone. He occasionally struggles with turnovers in other areas of the field but, when Buffalo get inside the 20 yard line, he is almost perfect, turning the ball over just once in the last three years.

Cam Newton, who has a similar profile to Allen in the run game, struggled against San Francisco earlier in the season. But Newton is almost a non-entity in the passing game so the 49ers were able to focus on stopping the run. The Niners simply do not have that luxury this week and I'm backing Allen to score a touchdown for the fifth game in a row in a Buffalo win.

Bills will struggle to cope with Samuel

The 49ers lost in the Super Bowl at the end of last season but 2020 has seen them struggle with a number of injury setbacks at key positions, including quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, which has seen Nick Mullens start under center in recent weeks. Mullens has struggled but last week picked up his first win thanks in part to the return of star receiver Deebo Samuel after a month out with injury.

Samuel didn't score a touchdown but he became the first wide receiver this year to tally over 100 receiving yards against an exceptional LA Rams secondary, exploiting screen plays and his physical running style with increasing regularity. Mullens found Samuel 11 times last week and only threw the ball further than five yards with one of those passes, as head coach Kyle Shanahan drew up a near perfect gameplan.

MullensMostert.jpg

The second year receiver is an outstanding runner with the ball and I would expect Mullens and Shanahan to lean on him in key situations throughout the game. The return of running back Raheem Mostert will draw some of the defensive focus away from Samuel which can only benefit San Francisco's best wide receiver. I'm backing him to build on a strong performance last week and find the endzone while racking up Over 50.5 receiving yards against a Bills defence who have struggled with physical receivers already this season.

Fast starting Bills offer value for Davis and Diggs

The perfect situation for San Francisco tonight would be to get out to an early lead and rely on Mostert running and short passes to Samuel to keep Allen and the Bills offence off the field. Unfortunately for Shanahan and co, the Bills are one of the fastest starting teams around. Sean McDermott's Bills side have opened the scoring in eight games (seven touchdowns, one field goal) and have been the first team in the endzone nine times in 2020.

With Allen as talented as he is, the Buffalo wide receiver group will fancy their chances of adding to that run of early offensive form. Star offseason acquisition Stefon Diggs and rookie Gabriel Davis lead Buffalo in touchdown catches, with four each. Against a 49ers defence who have shown a tendency to give up big plays to receivers they will be on high alert early on.

Both men are a good price to score the first touchdown, Diggs is 9/1, but it is the big bodied rookie, Davis at 14/1 that catches the eye. Diggs will draw coverage from Richard Sherman, a physical cornerback who could challenge the 27-year-old Bills wideout. This frees up Davis to open the scoring in his first taste of Monday Night Football.

Ben Steele NFL P&L

Staked: 46 points
Returned: 49.5 points
P/L: +3.5 points

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