No. 7 INDIANAPOLIS COLTS at No. 2 BUFFALO BILLS FREE PICK
The Buffalo Bills (13-3) earned the No. 2 seed in the AFC with a big Week 17 win over division rival Miami. The Bills will host Indianapolis, the No. 7 seed, as a 6.5-point favorite at top sportsbooks. The Bills have been streaking since a midseason funk.
Indianapolis (11-5) won four of its last five regular season games but lost out on the tiebreaker with Tennessee for the AFC South Division crown. This is the second playoff trip in three seasons for the Colts under head coach Frank Reich.
What Reich would like nothing more is to continue the Colts streak of fast starts. Indianapolis ranked second in the league with an average of 10.3 points in the first quarter. In last week’s win over Jacksonville, Indy jumped out to a 10-0 first quarter lead. They also led 20-0 late in the first half.
Surprisingly, the Colts have scored at least 20 points in the first half of four of their last five games. Indy led at the half in all five games. The problem for Reich and the Colts is how they finish games. After gaining that 20-0 advantage on Jacksonville, Indy allowed the Jags back into the game as they closed the gap to 20-14 before a late Jonathan Taylor touchdown sealed the win.
There was also the 17-point catastrophe at Pittsburgh. The Colts held a 17-point lead but allowed Ben Roethlisberger to throw three second-half touchdown passes in a 28-24 loss. If Indianapolis is to have a chance at pulling the upset on Saturday, they will have to start fast.
Hot Buffalo Wings
The Colts will also have to contend with a Buffalo offense that is simply on fire. The Bills have won six straight games and in the process the Buffalo offense has averaged 38.2 points per game. In those six games, QB Josh Allen has three 300-yard games and twice had games in which he threw for four touchdowns.
Allen threw his way back into the MVP race over the latter half of the season. He finished with 4,544 passing yards and 37 touchdowns. Teammate and wide receiver Stefon Diggs led the NFL in receptions with 127 and in receiving yards with 1,535. Diggs caught eight touchdown passes.
Buffalo averages 31.3 points per game (2nd in the NFL) and the passing game ranks third in the league. Indy’s defense is solid. The Colts finished second against the run (90.3 ypg), but the pass defense is a weak spot. Indy finished a very mediocre 20th in the NFL is pass yards allowed per game.
If you simply bet on Allen, you would make out pretty well. The Bills quarterback is 26-12-2 ATS in his young NFL career. Add that to the Bills 11-5 ATS record this season and taking the Bills to cover makes sense. Remember, Buffalo has covered its last eight in a row and by a margin of 14.8 points per game.
But, this is the playoffs. Plus, the Colts are 8-3 straight up against the Bills in the last 11 meetings. None of those were with Allen at quarterback, but the Colts played the two best teams on their schedule – Pittsburgh and Green Bay – very close. Indy lost to the Steelers by four and they beat Green Bay by three.
The Better Play
If you recall, the Buffalo offense is “en fuego.” Allen is seemingly unstoppable. Diggs is the best receiver in the game and the rest of the offense plays up to their level. The Bills average over 30 points per game. They have averaged far more than that over their last six games. Buffalo has found its groove and it isn’t going to stop anytime soon.
Indianapolis is interesting in that they tend to start games quickly. Remember, the Colts average over 10 points in the first quarter alone and they do average 28.2 points per game. Indy has scored at least 24 points in each of its last eight games.
With that in mind, the better play on Saturday is the Total.