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NFL forecast: Bill Belichick, Patriots should handle Bills again

With the passing game gone with the wind at Buffalo, Bill Belichick produced what many considered a coaching masterpiece in New England’s 14-10 victory Dec. 6 on “Monday Night Football.”

The Patriots rushed for 222 yards and a touchdown on 46 carries and finished with only three pass attempts.

Asked about Belichick’s winning strategy after the game, Bills coach Sean McDermott was unimpressed.

“Let’s not give more credit than we need to give credit to Bill Belichick in this one,” he said.

McDermott is 2-7 against Belichick since becoming Buffalo’s coach in 2017, sweeping last season’s series in the first year of the post-Tom Brady era in New England.

Brady went 32-3 against the Bills with the Patriots and ran his career record to 33-3 this season when Tampa Bay beat Buffalo 33-27 in overtime the week after the loss to New England.

The inconsistent Bills, who haven’t won back-to-back games since Oct. 10, are 2-point road underdogs Sunday to the Patriots in a matchup in which the winner most likely will claim the AFC East crown.

Belichick has had an extra day to prepare after New England saw its seven-game win and cover streak end in a 27-17 loss at Indianapolis on Dec. 18.

The division rivals are pretty even on paper. I’ll back Belichick and take the Patriots to throw more than three passes and cover the small spread.

Here are four more plays on teams that will be home for Christmas (home team in CAPS):

PACKERS (-7) over Browns: Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield and wide receiver Jarvis Landry were among several Browns players activated from the COVID-19 list Friday, causing the line to dip from Green Bay -7½ to -7 at multiple Las Vegas sportsbooks. I’ll back the Packers at a reduced price on Christmas Day at Lambeau Field. The Ravens rallied for a cover in last week’s 31-30 loss to Green Bay. But the Packers are still the NFL’s most profitable team at 11-3 ATS and need to keep winning to clinch the NFC’s No. 1 seed. Green Bay has won and covered all six home games this season.

BENGALS (-4½) over Ravens: This line shot up from 3 on Friday when Baltimore backup quarterback Tyler Huntley missed practice with a non-COVID illness and the Ravens listed him and Lamar Jackson as questionable. Huntley still is expected to start if Jackson misses his second straight game with an ankle injury. Cincinnati blew out Baltimore 41-17 on Oct. 24, and the winner of the rematch will have the inside track to the AFC North title.

SEAHAWKS (-6½) over Bears: Chicago placed star defensive tackle Akiem Hicks on the COVID list Thursday, and Seattle activated wideout Tyler Lockett. This is more of a play against the Bears, who average only 17.1 points, are on an 0-5 spread slide and have covered one of their past nine games. The Seahawks have won and covered three of their past four home games.

RAIDERS (Pick) over Broncos: The Raiders beat the Broncos 34-24 at Denver in October for their third straight victory in the series and have won five of the past six meetings. In a virtual playoff elimination game, I’ll take Derek Carr over Drew Lock.

Last week: 2-3

Season: 41-34

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

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