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Buffalo Bills vs. Jacksonville Jaguars Point Spread - Pick

Buffalo Bills (9-7 SU, 9-6-1 ATS) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (10-6 SU, 9-7 ATS)
AFC Wild Card Playoff
Date/Time: Sunday, January 7, 2018 at 1:05PM EST
Where: EverBank Field, Jacksonville, Florida
TV: CBS

By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

Point Spread: BUF +7.5/JAC -7.5
Over/Under Total: 40

The Buffalo Bills come to EverBank Field to take on the Jacksonville Jaguars in AFC Wild Card action from the Sunshine State on Sunday. It has been a while since either of these teams was in the playoffs, with Jacksonville breaking a run of ten years without a postseason appearance, while Buffalo is in for the first time since the 1999 season. The Jaguars are AFC South champions and it took a lot for them to get to this spot after going 17-63 in the five seasons leading up to this. Two losses to end the season didn't have them playing their best football late, but they still bring a lot to the table, including a stout and playmaking defense. Buffalo is an unlikely participant, as they needed help on Sunday to get here. Regardless, they showed remarkable resilience in keeping it together this season, despite going through things that would have taken most teams out of it. This should be a good wild card game from Jacksonville this week.

The Jaguars are a in a bit of a funk. Their defense is still what it is—a group that can be really rigid, while making the kinds of plays that can change games suddenly. In winning 7 of 8 games before dropping their last two, they were showing an improved offense, especially through the air. That hasn't been seen the last few weeks as much. And even if they had nothing to gain last week in the loss to the Titans, they probably would have liked to have entered the postseason on more of a high-note. Still, when a team that struggles so hard for so long wins their division, you don't want to be too picky. At their best or near it, they're a legit contender.

Buffalo deserves a lot of credit for hanging in there this season. A 5-2 start offered a lot of promise, before they went into the tank with three straight losses that were of the wipeout variety. They remained steadfast and won often enough to still be in it in week 17, where a few things went their way, including them beating Miami on the road to earn this spot. When they pulled QB Tyrod Taylor and Nathan Perriman was throwing 5 first-half picks against the Chargers in mid-November, it would have been hard to imagine they'd be here. That kind of resilience can't be overlooked.

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Offensively, the numbers paint a grim picture for the Bills. They were 29th this season in total yards, while being second-last in passing yardage. They averaged a modest 18.9 points a game. They're here and that's what counts. But the offense can often disappoint and on the road in the postseason against a good Jags' "D" will be a real test for this group. Tyrod Taylor is nice with his legs and is a bit handcuffed with a limited package of aerial threats. TE Charles Clay led the team in receiving with just 558 yards. Kelvin Benjamin has gotten involved and could give them a postseason aerial threat this week, along with Deonte Thompson, Zay Jones, and whoever else might step up. Between Taylor, LeSean McCoy (questionable), and Mike Tolbert, the run-game is where they do most of their damage. McCoy is still a handful on the right day and he'll need to have a big game this week. A sprained ankle suffered in week 17, however, doesn't really help and we'll see how he looks this week in practice.

One would think the Bills would have a good defense having gotten to the playoffs with a pedestrian offense. But they're pretty average from a bottom-line sense. But that takes into account the bad games they had this season, which were multiple. But when in good form, as they are now, they are pretty good. The pass-rush hasn't been that strong. But they have picked off 18 passes this season and scored three times. Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde are a couple of playmaking safeties who combined for ten picks this season, while corner Tre'Davious White had 4 picks. They have a plus-nine in turnover ratio this season. It's just that their overall levels of stoutness have varied wildly and we'll see what they come up with this Saturday.

The Jacksonville offense is a bit of a mystery. Prior to a few weeks ago, Blake Bortles was connecting better with his receivers with mistakes at a minimum. With all the top guys out, a crop of youngsters like Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook was standing out. Leonard Fournette went over 1000 yards in his rookie season and gave the Jags an explosive element that they lacked for years. But as of late, Bortles and the offense looks flat. Fournette didn't thrive at the end and was banged-up. Bortles threw five picks in the last two games to end the season. Still, they have shown themselves to be more-prolific toward the end of the season aerially and if Fournette saved his best for now, they could very well surpass how they looked at the finish-line.

The one thing that makes Jacksonville a definite X-factor in the conference is their defense. The second-ranked overall "D" in the league ended up with the top-ranked pass-defense in the NFL. With Jalen Ramsey, AJ Bouye, Barry Church, and Tashaun Gipson, they were fantastic this season. This "D" has scored 7 touchdowns this season and secured 33 turnovers, as opposed to 23 for their opponents. The aforementioned members of the secondary have 18 combined picks this season. The middle is exceptional with Myles Jack, Telvin Smith, and Paul Posluszny. The line has been an impactful group that got better against the run over the course of the season. At the ends, Yannick Ngakoue had 12 sacks, while Calais Campbell added 14.5 sacks. In the middle of the line, Malik Jackson and Marcell Dareus were very good. This defense is for real and if they can be toward the high-end of their playmaking range in this postseason, the Jags could do some major damage.

A lot of this depends on how much to heart we want to take the way the Jags finished the season. Losing to a suddenly-thriving Niners team and then to a desperate Titans team when Jacksonville had little to gain isn't so horrible maybe. Those backing the Bills on the basis of that could be off-course. While overlooking the Bills could cost us, there seems to be a palpable gap between them and the handful of real contenders in this AFC playoff. I see Jacksonville bringing their A-game on Sunday and getting enough separation from the Bills to win and cover the spread.

Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the Jacksonville Jaguars minus 7.5 points. Tired of your credit card not working for sportsbook deposit? End that problem today and bet the Buffalo vs. Jacksonville game by signing up at Bovada Sportsbook where your credit card WILL work and where you'll receive a generous 50% sign-up bonus!

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