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NFL Expert, Ben Gretch is here with his prediction and pick for Thanksgiving night's game between the New Orleans Saints vs. Buffalo Bills.
ANALYSIS

New Orleans Saints vs. Buffalo Bills Prediction: Will Buffalo Gobble Up the Scoreboard on Thanksgiving?

New Orleans Saints vs. Buffalo Bills Start Time, Where to Watch, and Odds

Date: Thursday, November 25, 2021

Game Time: 8:20 pm ET

Where to Watch: NBC

  • Key Stat: New Orleans ranks first in success rate against the run, per Sharp Football Stats. Buffalo ranks third in Pass Rate Over Expected, per Michael Leone at Establish the Run.

Click Here for Saints vs. Bills Odds

New Orleans Saints vs. Buffalo Bills Preview

The Bills head to New Orleans, having struggled lately on offense and in a matchup of two teams whose defenses are playing at a high level. But this game is very interesting from an over/under perspective, as we don’t frequently see Bills’ games listed in the mid-forties. If this game settles in at 45.5, it will tie for the lowest over/under in a Buffalo game all season.

Some of that is due to the Bills’ high-scoring nature, which we haven’t seen on display as regularly lately. But another element of that is how fast Buffalo plays. For the season, the Bills ran seventh in situation-neutral seconds per snap, per Football-Outsiders. And they play fast in all game situations — they rank in the top 10 in seconds per snap when the score is plus-or-minus six points, when leading by seven or more, and when trailing by seven or more.

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Still another element of Buffalo consistently seeing high totals — and consistently playing high-scoring games — is their willingness to throw at a high rate. Even as teams have sat back in two-deep shells and prevented them from consistently getting the ball down the field, the Bills have not acquiesced and tried to run the ball. Instead, their solution has been to try to throw their way out of it. Pass Rate Over Expected measures how frequently teams call pass plays relative to factors like down and distance, score, and time remaining. The Bills have been at least 6.5 percentage points over expectation in every game since Week 4, despite their struggles.

That fits a matchup with the Saints well, as New Orleans ranks first in the NFL per Sharp Football Stats in success rate against the run. There’s been little reason this season for opponents of New Orleans to try to run the ball, and Buffalo is the team perhaps least likely of any in the NFL to try to do that anyway. Expect the Bills to throw early and often, stopping the clock with incompletions and prolonging the game in a way that creates additional drives for both offenses, and with it additional scoring opportunities.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean they are a lock to score efficiently. One positive note is the Saints play a high rate of man coverage, and Buffalo has man beaters, plus Josh Allen’s rushing ability adds a different element against man, where there is typically more quarterback running room. That might lead to the Saints shifting things for this matchup, but the Saints have been very good against the pass, and playing outside their normal style might cause a few openings. If they don’t adjust, it’s a solid matchup for what Buffalo’s offense is designed to do.

The flip side of the game brings into question whether the Saints can keep pace against a good Bills’ defense. Buffalo did just get torched by Jonathan Taylor and the Colts, and many analysts have noted their impressive defensive metrics have come against less-than-elite competition. Still, the Saints will be without Alvin Kamara and possibly Mark Ingram, which would take away a decent amount of their playmaking on offense. That would likely leave Tony Jones as a big part of the running game. Also, an issue is tight end Adam Trautman missing this game with an MCL sprain — Trautman has come on lately as one of their top receiving options.

We don’t yet know if the Saints will stick with Trevor Siemian or potentially use Taysom Hill more at quarterback after Siemian has struggled in recent weeks. But even in three losses, Siemian has shown some ability to produce points in comeback mode — the Saints have scored at least 20 points in each of his three starts. Should Hill get the starting nod or play extensively, he at least brings a playmaking element as a runner that gives the Saints a different dimension offensively.

I like the Bills to get back on track offensively and to cover here. I also like this game to play fast and be high-scoring. Even as the Bills have struggled offensively of late, they are 4-2 to the over in their past six games, which I attribute to their fast playing style that ensures plenty of plays will be run and increases the potential for one of the two teams to score points. So I’m also on the over.

New Orleans Saints vs. Buffalo Bills Picks

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Ben knows his football. A fantasy football expert who was most recently seen at CBS Sports, he'll be helping bettors find value ahead in the NFL with OddsChecker.

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