Two teams that just broke long playoff droughts will meet in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs when the Buffalo Bills visit the Jacksonville Jaguars. Game time is set for 1:05 EST on Sunday, January 7 at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Florida. The game will be broadcast on CBS. Oddsmakers view the Jaguars as 9-point favorites with an over/under of 39.5 points.
Bills vs Jags Vegas Betting Line & Game Preview
The Jags backed into the playoffs after losing their last two regular season games. Nevertheless, Jacksonville won the AFC South with a 10-6 record and is in the playoffs for the first time since 2007. The Jags got it done the old-fashioned in 2017, winning games behind the league’s top rushing attack and second best defense.
The Bills, meanwhile, won four of their last six games, losing only to the Patriots during that span, to reach the playoffs for the first time in 17 years. They also got a little help from the Bengals, who knocked off the Ravens in Week 17 to open up the final wild-card spot. Buffalo will now be hoping to make the best of their opportunity after an extended absence from the postseason.
Of course, an interesting subplot to this game is the fact that Jacksonville head coach Doug Marrone used to coach the Bills. Marrone left Buffalo abruptly after leading the Bills to a 9-7 season in 2014. Bills fans have not forgotten how Marrone left and are hoping their team can provide some redemption in the form of a playoff win against their former coach.
Free NFL Betting Prediction: Jaguars -9
I don’t like swallowing this many points in a playoff game, but I believe the Jags are a superior team. Admittedly, Jacksonville has not played well the past couple of weeks. However, if the Jaguars play anywhere close to their best, they’re better than the Bills on both sides of the ball. I’ll take my chances with Jacksonville getting back on track and winning by double digits.
I don’t want to overreact to Jacksonville’s struggles the past couple of weeks, especially with both games coming on the road. Blake Bortles threw five interceptions in those two games after throwing just eight in the previous 14, so I see that more as an aberration than a trend.
It’s also important to keep in mind that Jacksonville’s defense wasn’t the problem last week. The Jags have also won five straight home games, so being back in Jacksonville should also help. If Bortles and the Jags can simply get back to avoiding turnovers, they should be in good shape.
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Of course, it’s vital that the Jags get back to running the ball effectively. Leonard Fournette has been contained the past couple of weeks, which is a bad sign. However, the Buffalo defense is toward the bottom of the league in run defense, so I expect Fournette to get going and have a good game on Sunday.
Meanwhile, I have some concerns about Buffalo’s offense, largely because of the health of LeSean McCoy, who is a game-time decision after suffering an ankle injury last week. McCoy is Buffalo’s most important offensive player. If he can’t play or is limited, the Bills will have a hard time moving the ball against the Jacksonville defense.
Remember, the Jags were second in the NFL this season in points allowed, sacks, and interceptions. The Bills don’t have a suitable backup for McCoy, and if they can’t run the ball, Tyrod Taylor is likely to struggle. Buffalo’s offense is centered around McCoy, and without him, it’ll be an uphill battle against one of the league’s top defenses.
All things considered, the Bills will need a lot of good fortune to win this game. I don’t see McCoy being anywhere close to 100% healthy, even if he does play. That means a defensive slugfest is Buffalo’s only path to victory, and I just don’t see the Jags losing that way at home. The Bills will put up a fight, but I think the Jaguars will run the ball effectively and continue to play strong defense. That translates to a comfortable win that covers the 9-point spread.