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On the line from Vegas: Bills won't be favored often in 2013

By Tim Graham

From our barstools at the Swannie House downtown, New York Post NBA reporter and St. Bonaventure alum Tim Bontemps and I squinted at the Buffalo Bills' schedule on the storage-room door and wondered how many games they'll be favored to win this year.

One? Two? None?

Those guesses might sound low, but take a look at that schedule and consider the Bills are three-point underdogs at home Sunday against the 0-1 Carolina Panthers.

An entertaining debate carried a good portion of the evening, with opinionated bartender Joe Allman adding his thoughts.

"Hang on," I says. "I know who'll have the answer."

I texted Press Coverage pal Joel Staniszewski with the question. Staniszewski, the Sloan native and diehard Bills fan, is a handicapper and former Las Vegas oddsmaker.

Three was his highly educated answer.

A few days later, I called Staniszewski up and demanded explanation for this week's edition of "On the Line from Vegas" (click the link for the series archive).

Staniszewski is predicting the Bills to be favored Week Nine at home against the Kansas City Chiefs, Week 11 at home against the New York Jets and Week 15 at the Jacksonville Jaguars.

"The only ones I could conceivably see changing and us becoming favorites at this point and time," Staniszewski said, "would be at the Cleveland Browns in Week Five, home against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week Six, which I doubt, and home against the Miami Dolphins in Week 16.

"Even if the Bills start having a really good season and win a couple games in a row, them being favored in three games maybe becomes five at the most."

So then why is Buffalo's over-under total 6.5 wins if they would be favored to win only three individual games? We explored this before the 2012 season began, but some readers might've missed that blog entry.

"Each time you factor in a point spread, there's a percentage that you figure out with the possibility a team -- even if it's a dog -- can win that game," Staniszewski said. "A small dog at home has a rather high percentage to win and will pick up some of those wins."

As for Sunday's game, Staniszewski is a bit surprised the Panthers are favored by a field goal.

"It's hard to handicap this game because you're dealing with two teams that haven't played each other a whole lot," Staniszewski said. "So you just look at the trends the teams have and you try to read into it as best you can.

"But this is a completely new Bills team. It's hard to read into it too much because you don't know how this coaching staff is going to react to a loss to the New England Patriots."

Nonetheless, here are some non-matchup trends to consider:

  • Panthers are 6-1 against the spread in their past seven road games.
  • Panthers are 5-1 against the spread in their past six games versus a team with a losing record.
  • Bills are 4-1 against the spread in their past five games after allowing more than 250 passing yards.
  • Bills are 2-10-1 against the spread in their past 13 games following an against-the-spread victory.

"When the Bills play poorly, they usually come back with something," Staniszewski said. "But when they play well they don't come back with too much at all."

Bills against the spread this year: 1-0.


On the line from Vegas
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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |