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On the line from Vegas: Bills in strange role as repeat favorites

By Tim Graham

The Buffalo Bills didn't project to be betting favorites much this year, if at all.

Now they're on a little streak.

The Bills were favorites for the first time two weeks ago, albeit by one point against the New York Jets, and come out of their bye favored again Sunday versus the Atlanta Falcons in Toronto.

The Bills have been favored in consecutive games only three times since the 2009 season began. The last time they were favored three straight games was in 2008, when they gave points to four opponents in a row.

Depending on what happens this weekend, there's a possibility the Bills could be favored again next week at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the week after that at the Jacksonville Jaguars.

How about that?

The betting public doesn't quite believe it either. The Bills opened as 3.5-point favorites over the Falcons. That quickly was bet down to a field goal as Falcons money came in.

"This is getting into scary territory, where you get some hope and you're afraid to think about the Bills playing good," Las Vegas handicapper Joel Staniszewski said. The Buffalo State grad is a diehard Bills fan.

"You know the Falcons are a good team, and the 2-9 record doesn't match their talent level. But this is the prime game for the Bills to show if they're really turning the corner or not."

Some trends to consider:

  • Atlanta is 1-4 against the spread and 0-5 straight up over its past five games.
  • Atlanta is winless on the road.
  • Buffalo is 6-1 against the spread over its past seven home games.
  • Buffalo is 4-0 against the spread over its past four home games versus a team with a losing record.
  • Buffalo is 1-3-1 against the spread in its five Toronto games.

Oddsmakers consider the Rogers Centre a home venue for the Bills and not a neutral site despite the dispassionate atmosphere we've seen since the series began.

"It won't be a great home atmosphere, but you expect the Bills to do well here," Staniszewski said. "It's still a longer trip for Atlanta, and for Buffalo it's not that far."

But this will be a new stadium for Bills rookie quarterback EJ Manuel, who hasn't won away from Ralph Wilson Stadium in three starts. And the Bills proved against the Jets they can play well in cold and windy weather, while the Falcons are a dome team.

"You're giving up that advantage you want at The Ralph," Staniszewski said. "When you go into a dome, you lose something."

Buffalo has been favored in Toronto once before, the obliteration of Washington in 2011. That's also the only time Buffalo has covered in Toronto.

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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 | tgraham@buffnews.com


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 | mgaughan@buffnews.com


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 | jskurski@buffnews.com

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