The Buffalo Bills must try to win for Damar Hamlin and the AFC playoff positioning

Published on: January 7, 2023, 01:35 am.

Last updated: January 7, 2023, 01:35.

The Buffalo Bills no longer control their own destiny. There are more than half a dozen playoff scenarios now in play, including neutral options for several potential playoff games. But the next order of business is ending the regular season against Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots.

And if the Bills are inspired rather than discouraged by the events surrounding Damar Hamlin’s near-death experience, they should count on them to win one for their remarkably recovering teammate.

Damar Hamlin is now talking to his doctors and his family and his teammates and whoever watched Monday night football he should be amazed that he and the Bills are in their current situation. Because — let’s all be honest with each other — it looked like Hamlin wasn’t going to make it until Tuesday after collapsing against Cincinnati earlier this week.

The fact that he’s alive is a testament to the fact that the Bengals and Bills have medics on the sidelines who knew exactly what to do when they saw Hamlin had no pulse and then did it. Immediate. Eight minutes of CPR and the rapid insertion of a breathing tube saved the young man’s life. Had that not happened, we could be looking at a January without football.

Where are the bills in the seeding?

The short answer to this question comes through an acronym: TBD (To Be Determined).

A lot will depend on what happens this weekend, and the need for a neutral site game might actually become moot. NFL owners voted Friday on a number of contingencies, including:

• If Buffalo (12-3) and Kansas City (13-3) win or tie, a Bills-Chiefs AFC Championship game would take place at a neutral site.
• If Buffalo and Kansas City lose and Baltimore wins or ties, a Bills-Chiefs AFC Championship game would take place at a neutral site.
• If Buffalo and Kansas City both lose and Cincinnati (11-4) wins, a Bills or Bengals vs. Chiefs AFC Championship game would take place at a neutral site.

If Buffalo and Kansas City both win this weekend, the Chiefs will receive a bye from the divisional round. If Buffalo wins and Kansas City loses, the Bills will be the No. 1 seed and receive a bye, in which case no neutral site would come into play.

The Chiefs play the Las Vegas Raiders today, so the Bills will have more clarity until Sunday, their 1 p.m. home game against New England. The Bills, who are favored at 7 1/2, defeated New England 24-10 on the road on Dec. 1 in a game that was never very competitive.

Including last season’s playoffs, the Bills have won their last three meetings with New England. The Patriots can clinch a playoff spot with a win. If they lose, they hold the tie over Miami and Pittsburgh. But that would become moot if the Steelers beat the Browns or the Dolphins beat the Jets.

Some measure of clarity in the AFC will arrive Sunday night, while the NFC will be in limbo until the Green Bay Packers’ winner-takes-all game against Detroit ends late Sunday night.

Will Hamlin’s situation affect the Bills?

The fact that Hamlin played with his teammates is a huge boost to the Bills’ collective psyche. Every NFL player knows there are risks involved in their chosen profession. But not many considered the life-and-death risk until Monday night. It was an unprecedented event, perhaps even worse than Darryl Stingley’s tragedy in 1978, when he was paralyzed after a hit by Raiders defensive back Jack Tatum. Stingley eventually died of heart disease and pneumonia complicated by quadriplegia.

Hamlin’s recovery scenarios remain unknown, and every football fan out there can agree that it would be an inspiration to everyone if he can be released from the hospital in time to join his teammates on the sideline for the first playoff game of to Bills. Again, this is TBD.

It goes without saying that the Bills might come out a little flat on Sunday. But footballers are resilient. By the time the second half arrives, Buffalo’s players should be able to focus on the task at hand. They are the second pick at +380 behind the +350 Chiefs to become Super Bowl champions, while Belichick’s team is +15000 to win it all. Doubt this guy at your own peril. He was at that game nine times.

What are the betting trends?

In terms of money line bets, DraftKings Sportsbook has a 60% hand on Buffalo. On money line bets, that percentage rises to 79. About 67% of over/under bets are over, 43 1/2. The Bills are 7-7-1 against the spread; The Patriots are 7-8-1. Buffalo has gone over just five of 15 games, while New England has gone over seven times and under nine times. The Bills have gone on a two game streak. New England has dropped six of nine.

In terms of player props, what stands out for New England is that safety Kyle Dugger is the only player in the NFL with two pick-6s (interceptions returned for touchdowns). But he’s not on the board at any of New York’s nine licensed sportsbooks to be an all-time TD scorer. Pats running back Rhamondre Stevenson leads the team with 6 TDs, but is only +120 to be an all-time TD scorer.

Despite the lack of creativity on the part of the people drawing the lines on these cards, we are not discouraged.

Stefon Diggs hasn’t had a TD reception since Dec. 1 and is overdue. Because he had a three-touchdown game in Week 2 against Tennessee, we know he’s capable. Letting Diggs score at least two TDs, along with the very high percentage bets: Bengals ML, Steelers-Browns under, Vikings -6, Bucs +4, Cowboys-Commanders over and Rams-Seahawks over, creates a + Line 15397 at BetMGM. So a $10 bet would pay $1,550. Just an idea, and Diggs scoring two TDs can be a touchdown. But it’s not the worst $10 flyer in the history of $10 flyers.

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