PRIME TIME PICK: Buffalo Bills get it together against Baker Mayfield and the Bucs

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TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (3-3) at BUFFALO BILLS (4-3)

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LINE: Buffalo by 8.5

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CHEWABLE: The Bills have looked more like a team that’s going to miss the playoffs than a Super Bowl contender the past three weeks. If it wasn’t for a big fourth-quarter rally Oct. 15, they’d be riding a three-game losing streak delivered to them by a good squad (Jaguars) and a couple of bad ones (Giants, Patriots).

The easy excuse is the rash of injuries on defence. While they’re having to live a life without stalwarts likes CB Tre’Davious White, LB Matt Milano and DT DaQuan Jones, also listed as questionable for Thursday’s game are LB Von Miller, DT Jordan Phillips and LB Baylon Spector.

And then there’s the tough QB Josh Allen, who doesn’t look like himself while playing through a shoulder injury. Allen has turned the ball over four times in the past three games, including one pick and one fumble in the surprising 29-25 loss to the New England.

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He also is averaging just 217 passing yards over the past two games and has not rushed for more than 17 yards over the past four. Both are very un-Allen-like.

— Allen is a pitcher who needs more run support, as the Bills are 0-3 when their 14th-ranked rushing game (which is averaging 112.9 yards per game on the season) fails to hit the 100-yard mark.

— After an encouraging start that saw him direct the Bucs to wins over the Vikings and Bears, Baker Mayfield has thrown an interception in each of the past four games — although in the 26-9 victory at New Orleans on Oct. 1, he also tossed three TD passes. He also needs some run support. While the Tampa defence is ranked 10th against the run, allowing an average of 95.8 yards per game, its ground game is a putrid 29th. There must be a good reason the Bucs don’t re-sign Leonard Fournette and move on from Rachaad White because from afar it looks like a simple fix.

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— The Bucs have score a total of 19 points In losing their last two games to Detroit and Atlanta, and part of the reasons has to do with the fact they were only able to rush for 46 and 73 yards, respectively. The 73 total against Atlanta is a little misleading, as 32 of it came on three carries by Mayfield.

— Tampa leads the all-time series with Buffalo 8-4. The most recent meeting was a 33-27 overtime win for the Bucs on Dec. 12, 2021, that saw Allen connect with 36 tosses for 308 yards and Tom Brady throw 31 completions for 363 yards. Chris Godwin and Mike Evans caught 16 passes for 196 yards between them and they will be a factor again against the banged-up Buffalo secondary if Mayfield can get them the ball.

That might be a big if, as the Bills defence is still pressuring quarterbacks at a high rate and the Tampa offensive line, already among the lower echelon of its kind in the NFL, will be missing starting LG Matt Feiler (knee)

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— So, on one hand, it’s difficult to lay that many points with the Bills struggling like they are. On the other hand, how can you trust Tampa?

Buffalo ranks third with an average of 28.3 points per game, while Bucs are tied for 26th with an average of 17.2 points per game. Also, the Bills passing game remains fifth-best in the league, averaging 369.7 yards per game. The Bucs pass defence ranks 27th, giving up 246.7 yards per game.

How can you not take the Bills to light up the board against an opponent that offers up such little resistance? I’m betting on the home side and the over.

TAKING: BUFFALO -8.5

SCORE (O/U 42): Bills 28, Bucs 17

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