Underdog Colts Face Bills In Key Matchup For AFC Playoff Chances

The Indianapolis Colts can go a long way to being contenders as opposed to pretenders in the AFC race Sunday when they take on the Buffalo Bills in a pivotal Week 11 matchup for both teams.

Indianapolis (5-5) has won back-to-back games and is trying to get over .500 for the first time this season. Its mediocre record, though, has been built at the expense of the dregs of the NFL.

The Colts’ five wins have come against teams with a combined 12-34 (.261) record, with all of those teams currently under .500. Their five losses have come to opponents with a combined 32-16 (.667) record, which includes a season sweep at the hands of the AFC South-leading Tennessee Titans.

There are currently five teams in wild-card contention with a better record than the Colts, who are opening a make-or-break five-game stretch that includes games against reigning Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay, NFC West leader Arizona, and fellow AFC playoff contender New England.

The Colts held off Jacksonville 23-17 last weekend, building a 17-0 lead in the first 12:12 of the game and riding running back Jonathan Taylor the rest of the way. Currently the odds-on favorite to finish with the most rushing yards in the NFL, Taylor topped the 100-yard mark for the fourth time in five games as he finished with 116. He needs 63 yards to reach 1,000 for the second straight season after totaling 1,169 as a rookie in 2020.

Buffalo (6-3) leads the AFC East by percentage points over New England and has split its last four games after a 4-1 start that included a victory at two-time defending conference champion Kansas City. The Bills, though, were firing on all cylinders offensively last weekend and smashed the New York Jets 45-17 on the road, rolling up a season-high 489 yards and scoring 35 or more points for the fifth time this year.

Josh Allen threw for 366 yards and a pair of touchdowns as Stefon Diggs and Gabriel Davis each cleared 100 yards receiving with 162 and 105, respectively. Allen, who is a +300 favorite to win the NFL MVP at PointsBet, has thrown for 2,602 yards and 19 touchdowns against six interceptions.

The Bills escaped with a 27-24 victory over Indianapolis in the wild-card round last year at home as Allen threw for 324 yards and two touchdowns while adding 54 rushing yards and a third score.

Scouting the main plays

Looking to attract bettors on both sides, most oddsmakers have established the Colts as 7-point underdogs for this matchup. Caesars, PointsBet, theScore Bet, and WynnBET are all offering -105 to edge out BetRivers and Unibet (both -106) as the best value, with FanDuel (-108) and BetMGM (-110) close behind and DraftKings and Betway (both -115).

The over/under offerings are a near-even split between 49.5 and 50 points. On the low side, BetMGM and Caesars are both offering -110 in each direction to be the best play for the over, while Betway and DraftKings both have a -105 listing for those who want to ride the high-side hook on a touchdown total for the under. For the half-hundred, FanDuel’s -106/-114 split stands out in contrast to the -110 in both directions offered by WynnBET, theScore Bet, and PointsBet.

Prop plays worth pondering

There is no lack of variety when it comes to yardage prop plays for the Colts skill players. Starting with quarterback Carson Wentz, his over/under for yards ranges from 220.5 at Caesars (-115) to 230.5 yards at PointsBet (-110/-121). WynnBET is offering -105 for the over at 222.5 yards, while BetMGM has -110 at the number and Betway has -110 at 223.5 yards on the over. BetRivers and Unibet are both offering -114 for under 227.5 yards.

Though Wentz has seven games with two or more passing touchdowns and has only three interceptions on the season, oddsmakers look to be lining up touchdown and interception plays against him since the Bills have allowed a league-low six touchdown passes and rank second with 15 interceptions. Caesars has the best offering for the over 1.5 touchdown passes at +155, followed by WynnBET (+150) and PointsBet (+145).

For those who think Wentz will have a clean game without an interception, bettors can grab FanDuel’s offering at +112, with the Kambi platform offering +106.

Taylor’s rushing yards are in a more narrow band ranging from 73.5 to 75.5 yards. BetRivers and Unibet (both -114) are the lone books off the -115 on the over, while PointsBet is on an island with a -121/-110 split at 75.5 yards. Betway is offering 74.5 yards with a -110/-115 split. There is slightly more variance to Taylor’s combined rushing and receiving yards, which starts at 100.5 yards with FanDuel (-114) and PointsBet (-121/-110).

The Kambi platform is offering a -113/-107 split at 101.5 yards, while Caesars (-110) and BetMGM (-115) are one yard higher. At the upper end at 103.5 yards are DraftKings (-115) and Betway (-115/-110).

Michael Pittman is the main receiving play, with PointsBet separating itself from the field at 65.5 yards with a -105/-125 play. The other offerings vary between 60.5 and 61.5 yards, with WynnBET offering a -105/-125 split on 61.5 yards for those who like the over and Betway at -110 for the under at that number.

For anytime touchdown scorers, Taylor gets the best value at -110 at both DraftKings and Betway, with that number reaching as high as -175 in some places. Pittman can be grabbed at +200 at BetRivers and Unibet, with BetMGM relatively close at +190. Despite being second on the team with four receiving touchdowns, tight end Mo Alie-Cox can still be taken at +500 at FanDuel and +475 at BetRivers, PointsBet, and Unibet.

The Kambi platform also has the top offering for Nyheim Hines (+390) and the joint-best for T.Y. Hilton with PointsBet at +310. PointsBet also has the top play for Zach Pascal at +375, followed by PointsBet (+360).

Photo: Trevor Ruszkowski/USA TODAY