NFL Week 4: New York Giants @ Buffalo Bills
New York Giants @ Buffalo Bills -5.0 (-115)
October 4, 2015, 1:00pm EDT
Ralph Wilson Stadium, Orchard Park, New York
Our power rankings work is unanimous in highlighting value backing the Bills this afternoon. FPI, predicts an 8.4 point margin of victory for the home team, Elo calls for a Buffalo win by 6.8, and a tertiary tier indicator in our stable sets the line at Bills -8.7. Thus, in aggregate, our multi-variate power rankings approach forecasts a Buffalo win by better than a touchdown.
Similarly, one of our favorite simulation routines agrees, suggesting that Buffalo is a touchdown + a field goal better than the Giants today. Another computer prediction model on our grid (but of lessor significance) likewise anticipates a Bills cover, but with only a 0.5 point cushion.
In fact, of all factors that we pay attention to, only one, a sim model, is looking for New York to beat the number. This system expects Buffalo to emerge victorious straight-up, but by 2.1 points, well shy of the 5 point bogey.
Grantland's Bill Barnwell also calls for a New York cover, citing that Giants' QB, Eli Manning, is one of only three quarterbacks in the league to have not thrown an interception this season. While we are willing to concede that Manning might rank among the top-ten in the league at the position (Total QBR ranks Manning #12, but Football Outsiders DYAR and DVOA stats elevate the 12th year Ole Miss alum's rating to #9), we do not anticipate that the pickless streak will persist for much longer.
To this point, Eli Manning is the only active QB in the league with three 20+ interception seasons and two years featuring 25 or more picks. Over his career, the younger NFL Manning has averaged 15. 4 INTs per season (his median is 15.5) -- a touch less than 1 pick a game. Against this backdrop, today might be an opportune spot for a reversion to the mean.
If the combination of the Bills top-ten offense and #4 ranked defense (per FPI) can translate to Buffalo pulling out to an an early lead (not at all a stretch considering, per FPI, Buffalo will be lining up against the #26 defense in the NFL), Manning might be forced to take some chances to get his team back in the hunt. This is the type of the situation that breeds interceptions (Manning's 2013 season typifies this scenario, as 8 of his 25 interceptions recorded that year were born of desparation plays).
Bottom line: The Giants jumping an injury-riddled and floundering Washington team in week 3 is not impressive to us. Our perception of the 2015 Football Giants is as much influenced by the disappearing second half leads that resulted in losses at Dallas and versus Atlanta. On the other hand, while Buffalo came up a bit short versus a lights-out Pats team, the Bills have been consistently impressive versus higher rank teams than the Giants -- beating the Colts by 13 at home and the Dolphins by 27 away. We can find no reason to expect a letdown today. Lay the 5, take the better team at home.