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Monday Night Football: Buffalo Bills vs. San Francisco 49ers Prediction and Preview

Monday Night Football: Buffalo Bills vs. San Francisco 49ers Prediction and Preview

Monday Night Football: Buffalo Bills vs. San Francisco 49ers Prediction and Preview

True to how unusual this NFL season has been, "Monday Night Football" for Week 13 between the Buffalo Bills and San Francisco 49ers is not only the second game scheduled for that day (Washington vs. Pittsburgh is set to kick off earlier), it also takes place in State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. The 49ers will be calling NFC West rival Arizona's home theirs for this game and next Sunday's date with Washington because of stricter COVID-19 regulations recently enacted in Santa Clara County.

Regardless of where this game is played, it's an important one for both teams, as each continues their push for a playoff spot. Buffalo is currently better positioned, with an 8-3 record and in first place in the AFC East. San Francisco is 5-6 but just a game behind the Cardinals for the last wild-card spot in the NFC.

The Bills are feeling good after a 27-17 win over the Chargers last week at home. It wasn't Josh Allen's best statistical day with just 157 passing yards, but the run game stepped up and the defense got the stops when it needed to against Justin Herbert. Gabriel Davis filled in nicely for an injured John Brown with 79 receiving yards, including a touchdown that he caught from fellow wideout Cole Beasley.

The 49ers also enter with momentum after their impressive 23-20 win in Los Angeles against the Rams thanks to a game-winning, 42-yard field goal by Robbie Gould as time expired. Nick Mullens was efficient and the offense got a boost with the return of wide receiver Deebo Samuel and running back Raheem Mostert. The defense also did its part by forcing four turnovers, including an interception returned for a touchdown by first-round pick Javon Kinlaw, and limiting Los Angeles to 308 total yards.

This will be Buffalo's first MNF appearance since the 2018 season when the Bills lost to New England 25-6 in Week 8. They are 0-3 in the coveted time slot since 2010. On the other hand, San Francisco is 11-3 on "Monday Night Football" in that same span although the 49ers lost in their most recent appearance, falling 27-24 in overtime to Seattle in Week 10 last season.

Monday Night Football: Buffalo at San Francisco

Kickoff: Monday, Dec. 7 at 8:15 p.m. ET
Where: State Farm Stadium (Glendale, Ariz.)

TV: ESPN

Spread: Bills -2.5

Three Things to Watch

1. Intangibles

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Both of these squads had their bye Week 11 so they are relatively fresh. The Bills are beginning a stretch of three of their next four on the road and have a prime-time showdown on tap next week, hosting undefeated Pittsburgh for "Sunday Night Football." I don't think that makes this game a look-ahead situation, but something to watch early on. Meanwhile, San Francisco just finished a stretch of four of five on the road and now gets the Bills and then Washington at their home away from home in Arizona. We'll see how they handle being in somewhat unfamiliar surroundings for an extended period of time.

2. QB play

This will be Mullens' sixth start this season for San Francisco as Jimmy Garoppolo has been injured, and the third-year quarterback has been good enough at times and the reason they've lost in others. In seven games, he's completing 68 percent of his attempts but has more interceptions (seven) than touchdowns. Last week, he was 24-of-35 for 252 yards with no touchdowns and a pick. He also was sacked twice. Teams have had success throwing on Buffalo (243.5 ypg, 18th in the NFL), so there should be some opportunities for Mullens on Monday, especially with Deebo Samuel back after missing three games because of a hamstring injury. Last week against the Rams, Samuel made an immediate impact with 11 catches for 133 yards.

For Buffalo, Josh Allen has put up nice numbers this season (3,208 yards, 22 TDs, 8 INTs), but he's been a little less careful with the football lately. He has three interceptions in the past two games. Allen also may need to try and use his legs to make something happen against the 49ers' fourth-ranked passing defense (206.5 ypg). Allen has six rushing touchdowns but has seen his attempts decline gradually since totaling 21 carries in back-to-back wins over the Jets and Patriots in Weeks 7 and 8.

3. Neutral site. Will it matter?

Home-field advantage does not mean as much this season because most stadiums have been empty save for small crowds and/or cardboard cutouts. Still, the 49ers REALLY won't have home-field advantage because this game is taking place in Arizona. Now, San Francisco plays one game a year there so it won't be completely unfamiliar surroundings, but how much will this affect them? For Buffalo, this was a long trip either way so it may not bother them as much, although the Bills don't exactly have fond memories of State Farm Stadium.

In Week 10, Buffalo was leading Arizona 23-9 with a little more than five minutes remaining in the third quarter before the Cardinals mounted a furious rally and retook the lead entering the fourth. A 21-yard touchdown pass from Allen to Stefon Diggs gave the Bills a 30-26 lead with just 34 seconds left, until Kyler Murray connected with DeAndre Hopkins on a 43-yard "Hail Murray" to win the game.

Final Analysis

I know that the Bills are favored in this game, but I don't agree with it. I know that they have the QB edge with Josh Allen over Nick Mullens, but I'm a huge fan of Kyle Shanahan and I think we are finally starting to see more of the 49ers team that made it to the Super Bowl last season.

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Prediction: 49ers 24, Bills 20

— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.