When you have one of the league’s poorest teams in the league heading into hostile territory versus a contending squad, things can get ugly. As such, it’s not uncommon to see double-digit spreads for games that fall into that category.
That’s exactly what we have for this early Sunday afternoon contest up in Foxborough in Week 17. The Miami Dolphins will be on the road to face off with the New England Patriots. The former has nothing to play for, while the latter has its sights set on earning a first-round bye.
On paper, that suggests it may be a cake walk for the hosts. However, a deeper dive into the ins and outs of the contest presents a different perspective. The Dolphins may only have four wins, but the team has shown a good deal of fight.
That’s a testament to first-year head coach Brian Flores, who just so happens to be heading back to his old stomping grounds this weekend. While he may not make a big deal of that in public comments, you can bet that he wants a good showing and that his players will be ready to play.
This contest has the potential to be a lot more interesting than advertised. Let’s take a look at the matchup in full detail, starting with the current hame lines.
Miami Dolphins vs. New England Patriots, 1 PM EST, Sun. Dec.29, CBS
Betting odds provided by: Sportsbetting.ag
Dolphins vs. Patriots pick:
The Dolphins were home last Sunday playing host to the Cincinnati Bengals. Not much was expected from the meeting of two of the league’s cellar dwellers, but it turned out to be one of the most entertaining games of Week 16. A wild sequence at the end would see the Bengals come back from a big deficit to force overtime. When the final whistle blew, Miami escaped with a 38-35 win.
The Patriots were last in action on Saturday as they welcomed the Buffalo Bills to town. They were 6.5-point favorites at kickoff, and that would ultimately prove to be a good number. The Bills gave the Patriots all they could handle, but they didn’t have enough to get the job done. New England picked up a 24-17 win to clinch the AFC East, the 11th straight time they’ve turned that trick.
|New England||12-3||396||198||1-AFC East||W2|
Heading into the season, it was clear that the Dolphins were entering a rebuilding phase. The team parted ways with a number of assets, and the purge continued before the trade deadline. The club opened up at 0-7 and was crushed a number of times along the way. Impressively, the team has turned it around and is a solid 4-4 since that point while showing a fiery competitive streak.
The defending Super Bowl champion Patriots burst out of the gates with a record of 8-0. The club was wildly impressive while doing so, and there was some chatter that we could be paying witness to a historically great team. That proved not to be the case as the club dropped three of its next five while struggling on offense. The ship has been straightened out for now with back-to-back victories.
Miami wouldn’t score more than 10 points in a game until Week 6. The team offense has been much better since that point. The same can be said about the defense. The unit resembled a sieve in the early part of the season, but improvements have been made. Flores has done a solid job in what amounted to an impossible situation.
Ryan Fitzpatrick hasn’t been shy about slinging it this season. To date, he has accounted for 22 total scores versus 13 picks while completing 61.4 percent of his passes. The backfield has been a mess. DeVante Parker has been solid in the passing attack with a line of 64/1,065/9. Jerome Baker leads the team with 118 tackles, well ahead of Erik Rowe who checks in at 2nd with 78.
When the Patriots snagged Antoni Brown, there was plenty of talk about the embarrassment of riches that the team had on offense. Brown’s time in New England didn’t last, and the offense has struggled to achieve liftoff after a promising start to the year. The defense is the clear strength of the team and perhaps the best overall unit in the league.
Tom Brady has struggled this season, but he has still managed to account for 25 total TDs versus seven INTs. Sony Michel leads in rushing at 229/838/6, but he hasn’t shown a ton of improvement over last season. Julian Edelman has been the steadying influence with a line of 97/1,091/6. Jamie Collins leads in tackles with 78, while shutdown corner Stephen Gilmore has six picks.
Miami holds a slight 55-53 edge in all-time meetings with New England. Earlier this season, the Patriots picked up a dominating 43-0 road win over the Dolphins. The teams split two meetings last season with the home side winning both times.
For the season to date, the Dolphins are 8-7 both against the spread and on the Over/Under. The Patriots are 8-6-1 ATS 6-9 on totals.
Since the 2017 season, Miami is 4-18 overall as a road underdog and 8-14 ATS. New England is 23-3 straight-up as a home favorite over that span and 16-9-1 ATS.
A glance at the records suggests a mismatch, as does a game being held at Foxborough when the Patriots have something to play for. Closer inspection suggests otherwise.
While the Patriots have seemingly turned it around from their rough patch, not all of the kinks have been worked out. Meanwhile, the Dolphins continue to play with heart while delivering more than the sum of its parts.
Flores will have this squad locked and loaded on Sunday, and players who have bought in will be digging deep to get him a victory at the home of his former emplyer. That’s not going to happen versus a much stronger New England team which has something to play for.
However, that doesn’t mean they can’t make the defending champs work for it. Patriots win on the homefield, but Dolphins keep it closer than expected.