Quite difficult to pick a featured matchup this Sunday. There's just one game -- one! -- featuring two teams with winning records, and it's Jets at Patriots for the AFC East lead. But the Pats have been covered plenty already this season and will be going forward. So I looked elsewhere among the less-than-impressive 13 games remaining and decided on Houston at Miami because I thought each would contend for at least a wild-card spot this year. I doubt the loser of this one has much of a shot at the playoffs.
Miami (2-3) has no shot of winning the AFC East with the Patriots unbeaten. So it's wild card or bust. If the Fins play with the intensity that they did in Week 6, I don't rule them out. The problem is the schedule. Even if Miami wins this game to get to .500, check out the next three: at New England (Thursday), at Buffalo, at Philadelphia. So the Fins could be looking at 3-6.
Houston (2-4) still could win the AFC South as it appears the Colts (3-3) are imploding a bit under Coach Chuck Pagano. Indy already holds one win over Houston, and the Texans have to visit Indianapolis on Dec. 20. But Houston's remaining schedule is pretty kind otherwise outside of a trip to Cincinnati on Monday night in Week 10. The Texans are +500 to win the AFC South.
Texans at Dolphins Betting Story Lines
Houston has had a pair of two-game losing streaks this season and followed them with wins. The latest was Sunday, a 31-20 victory at Jacksonville -- so maybe the Texans aren't any good at all as their two wins are over the other two Florida teams, both of which stink. Brian Hoyer made his second straight start at quarterback and had the best game of a Houston QB this season, completing 24-for-36 for 293 yards, three touchdowns and no picks against the Jags. Hoyer isn't coming out for Ryan Mallett anytime soon barring injury.
Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins continued his breakout season as he had 10 catches for 148 yards and two scores. He, not Julio Jones or Odell Beckham, is the NFL's best receiver at this moment. Hopkins has 52 catches (whopping 90 targets) for 726 yards and five scores. Hopkins is the lone player in NFL history with nine or more catches and 145 or more receiving yards in three consecutive games. He leads the league in yards is second in catches and tied for fourth in TDs. Hopkins also leads the NFL with 42 first downs and with 15 catches for 222 yards and two touchdowns on third downs. His 90 targets are more than any wide receiver through six games since 1991. So, yeah, I'm double-teaming him if I'm the Dolphins. Miami has been good against the pass, ranking No. 6 overall.
Miami looked like a totally different team Sunday in its first game under interim Coach Dan Campbell, who promised a new intensity from his guys and they delivered -- Campbell is one of those amped-up guys, so basically a polar opposite of fired head coach Joe Philbin. Campbell changed the team's locker-room seating arrangements, got rid of the suit-and-tie dress code for road trips and introduced plenty of one-on-one drills in practice to dial up the energy.
The Dolphins, coming off their bye, won 38-10 at Tennessee on Sunday. The Miami defense had hugely disappointed, but Cameron Wake blew up in that game with four sacks and two forced fumbles -- all in the first half. The Fins would finish with six sacks, including injuring Tennessee QB Marcus Mariota on a questionable hit, and two picks (one returned for score). Again, though, consider the competition. Campbell also made a much bigger commitment to the run. Miami rushed for a season-high 180 yards and controlled the tempo of the game.
Surprised me to learn that Houston is 7-0 all-time vs. Miami, although five were decided by a touchdown or less. Not the last meeting, however. Houston won that 30-10 at home in Week 1 of the 2012 season. That was the last time the Texans made the playoffs, finishing 12-4 and winning the AFC South while Colts star QB Andrew Luck was still a rookie. That's his division now. Matt Schaub was Houston's QB that day vs. Miami. Arian Foster rushed 26 times for 79 yards and two scores. It was the first NFL start for Miami rookie QB Ryan Tannehill and he struggled, going 20-for-36 for 219 yards and three picks. J.J. Watt deflected two passes that resulted in interceptions and also had 1.5 sacks.
Texans at Dolphins Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , the Dolphins are 4-point favorites (-110) with a total of 44.5. On the moneyline, Miami is -210 and Houston +175. On the alternate lines, the Fins are -4.5 (-103) and -3.5 (-117). Houston is 2-4 against the spread this season (1-2 on road) and 4-1-1 "over/under (2-0-1 on road). Miami is 2-3 ATS (0-2 at home) and 3-2 O/U (1-1 at home).
Houston is 4-1 ATS in its past five vs. teams with a winning record. The Texans are 1-4-1 ATS in their past six following a win. Miami is 2-5 ATS in its past seven following a win of more than 14 points. The Dolphins are 1-7 ATS in their past eight vs. the AFC and 0-5 ATS in their past five at home. The over is 6-0 in Houston's past six in October. The over is 4-0 in Miami's past four against teams with a losing record.
Texans at Dolphins Betting Prediction
From an injury perspective, Texans coach Bill O'Brien said it is unlikely that cornerback Kareem Jackson (ankle) and linebacker Benardrick McKinney (concussion) will play Sunday. Miami cornerback Brian McCain, a former Texan, is questionable with a knee sprain. McCain, who has 18 tackles, one interception and three pass deflections this season, spent the first five years of his career in Houston.
I'm back on board with Miami as this team has a ton of talent. Give the 4 points (or wait for an alternate line of 2.5) and go 'under' the total as I think that Fins defense will give Hoyer fits.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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