Do you think that Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace is kicking himself right now for letting former offensive coordinator Adam Gase get away? Gase worked wonders with Jay Cutler last year, but the Bears weren't going to fire Coach John Fox after just one season and move Gase up to the top job. So the Dolphins swooped in this past offseason and hired Gase. He's a Coach of the Year candidate in leading Miami (10-5) to the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
Gase has an interesting dilemma on his hands for Week 17 against visiting New England, however. As things stand, the Dolphins are the second wild-card team and would play next week at undoubtedly frigid Pittsburgh. Gase and Co. might not come out and say it publicly, but I guarantee you that they would much rather get to the top wild-card spot if possible and instead go to Houston, which doesn't have Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell but does have untested QB Tom Savage as well as a nice climate-controlled dome (true, the Dolphins did dominate the visiting Steelers in Week 6). To move up a spot, the Dolphins have to win this game and have Kansas City lose in San Diego. I actually think the latter is possible because the Chargers players should be pretty jacked up to play the final NFL game in that city.
New England (13-2), meanwhile, has won the AFC East for a record eighth straight year and will be the AFC's top seed with a victory or an Oakland loss in Denver. But that game, like Chiefs-Chargers, starts after this one ends. So it's not like the Patriots can just throw in the towel and rest all their starters. I believe New England wins Super Bowl 50 if it had won in Miami in Week 17 last year because that also would have given the Patriots the conference's top seed. But they were upset 20-10 and eventually had to go to Denver for the AFC Championship Game and of course lost that.
Patriots at Dolphins Betting Story Lines
New England won a sixth straight game in Week 16, routing the Jets 41-3 in Foxboro. Malcolm Butler was the defensive star with two interceptions and a fumble recovery. It was the first time a Patriot had three takeaways in a game since cornerback Leigh Bodden had three interceptions against the Jets on Nov. 22, 2009. Tom Brady passed for 214 yards and three touchdowns and I believe he will win a third career MVP Award. If I had a vote I probably would give it to Matt Ryan, but alas I don't. Ryan has thrown for 4,613 yards and 34 touchdowns and has an NFL-best 115.5 passer rating. And if Ryan gets 387 receiving yards in Sunday's regular-season finale against the Saints, he'll become just the sixth quarterback in NFL history to reach 5,000 passing yards in a season.
The victory over the Jets was Bill Belichick's 200th in New England, making him the fifth coach in NFL history to reach the milestone with one team. He joined George Halas (318 with Bears), Don Shula (257 with Dolphins), Tom Landry (250 with Cowboys) and Curly Lambeau (209 with Green Bay). Belichick is 200-71 with the Patriots and also 36-44 with Cleveland. He already has said every player who is healthy will go against Miami. It's not clear if that would include linebacker Dont'a Hightower (knee) and special teams captain Matthew Slater (foot) as both sat out vs. the Jets but would have been out there if it was the postseason.
The Dolphins have won nine of 10 following a wild 34-31 overtime victory in Buffalo on Saturday. Starting the second straight week for the injured Ryan Tannehill (he won't play here, either, and it's still not clear if he could in the wild-card game), Matt Moore was solid in throwing for 233 yards and two scores. Jay Ajayi rushed 32 times for 206 yards and a touchdown, his third 200-yard game of the season. That ties Tiki Barber (2005) and O.J. Simpson (1973) for second-most in NFL history, behind Earl Campbell (four). Ajayi did injure his shoulder but said he's playing in this one.
The Miami defense didn't play well at all against the Bills in allowing 589 yards. And strong safety Isa Abdul-Quddus left with a neck injury. His status for this week is still TBA. The loss of Abdul-Quddus could be significant because Miami is already starting without starting safety Reshad Jones. Starting cornerback Byron Maxwell didn't play vs. the Bills, but he might this week.
Patriots at Dolphins Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , New England is a 10.5-point favorite (+110) with a total of 44.5. On the moneyline, the Patriots are -475 and Dolphins +380. On the alternate lines, the Pats are -10 (+100) and -9.5 (-110). The Patriots are 12-3 against the spread (6-1 on road) and 5-10 "over/under" (1-6 on road). Miami is 9-6 ATS (4-3 at home) and 11-4 O/U (6-1 at home).
The Patriots are 4-0 ATS in their past four after a win. They are 7-1 ATS in their past eight vs. the AFC. The Dolphins have covered four in a row vs. the AFC East. They are 6-1 ATS in their past seven at home vs. teams with a winning road record. The under is 5-1 in New England's past six. The over is 5-0 in Miami's past five. The home team is 9-0 ATS in the past nine meetings.
Patriots at Dolphins Betting Prediction
In Week 2, the Dolphins lost at New England 31-24 when Brady was out suspended. Jimmy Garoppolo threw for 232 yards and three TDs before leaving with an injury in the second quarter. Miami nearly came all the way back from a 31-3 third-quarter deficit. Tannehill threw for 387 yards and two scores but was picked off twice. Ajayi wasn't even a full-time starter back then and rushed just five times for 14 yards.
Brady has struggled on the road recently against the Dolphins and is 0-3 in Miami since 2013. So I'll take the points here as long as Gase does stick to his plan to play everyone. Go over the total.
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