NFL Predictions: Patriots at Dolphins Week 15 Odds
by Alan Matthews - 12/12/2013
Off the top of your head, give me a list of the five most important non-quarterbacks in the NFL to their teams. My quick list would be Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald, Bengals receiver A.J. Green and Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles. Five very good players. However, I purposefully left out the guy who might be the most important non-QB of all: Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.
I think we will see how vital Gronk is to the New England offense and the team's Super Bowl chances starting Sunday in Miami. It's really just one of two games that involve teams with playoff aspirations playing one another on Sunday, the other being Green Bay at Dallas. Not a great schedule in Week 15.
New England had a miracle finish last week, scoring two touchdowns within 30 seconds of one another starting with 1:01 left in the fourth quarter and visiting Cleveland leading 26-14. That kept the Patriots (10-3) in charge of the AFC's No. 2 seed and a game behind Denver for the No. 1. New England must stay ahead of Cincinnati (9-4) for that No. 2 because the Bengals hold the tiebreaker. The Pats would hold the tiebreaker over Denver. So last week's win was huge, but it also saw Gronkowski leave with a season-ending devastating knee injury.
Miami (7-6) almost was the victim of a miracle loss last week, nearly allowing Pittsburgh to complete a crazy multi-lateral play with no time remaining. Pittsburgh receiver Antonio Brown looked to complete a scoring dash down the sideline on the frigid, snowy day, but the officials correctly ruled Brown out of bounds at the Miami 12. That was huge for the Fins because Baltimore (7-6) also won last week, in another miracle. The Ravens beat Miami 26-23 on a late field goal in Week 5 that looks to be a huge tiebreaker. Fins kicker Caleb Sturgis missed a potential 57-yard tying field goal at the end of that one.
Patriots at Dolphins Betting Story Lines
So how important is Gronkowski? Perhaps no team relies more on its tight ends in the passing game than New England, even with Aaron Hernandez now in prison. Gronkowski missed the first six games of the season. Yes, New England was 5-1 in that stretch, but that is very misleading. For one, the Pats played four non-playoff teams in that stretch (Buffalo, NY Jets, Tampa Bay and Atlanta), and the offense struggled mightily at times, including scoring just 13 points in a win over the Jets and six in a loss at Cincinnati. The Patriots had the No. 22 scoring offense without Gronk. Tom Brady failed to complete 50 percent of his passes or throw for even 200 yards in two of those games. With Gronk, the Pats had the No. 2 scoring offense, and Brady was much better. He had just one game completing less than 60 percent with 13 TDs and five picks. Gronk had 39 catches for 592 yards and four scores. He has become so injury-prone, and his knee was blown up, that there's no way the Pats can count on him even next season. What they get at this point is gravy.
The Pats have a bunch of no-name tight ends on the roster now, so look for a lot more four-receiver sets and additional use of running back Shane Vereen as a receiver out of the backfield. Julian Edelman is likely to be targeted a dozen times a game, and at least Danny Amendola is healthy now, which he wasn't much early in the season when Gronk was out. Guys like Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins now will see the ball a lot more as well.
The injury news is better for Miami as starting running back Lamar Miller should play. He was limited to six carries in last week's win and left with a concussion. It was a minor one, apparently, as Miller is back practicing. Miller may have lost some touches as backup Daniel Thomas rushed for a season-high 105 yards and a score against the Steelers. Miller hasn't done much in four of the past five games. Thomas hasn't done much all season before last week. The Fins average only 95.8 yards per game.
Patriots at Dolphins NFL Week 15 Betting Odds and Trends
At BookMaker, New England is a two-point favorite with a total of 45.5. The Patriots are 6-7 ATS (1-5 on road) and 7-6 “over/under” (3-3 on road). The Dolphins are 8-5 ATS (4-2 at home) and 7-5-1 O/U (3-2-1 at home). New England is 4-1 ATS in its past five after an ATS loss. It is 1-5 ATS in its past six after a win. Miami is 5-2 ATS in its past seven after an ATS win. The under is 5-1 in New England's past six against the AFC East. The under is 7-1 in Miami's past eight vs. the AFC East. The Pats are 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings.
NFL Predictions: Patriots at Dolphins Betting Picks for Week 15
New England has won seven straight over Miami but was fortunate to beat the visiting Dolphins 27-17 in Week 8. The Dolphins defense totally shutdown Brady and the Pats' offense (59 yards) to take a 17-3 lead at intermission. That game turned when Sturgis missed a 46-yarder early in the third quarter to take a 20-3 lead. Miami obviously didn't score again as QB Ryan Tannehill had three second-half turnovers. He was sacked six times overall. Brady threw for only 116 yards, and the Pats finished with 252.
New England will clinch its fifth straight AFC East title with the victory. It is 47-6 in December since 2001. However, the Fins have played pretty well at home. Yes, they lost to Baltimore, Buffalo and Carolina there but could easily have won all three as the total margin of defeat was nine points. It seems like the Richie Incognito mess is in the past as Miami has won three of four overall. The Pats have looked very shaky on the road all season and have failed to cover the past four. I think the Dolphins play desperate and upset New England. Take the under.
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