Miami Dolphins (7-8) at New England Patriots (11-4)
I can’t handicap week 17 games like I do other games (maybe that’s a good thing because I’ve had a rough few weeks), because one of the things I do is look for upcoming distractions and dynamic changes on their schedule. In week 17, I can’t do that, so instead I have to look at what this game means do these two teams. The Patriots can move into a first round bye here with a win if Houston loses (not completely unlikely) and actually into the #1 seed with a Houston loss and a Denver loss (pretty much completely unlikely). Meanwhile, with a loss, Baltimore could jump them (assuming they beat Cincinnati) and New England could end up as low as 4th.
Obviously, there’s a lot at play for the Patriots, but most of it will be played out before this game even happens. If Houston wins and Baltimore doesn’t in the 1 PM block, the Patriots will be locked into the #3 seed barring a Denver loss as 16 point favorites against the Chiefs (translation, they’re the #3 seed). However, even if Denver gets up big against Kansas City early, the Patriots will not pull their starters. They always go full out for these week 17 games, even the meaningless ones (which this one isn’t completely). Belichick is 9-2 ATS on week 17.
Besides, this team desperately needs a tune up before the playoffs as their last two games have featured a home loss and a “closer than it should have been” game in Jacksonville as 14 point favorites. However, even with last week’s game, the Patriots have no shortage of blowout wins on their schedule, winning 6 games by 21 or more this season and I think it’s very doubtful that Belichick allows the team to have 3 bad games in a row. Since 2008, they’re 6-2 ATS off of back-to-back non-covers, including a 45-7 win against the Rams earlier this year. This situation reminds me a little bit of that. They lost to the Seahawks and then barely beat the Jets, but bounced back in that 3rd game in a huge way.
We’re also getting plenty of line value with the Patriots, more than last week as this line has moved from -12 to -10 because of the Patriots’ less than stellar showing in Jacksonville and because of some unfounded speculation that this game won’t mean anything to the Patriots (even if it technically doesn’t, they won’t care). The calculated line using the net points per drive method is New England -13, with the Patriots 1st in net points per drive and the Dolphins being 15th.
My concerns and reasoning for not making this a significant play are threefold. The first is that the public is all over New England and they always lose money in the long run. The second is that I just generally don’t like laying more than a touchdown in a significant play. The third is the Patriots’ less than stellar ATS record as home favorites of more than a touchdown over the past 3 years. They are 5-9 ATS in that situation, pretty crazy considering they are 24-12 ATS in all other situations over that time period. Still, I like the Patriots this week. I also once again like the over as Patriots’ game, especially in the 2nd half of the season and in the division, tend to go over.
Public lean: New England (70% range)
New England Patriots 31 Miami Dolphins 17
Pick against spread: New England -10 (-110) 2 units
Total: Over 46 (-110) 1 unit