Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins: 2017 Week 17 NFL Pick

Buffalo Bills (8-7) at Miami Dolphins (6-9)

Both of these teams have had a lot of close wins and big losses. The Bills’ have just 1 victory by more than 10 points, as opposed to 5 losses by more than 10 points. Their 8 wins have come by a combined 68 points (8.50 points per game), while their 7 losses have come by a combined 131 points (18.71 points per game). The Dolphins, meanwhile, have just 1 victory by more than 7 points, as opposed to 8 losses by more than 7 points. Their 6 wins have come by a combined 47 points (7.83 points per game), while their 9 losses have come by a combined 153 points (17.00 points per game). In point differential, the Bills rank 23rd at -63, while the Dolphins rank 29th at -106.

The Bills have been even worse than their point differential suggests though, as they’ve been overly reliant on winning the turnover margin, which is unpredictable on a week-to-week basis. They rank 6th in the NFL with a +8 turnover margin, making them the only team with a turnover margin of +5 or better and a negative point differential. In first down rate differential, they rank just 31st at -6.46%, even worse than the Dolphins, who rank -4.93% at 29th.

The Bills are better with Tyrod Taylor under center instead of Nathan Peterman, who has seen some action this season, but the Dolphins have been better since promoting running back Kenyan Drake to the feature back role. At the very least, these two teams are about even right now. Given that, we’re getting good line value with the Dolphins as 2.5 point home underdogs in this matchup. I would need a full field goal with the Dolphins to bet on them, but the money line is worth a small bet at +110, as this game is no worse than a toss up for the Dolphins.

Miami Dolphins 19 Buffalo Bills 17 Upset Pick +110

Pick against the spread: Miami +2.5

Confidence: Low

Miami Dolphins at Kansas City Chiefs: 2017 Week 16 NFL Pick

Miami Dolphins (6-8) at Kansas City Chiefs (8-6)

The Dolphins are 6-8, but they have had a worse season than that suggests, as they have that record, despite going 5-2 in games decided by a touchdown or less. Their 6 wins have come by a combined 47 points, while their 8 losses have come by a combined 137 points, giving them a point differential of -90, 5th worst in the NFL. They’ve been even worse in first down rate differential at -5.03%, 3rd worst in the NFL. They have been better in recent weeks though, ever since turning to Kenyan Drake as their feature back. They had their biggest margin of victory of the season a few weeks back, defeating the Broncos 35-9 and then beat the Patriots the following week.

Last week, they came up short in Buffalo, but they should play better this week, especially since they’re now in their 2nd of two road games. Teams are 260-280 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.91 points per game, as opposed to 379-528 straight up in a single road game that’s sandwiched between two home games, getting outscored by an average of 3.02 points per game, a difference of about 2 points. Teams especially do well in their 2nd of two road games as road underdogs off of a loss, going 123-81 ATS in that spot since 2008. There’s isn’t enough here for me to bet on the Dolphins, but they should be the right side as 10.5-point underdogs.

Kansas City Chiefs 28 Miami Dolphins 20

Pick against the spread: Miami +10.5

Confidence: Low

Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills: 2017 Week 15 NFL Pick

Miami Dolphins (6-7) at Buffalo Bills (7-6)

The Bills pulled out an overtime victory at home against the Colts last week 13-7 with Nate Peterman under center, a game they could have easily lost on several occasions. As a result, the Bills are now 7-6 and turn the team back to starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who returns from a one-game absence with a knee injury. The Bills are not nearly as good as their record though. They rank 23rd in point differential at -50 and 31st in first down rate differential at -6.44%.

The Dolphins have had their share of issues this season, but they’ve been better in recent weeks. People thought they were crazy for trading away Jay Ajayi at the trade deadline, but new starter Kenyan Drake has proven to be a much better fit in this offense and has given this offense a new dimension in recent weeks, as he’s taken over as the feature back with backup Damien Williams out. They’ve also been better defensively since getting safety TJ McDonald back from suspension. Last week’s win at home over the Patriots may not have been a complete fluke, especially since the Dolphins easily beat a capable Broncos team the week before.

Last week’s win puts the Dolphins in a terrible spot, as teams tend to be flat off of wins as home underdogs. Teams cover at a mere 45% rate off of a home upset win. However, the Bills aren’t in a great spot either, as they have to face New England next week in Foxboro, a game in which they will almost definitely be double digit underdogs. Teams are 50-86 ATS since 2012 before being double digit underdogs, as it’s understandably tough to play your best when you have a really tough game on deck.

On top of that, divisional home favorites are just 25-62 ATS since 2002 before being divisional road underdogs. The Dolphins are probably the better team and definitely in the better spot, so I like getting more than a field goal with them. About 1 in 4 games are decided by a field goal or less, so getting Miami +3.5 gives us some significant cushion if the Dolphins can’t pull the upset. The Dolphins are worth a small bet if you can get 3.5.

Buffalo Bills 19 Miami Dolphins 17

Pick against the spread: Miami +3.5

Confidence: Medium

New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins: 2017 Week 14 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (10-2) at Miami Dolphins (5-7)

The Patriots have been on a great run in recent weeks, winning 8 straight wins, including 4 straight by 17+ points since their week 9 bye. Over those last 4 wins (Broncos, Raiders, Dolphins, Bills), they have a 22 point per game margin of victory. They seem to be rounding into the Super Bowl favorite most expected them to be before the start of the season, even despite some injuries. Their defense is much improved, led by cornerback Stephon Gilmore, while their offense has remained unstoppable.

The Patriots are also on an impressive 15-game winning streak away from New England. They’ve covered the spread in 12 of those games and have an average margin of victory of 13.67 points per game. The Patriots have a national fanbase like the Cowboys, so it makes sense that they are able to have success regardless of where they play. In fact, it’s possible there will be more Patriots fans than Dolphins fans at this game. That being said, I can’t recommend betting on them this week. They are 11.5 point road favorites, which is a big number to cover without suspended tight end Rob Gronkowski, even against a weak opponent like the Dolphins. For pick ‘em purposes, however, the Patriots are the smarter choice, as it’s usually a good idea to pick Tom Brady unless you have a good reason not to.

New England Patriots 26 Miami Dolphins 13

Pick against the spread: New England -11.5

Confidence: None

Denver Broncos at Miami Dolphins: 2017 Week 13 NFL Pick

Denver Broncos (3-8) at Miami Dolphins (4-7)

The Dolphins have 4 wins, but they are are one of the worst teams in the league, as they rank 31st in both point differential (-115) and first down rate differential (-6.78%). Their 4 wins have come by a combined 14 points, while their 7 losses have come by a combined 129 points, an average margin of defeat of 18.43 points. They’ve been even worse since losing talented right tackle Ja’Wuan James for the season. He was their best offensive lineman and his loss is a huge blow to an otherwise weak offensive line.

The Broncos enter on a 8-game losing streak, but they are still the better of these two teams. They rank 24th in first down rate at -2.67%, not good, but significantly better than the Dolphins. Despite their long losing streak, they’ve actually won the first down rate battle in 3 of 7 games, against the Giants, Chiefs, and Bengals. They lost those games primarily because of turnover margin, but turnover margins tend to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. The Broncos rank 2nd worst in turnover margin at -16, but they could play turnover neutral football going forward if their defense can force more takeaways, after strangely forcing just 8 through 11 games. This week could be a good place to start, given their matchup.

In addition to winning the first down battle against the three aforementioned teams, the Broncos could have won the first down battle and the game last week against Oakland had Trevor Siemian started the game. Paxton Lynch was horrendous before going down with an ankle injury and Siemian was able to make it a one score game despite being down 21 in the 4th quarter. The only 3 teams that have beaten them convincingly on their losing streak are the Chargers, Eagles, and Patriots, who are among the best teams in the league.

Siemian will start this week for the Broncos. He hasn’t been good this season, but he’s probably Denver’s best quarterback, even if only by default. He was their quarterback when they started 3-1 and has shown he can win games in the past if the Broncos run the ball well and play strong defense, which they should be able to do this week against an inferior opponent. That being said, I wish the Broncos were not missing cornerback Aqib Talib and right guard Ronald Leary with suspension and injury respectively, as I have this line calculated at just Denver -2 with those two missing, meaning we aren’t getting much line value with Denver at -1.5.

The Dolphins are in a terrible spot though, with a huge home game against the Patriots on deck, as teams are 35-75 ATS since 2012 before being 6+ point home underdogs (Miami is -11.5 on the early line). Teams understandably struggle the week before a tough home game. The Broncos played their worst game of the season in Philadelphia the week before hosting the Patriots and the Dolphins could do so as well this week. This game is actually sandwiched on Miami’s schedule in between a pair of games against New England, so the Dolphins could definitely overlook the Broncos a little bit. The Broncos, meanwhile, have another easy game against the Jets on deck, so they should be focused this week. Given that, the Broncos are worth a small bet as long as the line stays under 3.

Denver Broncos 16 Miami Dolphins 10

Pick against the spread: Denver -1.5

Confidence: Medium

Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots: 2017 Week 12 NFL Pick

Miami Dolphins (4-6) at New England Patriots (8-2)

The Patriots are dealing with a number of injuries to starters yet again this week. Right tackle Marcus Cannon, center David Andrews, and wide receiver Chris Hogan remain sidelined with injury for the third straight week, while defensive tackle Malcom Brown could miss his 4th straight game after once again not getting a full practice in all week. Fortunately, they don’t have a tough opponent this week, with the Dolphins coming to town. Despite 4 wins, the Dolphins are one of the worst teams in the league, as they rank 30th in both point differential (-97) and first down rate differential (-5.41%). They’ve been even worse since losing talented right tackle Ja’Wuan James for the season. He was their best offensive lineman and his loss is a huge blow to an otherwise weak offensive line.

The Patriots have been playing well even through injuries in recent weeks too, winning big in Denver against the Broncos and in Mexico City against the Raiders. They’ve been much improved on defense in recent weeks and their offense has remained the best in the league despite missing several starters because of their depth. In stark contrast to the Dolphins, the Patriots are one of the best teams in the NFL. They’re also in a great spot this week with only a trip to Buffalo on deck. Big favorites tend to take care of business before being big favorites again, as favorites of 7+ are 66-42 ATS before being favorites of 7+ again the following week and the Patriots are -10 in Buffalo on the early line. At -16.5, this line is too big to bet on confidently, but the Patriots are the pick for pick ‘em poll purposes. At the very least, I don’t want to bet against Tom Brady right now unless I have a clear reason to.

New England Patriots 34 Miami Dolphins 17

Pick against the spread: New England -16.5

Confidence: None

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Miami Dolphins: 2017 Week 11 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-6) at Miami Dolphins (4-5)

I am kicking myself for not taking Tampa Bay +3 when it briefly showed up at the beginning of the week. A line of -3 in favor of the hometown Dolphins suggests these two teams are about even, which is not true. The Dolphins, despite a 4-5 record, are one of the worst teams in the NFL. Their 4 wins have come by a combined 14 points, while their 5 losses have come by a combined 101 points, giving them a point differential of -87 on the season. That’s the 4th worst point differential in the NFL. They also rank 3rd worst in first down rate differential.

The Buccaneers are not a great team, especially with Ryan Fitzpatrick, but they’re significantly better than the Dolphins. They rank 19th in first down rate differential on the season, as 3 of their 6 losses have come by 5 points or fewer. Obviously losing Jameis Winston hurts them, but, given the way he was playing before he went down, it doesn’t hurt them that much. Fitzpatrick is definitely not a great starting option, but he’s experienced and he’s overall an above average backup.

Fitzpatrick also has a fair amount of talent around him on offense, with Mike Evans returning from suspension. Third round rookie Chris Godwin played well in his absence and now the Buccaneers go 4 deep at wide receiver, in addition to having a talented tight end duo. Defensively, they’ve played better in recent weeks as they’ve gotten healthier in the back 7. Outside linebacker Lavonte David, cornerback Brent Grimes, and middle linebacker Kwon Alexander missed 2 games, 3 games, and 4 games respectively early in the season, which hurt this defense.

Unfortunately, this line has shifted from 3 all the way to a pick ‘em. That’s exactly where I have this line, so we’ve lost all line value with the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay is still the pick for pick ‘em purposes because they have a tough game against the Patriots on deck, in which they are 14 point underdogs on the early line. Teams are 48-78 ATS since 2002 before being 10+ point underdogs. It’s definitely a possibility that the Dolphins don’t give their best effort for a 3-6 non-conference opponent with a huge divisional game on deck. I just don’t have a ton of interest in betting on Fitzpatrick on the road without getting field goal protection.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17 Miami Dolphins 15

Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay PK

Confidence: Low