Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots: 2019 Week 17 NFL Pick

Miami Dolphins (4-11) at New England Patriots (12-3)

The Dolphins have been a tough team to predict this season. On one hand, they’ve undoubtedly been better since committing to veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick as their starting quarterback before week 7, winning 4 games in what once looked like a potential 0-16 season and ranking 19th in first down rate differential at -1.08% over that stretch, led by an offense that ranks 12th in first down rate at 36.35% over that stretch. On the other hand, they have the worst supporting cast in the NFL around Fitzpatrick and have consistently ranked dead last in my roster rankings, despite solid quarterback play. When Fitzpatrick plays well, the Dolphins can be a competitive team, but when he doesn’t they’re the worst team in the league and Fitzpatrick hasn’t been consistent throughout his career.

That makes this game tough to predict against the spread, with the Dolphins being 16-point underdogs in New England. If Fitzpatrick can play well, the Dolphins should be able to keep this relatively close and at the very least should be in position for a backdoor cover late in the game. If Fitzpatrick can’t play well, this will be a blowout for New England, who has 6 wins by 21 points or more this season. My calculated line is New England -17.5, so I’m leaning towards the Patriots for pick ‘em purposes, but I have no interest in betting anything of significance on this game. 

Update: The more I think about this the more I want to upgrade the Patriots to a low confidence pick. They historically do very well in week 17 games and it feels like the Patriots are once again starting to click before the post-season. The large spread and Ryan Fitzpatrick’s tendency to randomly have big games prevent me from betting on New England, but they should be the right side.

New England Patriots 30 Miami Dolphins 10

Pick against the spread: New England -16

Confidence: Low

Cincinnati Bengals at Miami Dolphins: 2019 Week 16 NFL Pick

Cincinnati Bengals (1-13) at Miami Dolphins (3-11)

Both of these teams have had miserable seasons, with a combined 4 wins between the two teams. The Bengals only have one win, but they’ve been a more competitive team than the Dolphins, with just 6 double digit losses, compared to 9 for the Dolphins, and a point differential of -148, compared to -194 for the Dolphins. In terms of first down rate differential, the Bengals hold the edge at -3.91% to -7.19%. That’s despite the fact that the Bengals have faced a significantly tougher schedule, with a 57% opponents combined winning percentage, as compared to 47% for the Dolphins. 

The Dolphins have been better in games started by veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, rather than young quarterback Josh Rosen, with a 4.47% better first down rate in Fitzpatrick’s 11 starts as compared to Rosen’s 3 starts, but the Bengals have also been better in games started by veteran Andy Dalton, rather than young quarterback Ryan Finley, with a 4.41% better first down rate in Dalton’s 11 starts as compared to Finley’s 3 starts. The Bengals have also benefited from the return of left tackle Cordy Glenn in recent weeks and overall actually rank 24th in my roster rankings, while the Dolphins rank dead last. 

With that in mind, we’re getting good line value with the Bengals as just 1-point road favorites, as I have this line calculated at Cincinnati -4. The Bengals are also in a better spot. This isn’t a particularly meaningful game for either team other than being a relatively easy opportunity to pick up a rare win, but the Dolphins could completely look past the Bengals with a trip to New England on deck, while the Bengals have a much easier game on deck at home against the Browns. The Dolphins will almost definitely be double digit underdogs next week and teams are are just 33-64 ATS since 2008 before being double digit divisional underdogs. I thought about making this my Pick of the Week, but couldn’t bring myself to make arguably the most meaningless game of the week my top pick. I do like the Bengals a lot this week though.

Cincinnati Bengals 24 Miami Dolphins 17

Pick against the spread: Cincinnati -1

Confidence: High

Miami Dolphins at New York Giants: 2019 Week 15 NFL Pick

Miami Dolphins (3-10) at New York Giants (2-11)

The Dolphins still rank 31st in the NFL in first down rate differential at -6.92%, but that’s skewed by some horrific performances early in the season. Since committing to Ryan Fitzpatrick as their starting quarterback after week 6, the Dolphins rank a somewhat respectable 19th in first down rate differential at -0.76%, led by an offense that ranks 11th in first down rate at 36.17%. Fitzpatrick still doesn’t have much of a supporting cast, especially on defense, which remains one of the worst units in the league, but the Dolphins have been far from the worst team in the league in recent weeks.

The Giants aren’t the worst league in the league either, but they’re a lot closer to it, ranking 25th in first down rate differential on the season and 26th since week 7 at -3.38%. They’re playing hard with backup quarterback Eli Manning under center, as they want the long-time Giant to end his tenure with the team on a high note, but they’re missing some key players. Right guard Kevin Zeitler is missing his first game of the season, tight end Evan Engram is missing his 6th game in a row, safety Jabrill Peppers is missing his 3rd game in a row, and the Giants cut top cornerback Janoris Jenkins this week. I wouldn’t bet on the Dolphins, but they should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes.

Final Update: This line has moved up to 3.5 in most places. The Giants shouldn’t be favored by more than a field goal against anyone and the Dolphins haven’t been the worst team in the league since turning back to Ryan Fitzpatrick. I wouldn’t go crazy with this bet, but about 1 in 4 games are decided by 3 points or fewer, so we’re getting good protection with Miami if they can’t pull the upset.

New York Giants 24 Miami Dolphins 23

Pick against the spread: Miami +3.5

Confidence: Medium

Miami Dolphins at New York Jets: 2019 Week 14 NFL Pick

Miami Dolphins (3-9) at New York Jets (4-8)

At one point, the Dolphins seemed like they might not win a game all season, but they’ve managed 3 wins in recent weeks. They still rank dead last in first down rate differential at -7.40%, despite those wins, but they’ve been better in recent weeks, ranking 21st in first down rate differential since week 7 at -0.66%. Their defense has continued to struggle over that span, ranking 25th in first down rate allowed at 37.25%, but their offense has actually ranked 12th in first down rate at 36.59%, coinciding with the insertion of Ryan Fitzpatrick back into the starting lineup. With Fitzpatrick under center, this is a much more competitive team.

The Jets have also been better in recent weeks, actually ranking 12th in first down rate differential since week 7 at +1.35%, but that has everything to do with their schedule over that stretch. Somehow, the Jets have played their past 6 games against opponents that rank 24th or worse in first down rate differential and they’re just 3-3 in those games. Overall, they’ve faced the second easiest schedule in the NFL, with an opponents winning percentage of 42%, significantly worse than the 52% winning percentage schedule that the Dolphins have faced.

The Jets get another easy opponent this week with the Dolphins coming to town, but the Jets are favored by 5.5 points and they haven’t played well enough against easy opponents to justify being favored by this many points over anyone, especially without injured safety Jamal Adams, who is arguably their best player on either side of the ball when healthy. I have this line calculated at Jets -4, with the Jets just slightly better than the Dolphins in my roster rankings.

The Jets are also in a bad spot, having to turn around and play a much tougher game in Baltimore on a short week next week. Not only do favorites only cover at about a 44% rate before Thursday Night Football, but favorites also struggle mightily before being double digit underdogs, which the Jets almost definitely will be next week. Since 2008, favorites are 24-49 ATS before being double digit underdogs. There’s not quite enough here for the Dolphins to be worth betting, but that would change if Jets running back Le’Veon Bell is ruled out with an illness and/or if this line moves up to 6.

Update: Bell has been ruled out for the Jets. The line is now 5 in most places, but that’s not a big deal because 5 isn’t a key number. As long as this line remains above 4, I like the Dolphins for a small bet, against a Jets team that is missing its top offensive and top defensive player.

New York Jets 22 Miami Dolphins 20

Pick against the spread: Miami +5

Confidence: Medium

Philadelphia Eagles at Miami Dolphins: 2019 Week 13 NFL Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (5-6) at Miami Dolphins (2-9)

The Eagles have had back-to-back bad offensive performances in home losses to the Patriots and Seahawks, scoring a total of 19 points combined in the two games. There are a couple reasons not to expect that to continue into this week, however. For one, the Eagles offense is much healthier now. The Eagles get back right guard Brandon Brooks, who has been out since the first quarter of the Seahawks game, and right tackle Lane Johnson, who has been out since the first quarter of the Patriots game. Those are two of the best players in the league at their respective positions. They’ll also get back top wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, who missed the entirety of both games, and fellow starting wide receiver Nelson Agholor, who missed the Seahawks game. 

Even with those two bad offensive performances taken into account, the Eagles rank 19th in the NFL in first down rate 34.78%, so, when healthy, they’re not a bad offensive team by any means and their defense, which ranks 8th in first down rate allowed at 33.83%, is able to keep them in most games even when they don’t have a good offensive performance, as just one of their 6 losses has come by more than 8 points.

The second reason I don’t expect the Eagles’ offensive struggles to continue into this week is that their competition is getting much easier. After facing a pair of teams with 3 losses between them, the Eagles now get a Dolphins team that has just two wins all year. The Dolphins aren’t going 0-16 like many assumed they’d be a lock to do when they struggled at the start of the season, but even with their two wins they still rank dead last in first down rate differential (-9.08%), point differential (-183), DVOA (-47.9%), and in my roster rankings. The Eagles have faced the 8th toughest schedule in the NFL in terms of DVOA thus far this season, so this is a welcome change. 

This line is pretty high at Philadelphia -10, but I’m not concerned about laying this many points. The Dolphins have already lost 7 games by double digits this season and a whopping 22 dating back to the start of the 2017 season. The Dolphins are at home this week, but with the Dolphins in the middle of a lost season in which they never actually had any intention of competing, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the majority of the crowd supporting the visitor. The Eagles are also in a great spot, with an easy home game against the Giants on deck, a game in which they are currently 8 point favorites on the early line. Big favorites tend to take care of business without any upcoming distractions on deck, as favorites of 6+ are 106-69 ATS since 2014 before being favorites of 6+ again. This isn’t a huge play, but I like the Eagles enough to bet on them.

Philadelphia Eagles 31 Miami Dolphins 17

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia -10

Confidence: Medium

Miami Dolphins at Cleveland Browns: 2019 Week 12 NFL Pick

Miami Dolphins (2-8) at Cleveland Browns (4-6)

Even though the Browns got off to a 2-6 start, there was some optimism they could go on a second half run and compete for a playoff spot in the weaker AFC. That optimism came from the fact that their schedule, which was one of the toughest in the league in the first half of the season, suddenly became one of the easiest in the league in the second half of the season. The Browns also looked to be trending towards being closer to 100%, with players like cornerback Denzel Ward, safety Damarious Randall, and running back Kareem Hunt returning after missing significant time in the first half of the season.

The Browns’ second half is off to a good start in the win/loss column, as they’ve won a couple of home games against a pair of easier opponents, the Bills and Steelers, to improve to 4-6. However, they’re now very much trending away from being 100%. After losing defensive end Olivier Vernon to injury in the game against the Bills, the Browns lost safety Morgan Burnett to injury in the game against the Steelers and also lost defensive end Myles Garrett and defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi to suspensions of indefinite length and one game respectively, for their roles in the on field brawl with the Steelers at the end of the game. The absences of Vernon and Garrett are the biggest, as not only are they two of the better defensive ends in the league, but the Browns also completely lack depth behind them. 

The good news for the Browns, at least for this week, is that their schedule is about to get even easier, with the Dolphins coming to town. The Dolphins have managed a pair of wins, but they still rank dead last in the NFL in point differential (-166) and first down rate differential (-8.72%), as well as in my roster rankings. They’re better offensively with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center, but they completely lack talent around him on both sides of the ball. Still, it’s a question whether or not the Browns can cover this 10.5-point line. Without Garrett and Vernon, I have the Browns calculated as just 9-point favorites. It’s hard to be confident in the Dolphins at all without a lot of line value, but they’re my pick for pick ‘em purposes.

Cleveland Browns 34 Miami Dolphins 24

Pick against the spread: Miami +10.5

Confidence: None

Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins: 2019 Week 11 NFL Pick

Buffalo Bills (6-3) at Miami Dolphins (2-7)

The Dolphins have won back-to-back games after getting off to a horrendous 0-7 start, but they still rank dead last in the NFL in first down rate differential at -8.98%. Even in last week’s win in Indianapolis, they lost the first down rate battle by 6.40%, winning by 4 in a game in which Colts backup quarterback Brian Hoyer threw three interceptions. The Dolphins are undeniably a better team with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center, but they still rank dead last overall in my roster rankings. Five of their seven losses have come by double digits this season and getting blown out is a trend that actually dates back a few seasons for them, as they have 20 double digit losses since the start of the 2017 season. 

This could easily be another big loss for the Dolphins, with the Bills coming to town. The Bills rank 7th in the NFL in first down rate differential at +3.90% and, while they’ve faced an easy schedule (31st in opponent’s DVOA) their schedule doesn’t get any harder this week. My roster rankings have the Bills 17th, but that still makes them 9-point favorites on my calculated line, so we’re getting good line value with the Bills at -6.5. I’ll need to know the status of Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes before committing to betting on the Bills because he’s their top defensive lineman and didn’t practice on Friday, but the Bills should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes either way.

Buffalo Bills 26 Miami Dolphins 17

Pick against the spread: Buffalo -6.5

Confidence: Low