Buffalo Bills (5-4 SU, 4-5 ATS) vs. Miami Dolphins (5-4 SU, 5-4 ATS)
NFL Week 11
Date and Time: Thursday, November 13, 2014 at 8:25 p.m. EST
Where: Sun Life Stadium
TV: NFL, DTV 212
by Vesper Abadon, Pro Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Buf -5 / Mia -5
Over/Under Total: 42
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Assuming the AFC East will be won by the New England Patriots, which at this point in time is a good assumption, the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins will both be competing for a Wildcard spot. Both teams lost close games in Week 10 the Kansas City Chiefs rallied in the fourth to beat the Bills, while the Detroit Lions scored a touchdown with less than a minute remaining to down the Fins and now sit at 5-4, though the Bills hold the tiebreak after beating their division rivals 29-10 back in September.
In fact, the Bills have been owning the Dolphins as of late. They swept them in both their matchups last season, which included shutting them out 19-0 in Week 16 to keep the Dolphins out of the Playoffs. The team from South Florida will clearly have revenge on their mind when they meet at Sun Life Stadium for Thursday Night Football.
The Bills enter the game with the leagues 23rd-ranked offense averaging 331.0 total yard per game (YPG). That includes 230.8 passing YPG (18th), 100.2 rushing YPG (20th), and 21.2 points per game (PPG). Defensively the Bills are ranked 6th holding opponents to an average of 320.7 YPG (224.6 passing YPG; 96.1 rushing YPG).
Since taking over as starting quarterback, Kyle Orton has surpassed expectations. So far this season hes gone 124 of 189 for 1,387 yards, 10 touchdowns, and three interceptions, which makes him the eighth-best QB in the league with a rating of 98.4. His top receiver has been rookie Sammy Watkins, who has 42 receptions for 617 yards (14.7 Avg) and five touchdowns; while second-year receiver Robert Woods has been doing quite well having caught 34 passes for 346 yards (10.2 Avg) and a pair of touchdowns.
Unfortunately injuries have wreaked havoc on the Bills run game. CJ Spiller was their man, but hes now on injured reserve. Fred Jackson was the next in line, but a groin injury has limited him; in fact, he played just 37% of the snaps against the Chiefs. Speaking of that game, Anthony Dixon was the teams leading rusher last week having carried just nine times for 62 yards, which included a 27-yard sprinter.
As for the Dolphins, they have the 14th-ranked offense averaging 350.4 total YPG. That includes 222.9 passing YPG (20th), 127.6 rushing YPG (7th), and 25.2 points per game (PPG). Defensively the Dolphins are ranked 4th holding opponents to an average of 309.8 YPG (210.8 passing YPG; 99.0 rushing YPG).
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill had a slow start to the season, but lately hes been doing quite well. He went 27 or 38 for 207 yards, a touchdown and an interception against the Lions, which brought his season totals up to 205 of 319 for 2,114 yards, 15 touchdowns, and seven interceptions good for a 19th-ranked 89.8 QB rating.
Tannehills success has come from both his arm and legs. Regarding the former, hes been spreading the ball around between 8-10 receivers every game, which includes getting rookie Jarvis Landry into the mix. The receiver, who doubles as the kick and punt returner, had seven receptions for 53 yards last week, while the teams premiere wideout, Mike Wallace, had five catches for 51 yards and a touchdown.
As for getting it done on the ground, Tannehill has broken 20+-yard runs in several games this season, though the staunch Lions defense managed to shut him down. It hurt them too as their starting running back, Lamar Miller, was limited with a shoulder injury. Backup Daniel Thomas carried the load five times for 14 yards, but his role diminished when he lost a fumble.
The Dolphins have been playing well they were on a three-game win streak before Week 10 but they took some big hits against the Lions. By far the most serious was the loss of left tackle Branden Albert, who will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL/MCL. Meanwhile, star cornerback Cortland Finnegan suffered a left ankle injury and had to leave the game. Hes questionable for Thursdays game, and if he cant go either Jamar Taylor or Will Davis will get the start opposite Brent Grimes.
Vespers Pick to Cover the Point Spread: This is a big game for both teams. The victor will set themselves up for a run at the Playoffs, while the loser will see their chance at the postseason diminish greatly. Miami are -5 favorites at home, but I think that line may be a bit too generous.
On paper the two teams match up well. The only area where the Dolphins have differentiated themselves is on the ground, but with Miller ailing and Albert gone that advantage is essentially nullified. Both teams will field decimated backfields, while their passing games are on par with each other.
That said, Orton and company will benefit greatly if Finnegan isnt ready to go. Theyll steer clear of Brent Grimes, wholl likely blanket Watkins, but that will leave Orton to find Woods on the other side of the field against whichever backup corner gets the nod.
The Bills have been holding over the Dolphins in recent history, and they could very well do it again. Even if the Dolphins do manage to win, I dont think it will be by a big enough margin to cover. I like the Bills against the spread, and I also like the under in this defensive matchup.