Miami Dolphins vs. New England Patriots Betting Odds and Pick to Cover the Point Spread

Miami Dolphins (7-8, 8-7 ATS) at New England Patriots (13-2, 9-5-1 ATS) NFL Week 17, Sunday January 2nd, 1:00PM Eastern Gillette Stadium Foxboro, Mass.
By Jay Horne, Professional Sports Handicapper,

Betting Odds: Mia +3/NE -3
Over/Under Total: 43

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The New England Patriots officially locked up home field advantage throughout the playoffs last week by bulldozing the Buffalo Bills 34-3. The Patriots 13-2 record is among the best in the NFL and they appear to be favorites in the AFC to make it to the Super Bowl. Over the last few weeks, the Patriots have been the dynamic offense of old scoring at least 30 points or more in each of their last 7 games. New England will get the chance to cap off the regular season this Sunday when they host the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium. The Dolphins have already been eliminated from the playoff picture and are coming off a disappointing 34-27 loss to the Detroit Lions. However with New England likely resting a lot of their starters, the Dolphins will have a chance to close out the regular season the right way and perhaps fight for Coach Tony Sparano’s job which is believed to be in serious jeopardy.

The reason the Patriots will likely rest many of their starters is obvious. New England cannot better their position in the postseason with a win and simply need to get through week 17 without any injuries. Therefore, Patriots star QB Tom Brady will likely watch most of the snaps this Sunday from the sideline. Brady has been playing some of the best football of his career over the last few weeks and if he stays hot then New England appears among the realm of unbeatable heading into the postseason. Brady has thrown 24 touchdowns since his last interception which came in week 6, while racking up 3,701 yards on the season with a 67% completion percentage.

The guy that will step in for Brady this week will be backup Brian Hoyer. Hoyer has attempted just 2 passes in his 2nd year of the NFL and is a bit of an unknown character. Hoyer completed over 6,000 yards during his career with Michigan State, but was also a bit mistake prone giving up a high number of interceptions. It will be interesting to see how the youngster performs and if the Patriots can keep the ball moving through the air without Brady behind center.

Rather, the Patriots will likely keep the play calling mellow and run a conservative style offense. Running backs BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead will surely get some touches on the ground. Green-Ellis has led the team this season with 928 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. Woodhead is second on the team in rushing with 528 rushing yards and 5 scores. Both running backs combined for over 200 rushing yards in last week’s win over Buffalo and should be the focus of the offense yet again this Sunday. If Green-Ellis gets a lot of rest, Woodhead could be the work horse this Sunday so do not be surprised to see a big increase in his carries.

A lot of people may like the Dolphins to get the win here with the Patriots playing a lot of new faces. However, Miami has struggling tremendously this season on offense averaging just 17.1 points per game. In fact, only the Carolina Panthers have scored fewer points this season outside of Miami. Therefore if the Patriots play solid defense even without most of the starters, they can still win this football game if you consider the way New England ran the football last week along with Miami’s struggles on offense. Miami QB Chad Henne had yet another familiar type performance last week against the Lions. Henne completed 29 of 44 passing for 278 yards but threw 2 picks with just 1 touchdown. The interceptions and turnovers have been a huge problem for Miami this season as they have one of the worse turnovers ratios in the NFL at -8. Henne has 18 interceptions alone with just 15 passing touchdowns this season.

WR Brandon Marshall is a big time player and went over 100 yards receiving for the 2nd week in a row against the Lions and is just 83 yards shy of the 1,000 yard plateau on the season. Henne and Marshall seem to be the big play connection so it will be a testament of time to see if both players can hook up this Sunday. Outside of the passing game, Miami has been a rather average rushing team with both Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown in the back field. Both backs have totaled just over 650 rushing yards this season. However, neither back has provided any explosive big play potential out of the back field to keep defenses worried about the run which has been an unmentioned problem this season considering all the other problems surrounding the offense. Still, the Dolphins will have one final game to try and find some answers as they look for some momentum to carry into 2011.

Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: These week 17 games are always tough to predict when you have a team like New England resting starters and a team like Miami that we question will have any motivation in their final game. There is no way that I lay points here with N.E. The likely result here is for Miami to either win or cover the spread as a 1st string on a mediocre team is always better than a good team’s second string.