Miami Dolphins (6-6 SU, 7-5 ATS) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-7 SU, 6-6 ATS)
NFL Week 14
Date and Time: Sunday, December 8, 2013 at 1:00 p.m. EST
Where: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
TV: CBS/DTV 710
by Vesper Abadon, Pro Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Mia +4/Pit -4
Over/Under Total: 42.5
Theyre calling this Week 14 matchup a Fork Game, as in stick a fork
in the loser because their Playoff hopes are done. The AFC Playoff picture
is pretty much set with the exception of the No. 6 seed, which currently
belongs to the Baltimore Ravens. However, both the Miami Dolphins
and Pittsburgh Steelers are in contention. The magic number
of wins to get in seems to be nine, which means if the Steelers lose theyd
essentially be out at 6-8. Likewise, if the Dolphins fall to 6-7, its just
as bad seeing at the Ravens hold the tiebreaker after beating them back
in Week 5.
The Steelers lost a tough game to the Ravens in Week 13, but before that they handed losses to both Cleveland and Detroit, neither of which are pushover teams. That was due in large part to Ben Roethlisberger, who is quietly having a good year. Hes gone 297 of 461 for 3,375 yards. 21 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions good enough for a NFL ninth-best rating of 92.4. With an average of 261.8 passing yards per game (YPG), the Steelers have the 8th-best passing attack in the NFL.
Compare that to the Dolphins who are 17th with 233.3 passing YPG. That is thanks to second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who has gone 280 of 451 for 3,115 yards, 17 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions. That gives him an 83.2 rating, but hes also been sacked an NFL-high 45 times. Granted, Roethlisberger has gone down 36 times (fourth most in the NFL), so clearly both teams have offensive line issues.
Thats further evidenced by their lackluster run games. The Dolphins are 25th in the league with an average of 88.7 rushing YPG, though that could improve considering Lamar Miller who has carried 136 times for 547 yards and two touchdowns — is now the feature back after Daniel Thomas went down for the year with injury. As far as the Steelers are concerned, theyre ranked an abysmal 31st with 76.8 YPG due in no small part to a so-so performance by rookie LeVeon Bell, who has carried 159 times for 528 yards (3.3 Avg) and five touchdowns.
In the receiving corps, Brian Hartline is excelling for the Fins catching 62 balls for 804 yards (13 Avg) and three scores, and it seems Mike Wallace, who left Pittsburgh last year, has finally gotten on track. He started off slow but thanks to two good weeks in a row his stats stand at 56 catches for 743 yards (13.3 Avg) and three touchdowns.
Wallaces departure opened the door for Antonio Brown in Steel City, and hes embraced the opportunity by catching 85 passes for 1,103 yards (13 Avg) and six touchdowns. Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery have also complimented him, with the former hauling in 54 receptions for 604 yards (11.2 Avg) and four touchdowns, and the latter 36 receptions for 509 yards (14.1 Avg) and eight touchdowns.
Interestingly the Dolphins and Steelers are on par with one another on the defensive side of the ball as Fins allow an average of 343.4 YPG (good for 14th in the league) and the Steelers 340.5 YPG (good enough for 13th).
Vespers Pick to Cover the Point Spread: These two teams are surprisingly balanced on both sides of the ball. Their defenses cancel each other out, and their respective aerial attacks can get the job done. The real difference maker in this one will be whatever team (if any) is able to establish a run game, though thatll prove difficult as both teams have a solid front seven.
It was refreshing to see the Dolphins play with a sense of urgency in Week 13 against the New York Jets, a game in which they were never in danger of losing. It was no doubt inspiring to them as well given their close calls throughout the year. However, the Fins have been so inconsistent that its hard to tell which team will show up the one with passion or the one that fell to the winless Buccaneers a few weeks back. Im surprised the line isnt a little thinner given how evenly matched the teams are, but despite that Im giving the advantage to the home team.