Miami Dolphins (5-7 SU, 5-5-2 ATS) vs. San Francisco 49ers (8-3-1 SU, 7-5 ATS)
NFL Week 14
Date/Time: Sunday, December 9, 4:05 p.m. EST
Where: Candlestick Park, San Francisco, 49ers
TV: CBS/DTV 714
by Vesper Abadon, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Mia +10.5/SF -10.5
Over/Under Total: 39
Ties in the NFL are rare, which is something the St. Louis Rams and San Francisco 49ers found out earlier this year when they failed to determine a winner. Amazingly, the two teams almost repeated the feat last week before the Rams kicked a field goal with two minutes left in overtime to win the game. Despite the loss, the 49ers sit atop the NFC West with an 8-3-1 record and are essentially a lock to earn a spot in the Playoffs, be it a division title or Wildcard spot.
On the other hand, the 5-7 Miami Dolphins got off to an impressive start this season, but have fallen back down to earth in the past month. They’re mathematically alive in the AFC Playoff race, but their chances of making it are marginal at best. Nonetheless, the Dolphins seem to be on the right track and building toward a promising future. This Sunday, the Fins will travel from South Florida to the west coast to take on the 49ers in an inter-conference matchup.
The 49ers, who are the heavy favorites, enter the game with 11th-best offense in the NFL, averaging 363.3 yards per game (YPG). That includes 162.1 rushing YPG, good enough for the league’s second-best ground game. That comes courtesy of Frank Gore, who has carried 199 times for 972 yards (4.9 Avg) and six touchdowns; what’s more, he is compliment by Kendall Hunter, who has 72 rushes for 371 yards (5.2 Avg) and two touchdowns.
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While the ground and pound is strong in San Fran, the passing game is a mess. Coach Jim Harbaugh switched quarterbacks midseason from Alex Smith to second-year quarterback Colin Kapernick, which has caused quite the controversy in the Bay area. Kapernick, who is considered the bigger playmaker, has been named the started for this week’s game, and will look to build upon his season stats-69 of 106 for 888 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. Obviously those numbers lag behind those of Smith, the long-time starter who has gone 152 of 217 for 1,731 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Despite the lackluster passing game, wide receiver Michael Crabtree has silently been having a decent season, catching 57 passes for 668 yards (11.7 Avg) and five touchdowns, while tight end Vernon Davis also have fine scores off 37 receptions for 502 yards (13.6 Avg).
While the 49ers’ offense is a mixed bag, the defense is as solid as can be. They’re currently ranked second in the NFL, and hold opponents to an average of 279.6 total YPG (189 passing YPG and 90.6 rushing YPG). As far as the Dolphins are concerned, they also have a good rush defense, holding opponents to an average of 97.7 YPG, but they allow a robust 355.3 passing YPG. That gives them the 20th-ranked defense in the league.
Offensively, the Dolphins are stagnant. They’re ranked fifth-worst in the NFL (28th), which includes the 23rd-ranked passing game (209.3 YPG) and 17th-ranked rushing game (108.2 YPG). Rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill has performed admirably, but he’s not overly productive going 210 of 363 for 2,559 yards, seven touchdowns, and 12 interceptions-good for a 72.3 rating. He seems to have chemistry with Davone Bess (56 receptions for 728 yards and a touchdown) and Brian Hartline (60 catches for 891 yards and a touchdown), but all three players need to be more consistent if they hope to move forward together.
On the ground, Reggie Bush, who will most likely be a free agent after this season, has carried the ball 165 times for 726 yards (4.4 Avg) and five touchdowns, while second-year back Daniel Thomas has 88 rushes for 316 yards (3.6 Avg) and four touchdowns. It’s not a menacing backfield, but it seems to get the job done. To put it bluntly, the Dolphins are a pedestrian squad, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing compared to where they were expected to be at this point in time.
Vesper Abadon’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: The 49ers are the better team, and it’s not going to be easy for the Dolphins to travel cross country and thrive. With that said, the Dolphins are notorious for keeping things close, especially against good teams with great records-just ask the New England Patriots last week. As it is, the Dolphins have only lost two games by more than a touchdown this year, so even though the 49ers are the easy favorites in this match, the line is too big. This game will be a low-scoring affair, and the Dolphins will keep it close enough to cover the spread.
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