Minnesota Vikings (6-8 SU, 9-5 ATS) vs. Miami Dolphins (7-7 SU, 7-7 ATS)
NFL Week 16
Date and Time: Sunday, December 21, 2014 at 1:00 p.m. EST
Where: Sun Life Stadium
TV: FOX; DTV 710
by Vesper Abadon, Pro Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Min +6.5 / Mia -6.5
Over/Under Total: 42
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The Miami Dolphins were put in their place last week when the New England Patriots exacted revenge from their Week 1 loss by spanking the Fins 41-13. That gave the Patriots the AFC East title for the sixth straight season and essentially, though not mathematically, eliminated the Dolphins from Playoff contention. Meanwhile, the Minnesota Vikings gave their NFC North rival Detroit Lions all they could handle, but ultimately lost 16-14 on the road.
This week the Vikings will travel to sunny South Florida to take on the Dolphins in a rare inter-conference matchup. The Vikings enter Week 16 with the leagues 28th-ranked offense averaging 312.9 total yards per game (YPG) and 19.8 points per game (PPG). Their rushing game sits in the middle of the pack at 15th averaging 111.7 YPG, but their passing game is in the doldrums averaging 201.1 YPG, putting them 28th in the league. Defensively the Vikings are solid, holding opponents to an average of 339.9 total YPG (216 passing YPG; 123.9 rushing YPG) and 21.2 PPG, making them 11th in the NFL.
Rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater continues to experience growing pains, though going 31 of 41 for 315 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions against the Lions wasnt half bad. As for the Vikings running game, it suffered with the loss of Jerrick McKinnon, who is sitting in injured reserve. That left Matt Asiata shouldering the load in Detroit, but he only rushed for 36 yards off 11 carries. Granted, the Lions defense is tough, but so are the Dolphins, so Asiata could very well struggle yet again.
Speaking of Miami, who has won the last two matches against Vikings, their offense is ranked 19th averaging 337.2 total YPG and 23.4 PPG. Their passing game comes in 20th averaging 224.1 YPG, while their rushing game is 14th averaging 113.1 YPG. Defensively the Dolphins hold opponents to an average of 331.6 total YPG (209.2 passing YPG; 122.4 rushing YPG) and 21.5 PPG, which doesnt seem too bad until you consider they were ranked 2nd a few weeks back. That means their defense has been on the decline, though to be fair theyve faced some pretty good teams as of later.
Last week, quarterback Ryan Tannehill tossed a 32-yard touchdown to Mike Wallace with five seconds left in the second quarter to cut the Pats lead to one point. It was a good way to end the half, but then the Pats came out scored 24 points in the third quarter, most in team history. That Tannehill-Wallace hookup was pretty much the Dolphins lone highlight from an otherwise abysmal performance.
Vespers Pick to Cover the Point Spread: The Dolphins are a broken team. For the past two years theyve been able to compete and put themselves in prime position for a Playoff push, but inevitably they blow it down the stretch. Who is to blame? Its not an easy question to answer, but I can assure you fans are looking for someone to take the fall.
Some point to Tannehill, who they say isnt a franchise quarterback, but the fact of the matter is he showed great improvement in his third season, especially by developing chemistry with Wallace (62 receptions for 804 yards and eight touchdowns) and rookie Jarvis Landry (71 receptions for 672 yards and five touchdowns). Its hard to suggest talent is the problem, because it appears to be there. Sure, injuries plagued the Dolphins as the season wore on, but lets be honest, the real problem with the team is coaching.
Head coach Joe Philbin is fighting for his job, and I have serious doubts hell be able to keep it, especially if his team doesnt win their last two games against the lackluster Vikings and New York Jets. Their play calling has been questionable, they dont play with a sense of urgency, and theyre not nearly as aggressive as they need to be.
Despite their problems, I do think the Dolphins will down the Vikings at home. Theyve beefed up their run defense, which ought to shut down Asiata and force Bridgewater to take to the air. Cameron Wake and other defensive lineman will apply constant pressure, and I mistakes will be made. Im sure the Vikings defense will also prove effective, but I think the Dolphins offense has a better chance of overcoming adversity.
I like what the Vikings are doing and believe they have a bright future, but right now on paper the Dolphins are the better all-around team, which means its their game to lose. I think theyll rise to the occasion and cover the spread by beating the Vikings 27-17. I think the two teams will cover the over, but just barely.