Buffalo Bills vs. Miami Dolphins
Line: Buffalo -13
Where: Highmark Stadium, Orchard Park, New York
When: Sunday, 1/15 at 1:00 p.m. ET
The No. 7 Miami Dolphins will try to upset the No. 2 Buffalo Bills when the AFC East rivals square off on Sunday afternoon during Super Wild Card Weekend.
Miami is expected to start third-string quarterback Skylar Thompson, as starter Tua Tagovailoa (concussion) has been ruled out and backup Teddy Bridgewater continues to work his way back from a finger injury. Thompson drew the start in Week 18 against the Jets, completing 20 of 31 passes for 152 yards in an 11-6 win that clinched a playoff spot.
Buffalo enters the postseason riding a seven-game winning streak after beating New England by 12 points in its first game following Damar Hamlin’s injury. The Bills controlled their own destiny in the race for the No. 1 seed in the AFC prior to Hamlin’s injury leading to the cancelation of their Week 17 matchup against the Bengals.
The Dolphins picked up a 21-19 win as 4.5-point home underdogs against Buffalo in Week 3, but the Bills notched a 32-29 win as 7-point home favorites in the rematch last month. Buffalo has won eight of the last nine meetings between these teams, including six straight at home.
Oddsmakers opened Buffalo as a 10.5-point home favorite for Sunday afternoon’s tilt, but the early betting action has pushed that spread up to -13. The total opened at 44 and has been bet down slightly to 43.5.
Thompson has been thrust into action during his rookie season with Miami due to Tagovailoa and Bridgewater’s injuries. He has completed 57.1% of his passes for 534 yards and a touchdown, but he has also thrown three interceptions in his seven appearances (two starts). Thompson has certainly been a downgrade for an offense that ranks sixth in the NFL in yards per game (364.5).
“I feel like I got a pretty good feel for what a playoff game kind of would look like just last week,” Thompson said. “It was a win-or-go-home type of situation for us, so getting to experience kind of what that felt like last week I think was helpful. This week is just going to be like any other week for me this entire season.”
It might feel different for Thompson when he takes the field on Sunday though, as he is facing an inspired Buffalo team that is playing for their injured teammate. The Bills closed the regular season on a seven-game winning streak and are excited that Hamlin has been able to return home as he continues recovering from a cardiac event.
They returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown against New England in a 35-23 win last week, which was one of two return scores on the day for Nyheim Hines. Buffalo comes into the postseason with the No. 2 scoring offense (28.4) and the No. 2 scoring defense (17.9) in the league. Quarterback Josh Allen is 8-2 in his career against the Dolphins, throwing for four touchdowns in last month’s win.
He has completed 63.3% of his passes for 4,283 yards, 35 touchdowns and 14 interceptions this season. Allen also rushed for 762 yards and seven touchdowns, sitting behind running back Devin Singletary, who ran for a team-high 819 yards.
There are a host of players listed as ‘questionable’ for this game, with most of them on Miami’s roster. Linebacker Bradley Chubb (ankle), running back Jeff Wilson (illness), wide receiver Jaylen Waddle (ankle), running back Raheem Mostert (thumb) and offensive lineman Terron Armstead (toe) are among the players with that injury designation for the Dolphins.
Miami has gone ‘over’ the total in six of its last seven road games, and these teams have gone ‘over’ in 11 of their last 16 head-to-head meetings. The Dolphins are 5-1 ATS in their last six games against AFC teams, while the Bills are 11-1 in their last 12 home games.
The pick: Dolphins +13
This line has gotten way too high for me to back Buffalo, which has already played a pair of close games against Miami this season. The Bills are coming off a misleading 12-point win against New England, as two of their five touchdowns came on returns, and Patriots quarterback Mac Jones threw three interceptions. Allen continues to deal with red-zone turnover problems, as the Bills have given the ball away nine times inside the 20-yard line this season. Miami’s defense has only allowed 29 points in the last two games, and it is a primarily healthy unit coming into this matchup. Buffalo is playing with a lot of different emotions right now, making it tough to cover a huge spread against a division rival that has already given them two competitive games this season.