New England Patriots (-8, o/u) at Miami Dolphins
This game is a big one for both teams, believe it or not. It’s big for New England because it’s their last chance to right the ship before the postseason. (A win would also clinch top spot in the AFC.) It’s big for the Dolphins because it could be head coach Dan Campbell’s last game.
Miami came into the 2015 season behind Joe Philbin but fired their veteran bench boss after a 1-3 start to the year. Campbell, the former tight ends coach, then came in and took the team on a two-game win streak before getting smacked around by, who else, the Patriots.
New England destroyed the Fish on their home field in late October, 36-7. It wasn’t a contest and, since that game, Miami has gone 2-6 and has sunk to the bottom of the tank. At 5-10, they’re now dead last in the AFC East and fourth from the bottom in the conference.
With the gigantic payroll that this team has, finishing dead last in the division is not going to be looked upon lightly. Campbell has no prior head coaching experience and was brought in a little before mid-season. Once the year is over and newly fired veterans find themselves on the coaching carousel, don’t be surprised if Campbell becomes expendable.
As for the New England Patriots, they started the year red-hot and were the consensus “best-in-the-league” for a while. Technically, they still are “the best,” being defending champs and all. I think you see what I’m getting at though.
Since their first loss of the season to Denver in overtime back on November 29th, the team has gone 2-2.
A lot can be blamed on the injury bug. With Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, LeGarrette Blount, and Dion Lewis missing time, it wasn’t hard to fathom that this team would drop a few games. Lo and behold, that’s exactly what happened.
Sadly for the Pats, though, they’re still without the majority of those guys, plus some marquee defensive players, as well. Dont’a Hightower, Patrick Chung, and Devin McCourty will likely miss action this week along with Edelman, Amendola, Blount, and Lewis. It looks like number two tight end Scott Chandler will also be out.
It’s a good strategy to rest your guys (healthy or ailing) before the postseason but it may not be that simple. Some of these injuries aren’t of the probable or the questionable type. The Pats have lost some of their main horses for extended periods of time. It’s a scary situation in New England and you can expect Bill Belichick to use this game as a rehearsal for some of his fill-ins before the postseason begins.
Thanks to New England’s Week 16 loss to the Jets (26-20 in OT) and Denver’s Monday night squeaker over the Bengals (23-20), the Pats need this game to sew up top spot in the AFC. Playoff implications aside, this is also an important contest for Belichick, personally. After last week’s embarrassing coin-toss mess in New York, the future hooded Hall of Famer will want to put any questions about his coaching to rest and find a springboard into the postseason. It’s a safe bet that he’ll find it too under the hot Miami sun.
The Dolphins are a mere 4-11-0 ATS on the season and 1-6-0 ATS at home. What does this mean for the Patriots? Nothing. Given the Pats are eight-point favorites, though, it should mean something to you.
Pick: New England (-8).
(Photo credit: Andrew Choy (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode]. Photo has been cropped.)
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