One of the most meaningful games on the Week 17 schedule features the Buffalo Bills hosting the Miami Dolphins in an AFC East rivalry game. Early in the week, the game was a straight-up PK, but now the Bills are favored by three points with the over/under at 42.5 points.
Buffalo has already clinched the AFC East title. But a win in Week 17 will secure two home playoff games for the Bills. With fans being allowed to attend playoff games in Buffalo, that would be a big deal. Perhaps more importantly, Buffalo’s only loss in their last nine games came on the famous “Hail Murray,” so few teams in football are hotter than the Bills right now.
Meanwhile, the Dolphins are fighting just to get into the playoffs. Last week, a miraculous win over the Raiders kept Miami in the hunt while also giving the Dolphins nine wins in their previous 11 games after a 1-3 start. Fortunately, a loss by the Ravens, Browns, or Colts would be enough to get Miami into the playoffs. But the Dolphins would prefer to win and not leave anything to chance.
Tua Time, Again!
Ryan Fitzpatrick saved the day by coming off the bench to lead the comeback win over the Raiders. But after he tested positive for COVID-19, the Dolphins have no choice but to go back to rookie Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback. Tagovailoa hasn’t been overly impressive this season, although he’s been efficient and given the Dolphins a fighting chance to win games. The caveat is that injuries have hurt Miami’s receiving corps, and the Dolphins are inconsistent at running the ball, putting a lot of pressure on the rookie’s shoulders.
The Dolphins will also be facing a Buffalo defense that’s coming on strong late in the season. The Bills have held four of their last five opponents under 20 points and were dominant in the second half of last week’s game against the Patriots. The Buffalo secondary will be tough for Miami’s receivers to crack, creating plenty of time for the Bills to pressure Tagovailoa and see if they can force the rookie into some bad decisions.
The Buffalo offense is picking up a ton of steam late in the season. The Bills have scored at least 30 points in five of their last seven games, averaging over 35 points per game over that span. Josh Allen has never looked more comfortable or confident in his career, while Stefon Diggs has been almost un-coverable late in the season. If the Bills can continue to get steady production from the backfield tandem of Zack Moss and Devin Singletary, they are a dangerous offensive team.
In fairness, Miami has allowed the fewest points in the NFL this season, conceding less than 19 points per game. The Dolphins are capable of forcing a close, low-scoring game, which has been their formula for success during the second half of the season. However, they haven’t necessarily held up against the league’s top offensive teams, giving up 31 points to the Bills in Week 2 and 33 points to the Chiefs last month.
Allen and the Bills are so hot that not even the Miami defense will be able to slow them down. At this point, Tagovailoa isn’t ready to get into a shootout with Allen, nor does he have the weapons around him. Bet on the Bills to win and cover in Week 17.