Miami Dolphins (9-5 SU, 8-6 ATS) vs. Buffalo Bills (7-7 SU, 6-8 ATS)
Week 16 NFL
Date/Time: Saturday, December 24, 2016 at 1PM EST
Where: New Era Field, Buffalo, New York
By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com
Betting Odds: MIA +3.5/BUF -3.5
Over/Under Total: 42.5
In AFC East action on Saturday from New Era Field, the Miami Dolphins take on the Buffalo Bills. Both teams are coming off wins. Miami posted a convincing 34-13 road win over the Jets on Saturday. The win lifted their record to 9-5, solidly in the wild card picture, which is a crowded one. The 'Fins can't let up now. The Bills easily handled the winless Browns on Sunday, 33-13. They are now 7-7, but it's been a letdown season for Buffalo who is out of postseason contention. Who can cover the spread in Buffalo?
These divisional rivals played already this season, with Miami taking a 28-25 win in sunny Florida in 80-degree weather on October 23. It's a little different this time around in the wintry cold of Buffalo. This is Buffalo's third straight home game, as they are nice and dug in, accustomed to the conditions, while this Miami bunch gets a big first taste of December football this week. The Dolphins depended big on Ryan Tannehill and Jay Ajayi in that game. But Tannehill is out and it's been a while since Ajayi showed the 214-yard form he showed in that game. It's just not all that clear if that result from October has a lot of bearing at this stage.
Granted, it came against the Jets, but Miami looked good on Sunday in their first test since losing Tannehill. Matt Moore stepped in and threw 4 touchdowns on only 12-for-18 passing. He threw a pick, but it was a good first sign for a veteran backup who hadn't seen much time on the field with the ultra-durable Tannehill getting all the work behind center for the past five seasons. Moore likes to throw the ball downfield and has stayed on-point despite minimal playing time recently. This game represents a step up on the difficulty scale, with a tough road spot against a team with a pretty good pass-defense. We'll see how it goes.
Moore made good use of his weaponry in the Saturday win over the Jets. One thing that could really help is if Ajayi and the Miami run-game could find some more life. Again, Ajayi is at 1007 yards and has shown a spark in his first full season of work. But with 205 yards on 69 carries in his last four games, his work has dropped off some. On Saturday, Jarvis Landry was over 100 yards with a TD catch. Kenny Stills caught a touchdown, as well. Moore also made a good connection with big tight end Dion Sims, who hauled in a pair of touchdown grabs after having a quiet season up until now. When watching Miami this season and seeing how they overcame a 1-4 start to become a contender, it wasn't based much on QB play. Losing Tannehill hurts, but this is a team in the full sense of the word, with a bright young head coach bringing things together. Maybe they can make it work.
The Miami defense has perhaps been inconsistent, but they have been a big part of Miami winning 8 of their last 9 games. They can be porous and give up a lot of big plays at times, but they really tighten up when called upon. They are ranked 24th in terms of total yardage and are a respectable 15th in points allowed, attesting to their ability to keep it together. We're seeing some good playmaking ability from this bunch. The front-seven has struggled mightily at times against the run, but they are starting to increasingly get after the passer. Ndamukong Suh has been getting after it, with Cameron Wake now at 10.5 sacks. He even picked off a pass against the Jets. Kiko Alonso and Jelani Jenkins are making plays in the middle. The secondary, a strong suit on the team, is also playing well, with Tony Lippett getting two picks against New York.
Coming off a tough run of 5 losses in 7 games, the Bills really needed a positive development and got it on Sunday, albeit over a winless Cleveland team, 33-13. They might be out of it at 7-7, but it somehow seems worse with the talk that this is coach Rex Ryan's last 2 games. It all makes it seem worse than it really is. But another holding-pat season has to be a tough pill to swallow for a Bills team that has gotten better in the last several years, but are still suffering from a stubborn case of mediocrity. After a 4-2 start with 4 straight wins, the Bills looked to have turned the corner and it all went into the tank.
The Buffalo offense has suffered from bad line play, with the mobile QB Tyrod Taylor under siege more often than not. Taylor is efficient and can run the ball, but his standing as the long-term Buffalo solution behind center is loose. The only shining point of this offense is RB LeSean McCoy, who is averaging 5.5 yards a game on 1129 yards and 13 touchdowns. With Taylor and Mike Gillislee chipping in, the Buffalo run-game is pretty stout, with their aerial attack lagging behind, ranked 31st in the league and led by Robert Woods' 527 yards. There was hope with Sammy Watkins, who can't seem to avoid the injury bug.
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The Buffalo defense has scored several times this season and gotten some turnovers in bunches. And they can sometimes rush the passer well, led by Lorenzo Alexander's 11.5 sacks, with Jerry Hughes and Kyle Williams chipping in, as well. But they're pretty weak against opposing rushing attacks and it's fair to call them a middling defense—not good enough to sustain a no-frills offense that usually labors.
Again, the Bills gave the Dolphins a good game the first time around and with this in Buffalo, maybe they can hang in there. Beating Cleveland is no great feat this season, but last week at least showed the Bills haven't packed it in yet. Miami's Matt Moore may have had it easy last week against the Jets, but things should be more difficult this week. Still, getting points in what could be a close game, I'm leaning Miami.
Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the Miami Dolphins plus 3.5 points. Tired of your credit card not working for sportsbook deposit? End that problem today and bet the Miami vs. Buffalo game from the comfort of your own home by signing up at Bovada Sportsbook where your credit card WILL work and where you'll receive a generous 100% sign-up bonus!