Week Eleven kicks off Thursday night with a pair of AFC East rivals meeting in south Florida as the Bills play the Dolphins in a battle of 5-4 clubs. Both teams failed to take advantage of an opportunity to improve their playoff chances when they both lost last week, which sets this up as a crucial game for both clubs. With eleven teams in the AFC owning winning records, this becomes a virtual elimination game. Even though both teams are just a half game behind Cincinnati – who currently holds the sixth seed in the AFC playoff race – with so many teams with winning records, that becomes a huge obstacle for tonight’s loser. Whoever loses will find themselves in 11th or 12th place in the conference next Monday, and that’s just too many teams to realistically expect to be able to pass in the standings with just six more games left to play in the regular season – and both still having to play both Denver and New England during that final stretch.
Who: Buffalo Bills (5-4) at Miami Dolphins (5-4)
When: 8:25 pm ET, Thursday November 13
Where: Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens FL
Television: NFL Network
TelevisionAnnouncers: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Tracy Wolfson
Weather: Not a factor: 64° at kickoff with just a very slight wind (5 mph) and zero chance of precipitation. Humidity at 74%.
Points Scored: Bills 21.2 (23rd), Dolphins 25.2 (11th)
Yards per Game: Bills 331 (23rd), Dolphins 350 (14th)
Points Allowed: Bills 20.2 (7th), Dolphins 19.0 (5th)
Yards Allowed: Bills 321 (6th), Dolphins 310 (4th)
Turnover Differential: Both teams with a +5 (T-7th)
Takeaways: Both teams with 19 (Tied for 2nd)
Giveaways: Both teams with 14 (Tied for 13th)
One other statistic of note: the Bills rank dead last in the NFL in red zone touchdown scoring, at 41.2%. Last week against the Chiefs they were 0-4 in the red zone; considering Buffalo lost by only four points, that lack of production within the twenty was a killer.
Odds and Trends
The Bills are a meager 2-9 in their last eleven road games within the division. Since winning their first two games to spark talk about the playoffs, Buffalo has cooled off with only three victories since September 14. However, the Bills haven’t been all that bad when they travel this season. The Bills are 3-1 away from the Ralph; that’s the best road record in the AFC and tied with Arizona and Detroit for the second best road record in the NFL this year.
Miami had won three straight and four out of five before losing by four points at Detroit last week. They have however lost three in a row against Buffalo. In the last seven meetings the favorite has usually covered, going 6-1 against the spread. Overall Miami leads the all-time series over Buffalo with a 57-43-1 record against the Bills. The last time these two met was in week two when the Bills won at home 29-10 when EJ Manuel was still quarterback, going 16-26 while Miami turned the ball over twice. The Dolphins are 11-5 in their last 16 home games.
Money Line: Buffalo +175, Miami -210
The line was up to as high as six points earlier this week, with a low of four. The fluctuation was stimulated primarily with talk and rumors about Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who got beat up a bit against the Lions and emerged with shoulder and ankle injuries. The Dolphins will also be without starting LT Branden Albert, who went on season-ending injured reserve earlier this week with a right knee injury – also suffered in the loss to Detroit. The point total has dropped from 42½ to 41 the last few days, presumably with the thought that those two injuries may stagnate Miami’s offense. Early on in the week the money came in very heavily on Miami’s side, but the late wagering has been more on Buffalo; as of Thursday the public was 55-45 on the side of the Dolphins. The money on the point total started heavily on the under, but as that number dropped the wagering ended up on the other side, finishing with 63% of the cash on the side of the over.
I think Buffalo will bounce back and grind out a win, running the ball 40+ times. Both teams have very good defenses, ranking near the top in the NFL in points allowed, yards allowed and yards per play. However, the Dolphins are more banged up. Besides the injuries to Albert and Tannehill, starting CB Cortland Finnegan (ankle) is not expected to play, and starting RB Lamar Miller is still less than 100% with a shoulder injury. With Albert gone for the season Ju’Wuan James moves from RT to LT, Dallas Thomas shifts from guard to RT, and Shelley Smith takes over at LG. Thomas was an issue for the offensive line at LG; he becomes even more of a liability playing tackle, especially against a good defense.
I jumped on the Bills at 5½ earlier in the week, but I would hesitate to open my wallet for them if you’re only getting four. Similarly I took under 42½ early, but the current 41 is just too low for my tastes.
Pick • Bills 22, Dolphins 19
Bills +5½ (two units)
under 42½ (two units)
Bills +175 (one unit)
Parlay: Bills +5½ and under 42½ (one unit)
Teaser: Bills +11½ and under 36½ (two units)
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