Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots
For the second time this season, Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is in concussion protocol and expected to miss significant time because of a head injury. It seems almost certain that Teddy Bridgewater will start Sunday against the Patriots, and while Tagovailoa’s critics might argue the Dolphins could be better off without him, the betting market disagrees.
DraftKings flipped its line from Miami -2 to New England -2.5, and Circa Sports moved all the way to Patriots -3. When a similar situation arose in October, the Dolphins went 0-2 with Bridgewater and rookie Skylar Thompson splitting quarterback duties in losses to the Jets and Vikings. Tagovailoa passed for 310 yards and a touchdown yet also threw three interceptions in a Week 16 loss to the Packers that put the Dolphins in a desperate situation.
The good news for these teams is playoff hopes are on the line. The bad news is both teams have been terrible lately. Miami, which has dropped four in a row to fall to the No. 7 seed in the AFC, can earn a playoff spot by winning its final two games or by winning one and getting a loss by the Jets in one of their final two games. New England (7-8) can secure a wild-card spot by beating the Dolphins (8-7) and the first-place Bills, who might have nothing to play for in Week 18. The Patriots, 1-4 in their past five games, are fortunate to be playing for something at this point.
In last week’s 22-18 loss to Cincinnati, New England was dominated in the first half and appeared set to get blown out. With a few breaks, the Patriots rallied from a 22-0 deficit and had the ball on the Bengals’ 5-yard line with one minute remaining. On a predictable play call — a run up the middle — Rhamondre Stevenson hit a wall of defenders and lost a fumble. Mac Jones started poorly and finished by passing for 240 yards and two touchdowns. Jones’ stats look fine but only sugarcoat the stink — New England’s offense totaled 285 yards, its defense allowed 442 and Patriots kicker Nick Folk missed two extra points.
While the Patriots have been pathetic on offense and special teams, they might be a decent option as 2.5-point favorites in this spot against Bridgewater and the slumping Dolphins.