The Miami Dolphins will play their first postseason game since 2016 on Sunday.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is it will come in frigid conditions at division rival Buffalo with a rookie seventh-round draft pick under center.
The line opened with the Bills favored by 10 points at BetMGM, but it vaulted to 13 when Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was ruled out due to a concussion and Skylar Thompson was named the starter ahead of veteran Teddy Bridgewater, who has a dislocated pinkie.
Buffalo’s moneyline also lengthened from -450 to -900 by Friday, but that hasn’t dissuaded bettors. With 86 percent of the money backing the Bills, it’s the highest percentage at the sportsbook of any moneyline among the six wild-card games this weekend.
The line is also 13.5 at DraftKings, where Buffalo has been backed by 80 percent of the spread-line bets and 88 percent of the money.
Suffice it to say, the public is expecting a massive rout in the wild-card game with the biggest point spread.
The Bills and Dolphins split their season series, with the Dolphins winning 21-19 in Miami during Week 3 and the Bills prevailing 32-29 in Buffalo during Week 15, though Tagovailoa played both games for the Dolphins.
Josh Allen had 400 passing yards in the loss to Miami and threw for four touchdowns in the victory. He’s 8-2 in his career against Miami, a team that ranked second in the NFL this season in blitz rate.
“They bring a variety of pressures … You’ve got to go in with a really good plan, whether it’s blocking it up or getting the ball out quick,” Allen said.
A Super Bowl favorite since the offseason, the Bills had an impressive year, featuring the second-ranked scoring offense (28.4 points per game) and the second-best scoring defense (17.9 points allowed). Allen threw for 35 touchdowns and ran for another seven as the team’s second-leading rusher (762 yards) behind Devin Singletary (819).
The Dolphins, who last won a playoff game in 2000, started the season 8-3, with the addition of Tyreek Hill (119 catches, 1,710 yards, seven TDs) boosting the offense before Tagovailoa’s head injuries interrupted his availability.
Thompson completed 20 of 31 passes for 152 yards in last week’s 11-6 win over the New York Jets that locked up the Dolphins’ playoff spot. In seven appearances (two starts) in the regular season, he completed 57.1 percent of his passes with one touchdown and three interceptions.
“I feel like I got a pretty good feel for what a playoff game kind of would look like just last week,” Thompson told reporters. “It was a win-or-go-home-type of situation for us, so getting to experience kind of what that felt like last week I think was helpful. This week is just going to be like any other week for me this entire season.”
Bills RB James Cook Over 37.5 Rushing Yards (-115 at BetMGM): This is a great example of prop shopping. DraftKings is offering the same yards at -120, while BetRivers is offering Cook’s Over at 39.5 yards at -120. Every yard could well matter here as Cook has hit 40 yards only five times this season. That includes four times in the past seven games, and we like the chances of Buffalo pounding out a victory on the ground in the second half while resting Singletary a bit.
Over 43.5 Points (-110 at BetMGM/DraftKings): Thompson led the Dolphins’ offense to a mere three field goals last week and will have a difficult time moving the ball consistently in the cold and minus his leading rusher. That said, the game could also be decided early in the second half, leading Buffalo to call off the dogs and focus on next week. Thompson isn’t equipped to win this game, but he does have enough weapons in the passing game to pick up a cheap touchdown or two after the result is no longer in question. Hence why we like the Bills scoring in bunches early courtesy of short fields and Thompson helping hit the over in the second half.
Dolphins: Tagovailoa (concussion) and leading rusher RB Raheem Mostert (thumb) are out, while OG Liam Eichenberg (hand) is doubtful. The team also listed seven players as questionable: Bridgewater (knee/finger), OLB Bradley Chubb (ankle, hand), WR Cedric Wilson (hip/groin), FB Alec Ingold (thumb) and OLs Terron Armstead (toe, pec, knee, hip), Kendall Lamm (ankle) and Brandon Shell (knee, ankle).
Bills: DT Jordan Phillips (shoulder) and WR Isaiah McKenzie (hamstring) are questionable.
Given the Dolphins’ quarterback situation along with several other key injuries as they travel north to face a red-hot team, this would undoubtedly go down as one of the biggest upsets in playoff history should Miami win. In reality, the Bills are looking to put this game away early and not get any key players injured.
Will Buffalo cover? That could come down to coach Sean McDermott’s plan if the Bills are holding a comfortable lead in the second half.
–Bills 34, Dolphins 20
–Field Level Media