For the Miami Dolphins, the 2019 season finally comes to end this week against the New England Patriots, whose second season is about to begin. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:00 EST on Sunday, December 29 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. Fans in local markets can watch the game on CBS.
Oddsmakers list the Patriots as 16-point favorites at home with an over/under of 45 points. Be sure to check out a full list of the Week 17 NFL betting odds.
New England has faced a little criticism in recent weeks after back-to-back losses. However, the Patriots have been able to put together back-to-back wins over the Bengals and Bills the last two weeks to secure their 11th straight AFC East crown. Last week’s game against the Bills was by no means easy, but the Patriots prevailed, which is a good sign for them with the playoffs right around the corner.
Of course, the Patriots are still fighting for playoff positioning. They can’t catch Baltimore for the top seed in the AFC, but New England can still secure a first-round bye and the no. 2 seed with a Week 17 win. If the Patriots lose this week, the Chiefs can leapfrog them because Kansas City owns the head-to-head tiebreaker with New England. That should help keep the Patriots motivated to win in Week 17.
Meanwhile, a lack of playoff hopes hasn’t had much of an impact on Miami’s motivation this year. The Dolphins suffered a couple of frustrating New Jersey-based losses to the Jets and Giants in recent weeks. But they were able to bounce back last week with a win over the Bengals, surviving a late comeback and winning in overtime.
Last week’s win was Miami’s fourth of the season, which is four more than most expected from them after the front office made every effort to tank the season. Even if the Dolphins end up going 4-12, Brian Flores deserves Coach of the Year consideration because few coaches have done more with less this season.
Flores will surely deserve Coach of the Year honors if he can lead the Dolphins to a Week 17 win over his former employer. Of course, that won’t be easy considering the 43-0 beating New England put on the Dolphins in Week 2. While the Dolphins have given the Patriots trouble in South Florida over the years, the Fish haven’t won in Foxboro since 2008. That’s 10 straight home wins for the Patriots and the Dolphins with all but two coming by a double-digit margin.
With a playoff bye on the line, the Patriots can’t afford to take that foot off the gas. I expect them to hold nothing back this week. While we’ve seen the Dolphins beat some bad teams and a struggling Eagles team, they don’t have the talent to keep up with New England. Keep in mind that three of Miami’s last four losses have come by at least 16 points. The spread is obviously a lot, but I feel comfortable laying down the points and taking the Patriots to cover.
Early in the season, there was a 43-point gap between these two teams. To be fair, the Patriots scored two defensive touchdowns in that game, so the final score was a little skewed. Of course, the bigger takeaway is that New England dominated the game statistically, amassing nearly 200 more yards than the Dolphins. Meanwhile, Josh Rosen and Ryan Fitzpatrick combined for four interceptions.
To his credit, Fitzpatrick has had far better days since that game. He has continued to prove that he’s still a capable starting quarterback, at least on a losing team. He’s thrown 11 of his 19 touchdown passes this season over the last five weeks. The caveat, of course, is that he also has five interceptions during that span. Ball security continues to be a huge issue for him, which could be a factor against a New England defense that’s more than capable of creating takeaways.
Fitzpatrick’s biggest problem is the lack of help around him. DeVante Parker has emerged as Miami’s no. 1 receiver after a great second half of the season. However, the Patriots held him to no catches on seven targets in Week 2 and should be focused on taking him out of the game completely once again. Unfortunately for the Dolphins, there isn’t much of a Plan B with Albert Wilson and Isaiah Ford being the top receivers behind Parker right now. The kicker is that Fitzpatrick is still the team’s leading rusher on the season, giving Miami no rushing attack to help support their veteran quarterback.
On the other side of the ball, stopping Tom Brady and company is still no easy task. Quality teams have been able to give the Patriots trouble this year. But New England has easily scored a significant number of points against the weaker teams on their schedule. Even with some improved results lately, the Dolphins are still giving up close to 34 points per game over their past six games. Keep in mind they’ve played four losing teams during that stretch. That makes me think New England will have no problem scoring points in this game.
When all is said and done, I expect this to be another textbook blowout for the Patriots. The Dolphins aren’t strong defensively, they’re turnover-prone, and they don’t have the kind of running game that can at least shorten the game and keep Brady off the field. Unless New England takes it easy on them, which they can’t afford to do, I’m expecting the Patriots to win and cover.