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Week 14 Monday Night Football Preview: New England Patriots vs. Miami Dolphins Betting Advice

By Peter Brooks in Sports
| December 8, 2017 12:00 am PDT
patriots-vs-dolphins

For the Week 14 edition of Monday Night Football, fans and gamblers get to see an AFC East matchup that is much less one-sided than it appears: The New England Patriots are taking their talents to South Beach to take on the Miami Dolphins.

Dolphins fans have to wish this game had been in the 1st quarter of the season rather than the 4th.

Though most people tend to forget this now, after four games this season the Dolphins and the Patriots were tied at 2–2, (and then both won their next two games to remain tied at 4–2). Back in September, it seemed clear to everyone that the Patriots’ defense was so bad there was no way they’d make it to the Super Bowl.

  • Who: New England Patriots (10–2) vs. Miami Dolphins (5–7)
  • Where: Hard Rock Stadium. Miami Gardens, Florida
  • When: Monday, December 11, 2017. 8:30 PM (EST) on ESPN

But now, a short two months later, the worst defense in the league has steadily made its way back into the upper echelon, and the Patriots look as dangerous as ever.

Consider the Patriots’ last game, against the Bills. Even with Tom Brady having an off day – getting sacked three times, passing for just over 250 yards, throwing for zero touchdowns, and throwing a pick – the Pats’ D stepped up and held the Bills to 3 points, which gave the Patriots a 20-point blowout victory.

But even though New England’s defense has improved and they look like the prohibitive favorite, Miami has been the sight of many a trap game for the Pats.

Below, I’ll give you all the information you need to pick whether this game will be another trap for Tom Brady, and to make informed gambling decisions on the following bets:

  • Moneyline bets
  • Bets against the spread
  • The total score over/under bet

The AFC East may be pretty well decided at this point, but that doesn’t mean that the annual Pats Miami game won’t be entertaining. This game should be a good one.

Patriots vs. Dolphins Betting

FootballMoneyLine
  • Patriots -650
  • Dolphins +425

In picking games straight-up for moneyline odds, my philosophy involves taking a look at the two teams holistically, in order to determine which team will have the mental advantage.

In my experience, whichever team is able to maintain its mental toughness for the entire 60-minute contest generally ends up winning. On the other hand, when a team loses its focus, the players begin committing costly errors like penalties and turnovers that can derail drives and generally cause the game to spiral out of control, ending in a loss.

The first place I generally look to find a mental edge is home field advantage, a key factor in this one.

These two teams have already played each other this season, a short two weeks ago. The Patriots won the game 35–17, and they were up 21–10 at the half (and 14–0 at the end of the first quarter). It wasn’t much of a game. In addition, second-year Dolphins head coach Adam Gase is 0–3 against the Patriots.

However, even though the Patriots won in Miami in Week 17 of last year to clinch home-field advantage, they had lost their previous three games in Miami.

Not only do the Dolphins have a history of playing their hated rival close at home (and winning a good percentage of the time), they also just snapped a five-game losing streak last week by beating up on the hapless Denver Broncos 35–9, indicating that even though they may be out of the playoff hunt at 5–7, they’ve still got a little momentum and a lot of pride.

The biggest factor determining whether the Patriots will be able to stay focused or whether they could get surprised by Miami is how much they have to play for.

No head coach ever lets his team go on autopilot, especially Bill Belichick. At the same time, however, great head coaches know that it’s a long season, and you need to pick your spots. Especially Bill Belichick.

If the Patriots felt that this game – the middle game of a stretch of three consecutive road games – was a good candidate to rest and recuperate, the Dolphins might have a chance.

However, I just don’t see that happening. The Patriots need to keep pace with the Steelers (also 10–2) in order to get the #1 overall seed and secure home-field advantage through the playoffs. The Steelers play the Ravens this weekend, which is a losable game, and then the two teams go head to head next week. With both teams likely to win their last two games, this game and next game become critical.

For this reason, I envision the Patriots keeping their laser focus in this game in order to gain that crucial home-field advantage, avoiding the trap, and taking care of business in Miami.

Pick: Patriots to win

FootballSpread
  • Patriots -11.5 (-110)
  • Dolphins +11.5 (-110)

Now that I’ve made my pick for the Patriots to avoid the trap in Miami and take care of business as they try to secure the #1 overall seed in the AFC, it’s now time to ask the question of whether the Pats will win by more than 11.5 points.

In picking games against the spread, my philosophy involves taking a look at the way that the winning team’s offense matches up against the losing team’s defense.

In my experience, when a team is able to stay mentally tough enough to win and also matches up well enough on offense against the losing team’s defense to score points, they will generally win both straight-up and against the spread. On the other hand, when the losing team can generate stops, they often keep the game close enough to cover.

In this game, the matchup to watch for the ATS bet is the Pats’ offense vs. the Dolphins’ defense.

In August, many people crowned the Patriots’ offense as potentially the best in the league, noting how a unit that had been #2 in the league in scoring last year with Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, Chris Hogan, and others had only gotten better with the addition of Saints’ speedster Brandin Cooks.

However, when Julian Edelman was lost for the season, it quickly became apparent that the Patriots’ offense needed to evolve if it was going to continue to have success.

It turned out that without the presence of Edelman as a trusted third-down target, the offseason losses of LeGarrette Blount and Martellus Bennett (now back on the team but out with injury) created more problems than anticipated. To compensate, Brady began throwing the preponderance of his passes to running backs and tight ends, especially Rob Gronkowski.

New England’s offense has become a dink-and-dunk approach with running backs punctuated by long throws to Gronkowski – but Gronk is suspended for this game.

Gronkowski earned his suspension by levying an egregious, WWE-esque late hit last week on Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White, that sent the unfortunate player into the concussion protocol.

This hit is problematic in and of itself and Gronk deserves his suspension. For my purposes here, the absence of Gronk also directly impacts the Patriots’ offense in this game.

Throughout the course of this season, the Dolphins have consistently had trouble defending tight ends. Linebackers Kiko Alonso, Lawrence Timmons, and Chase Allen have struggled to cover in space: Gronk had two touchdowns against Miami in Week 12, Raiders’ tight end Jared Cook had 126 yards in Week 9, and the Chargers’ duo of Hunter Henry and Antonio Gates combined for 91 yards and a TD in Week 1.

With Gronk out, I like the Dolphins to keep the Patriots from blowing them out and to cover the spread.

Pick: Patriots to win by less than 11.5

FootballTotal Score
  • Over 47 (-115)
  • Under 47 (-105)

Now that I’ve made my pick for the Patriots to win this game because they will be motivated to earn the #1 seed overall, but for the Dolphins to cover the 11.5-point spread because of the absence of Rob Gronkowski, it’s time to answer the question of whether this game will be generally high- or low-scoring.

When picking games for the total score over/under bet, my philosophy involves taking a look at the way that the winning team’s defense matches up against the losing team’s offense.

In my experience, when a team is able to dominate the game on both offense and on defense, they will often be able to control the flow and the timing of the game to such a degree that the total score goes under. On the other hand, when the losing team is able to score points and turn the game into a shootout, the total score often goes over.

In this game, the matchup to watch for the total score bet is the Pats’ defense vs. the Dolphins’ offense.

After four games, the Pats’ defense was ranked 31st in scoring, 32nd in pass yards, 32nd in TD passes, 31st in yards-per-carry average, 27th in rush yards, and 32nd in total yards – more than 300 yards allowed than the next-closest defense (the Colts).

After this, in their last eight games, New England has improved dramatically: their 11.8 points allowed per game during that stretch is the best in the league, they’ve allowed the 6th-fewest TD passes, and held opponents to the 7th-worst average passer rating in the league.

The big question on everyone’s mind for the Patriots’ defense is simply “what happened?” The short answer is that Bill Belichick worked his magic again.

There have been no major personnel moves (in fact they’ve lost players, like Dont’a Hightower), and there have been no major changes in scheme. The unit has simply…gotten better.

Star players have started to pick up their game, like big-name free agent cornerback Stephon Gilmore. The communication in the secondary has improved. Individual, average players like Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts, David Harris, and Eric Lee have “done their job” – especially Lee, who notched 4 tackles, 3 QB hits, 1.5 sacks, an INT, and 2 passes defensed in his second game with the team after being signed off Buffalo’s practice squad.

And the biggest improvement for the Pats on D has been in the red zone: they’re 7th-best on the season.

Ultimately, I think that New England’s defense is more than enough to keep Miami from pushing the over.

Pick: Dolphins 17, Patriots 27

Summary: Best Bets

The AFC East is pretty well decided, at this point, with the Patriots at 10–2, the Bills at 6–6, and the Jets and Dolphins at 5–7. But even though Dolphins fans wish they could go back and play this game in Week 6, when both teams were all tied up at 4–2 and the Patriots’ defense was the worst in the league, this Week 14 matchup between the Pats and the ‘fins should still be highly competitive.

I think the Patriots pull out the win because they have to in order to keep pace with the 10–2 Steelers for the #1 overall seed in the AFC. However, I think the absence of Rob Gronkowski in this game due to suspension should help the Dolphins’ defense enough to keep the game close. Combine this with a steadily improving Pats’ defense, and I’m not envisioning a whole lot of scoring.

In order to profit off of this view of the game, here are my best bets:

  • Patriots -650 moneyline
  • Dolphins +11.5 against the spread (-110)
  • The total score to go under 47 (-110)

Things change awfully fast in the NFL: It only took 8 weeks for the Patriots to go from the same number of wins as the Dolphins to double the number of wins. But even with the gap between these teams starting to widen, the game in Miami should be a good one.

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