NFL 2018 Season - Week 16
 

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Winning Reasons
by Dennis Ranahan

Two teams that are surprise leaders in their division races meet this Sunday when the Miami Dolphins host the Chicago Bears. Miami launched their 2018 season with three straight wins over the the Tennessee Titans, New York Jets and Oakland Raiders.

Then, in a who do you think you are game, the New England Patriots got back in the AFC East race with a Week Four victory over the Dolphins in convincing fashion, 38-7. Last week, after building a 17-0 lead at Cincinnati, Miami faltered down the stretch and lost the game by ten points.

The Chicago Bears lost a heartbreaker in their season opener against longtime rival Green Bay. Chicago had established a huge halftime lead as their defense, with newly acquired linebacker Khalil Mack, first stifled and then injured the Packers high powered offense. Then, in a script out of Hollywood, Aaron Rodgers returned from a first half injury that some thought could sideline him for weeks and led the biggest fourth quarter comeback in team history.

In the end, the Packers got the early jump on the Bears in the NFC North Division race with a 24-23 win. But, Green Bay came out of the game with a hobbled Rodgers and the Bears with a renewed enthusiasm that their team is getting close to contending with the league’s best.

Since that opening night season kickoff game at Lambeau Field, the Packers have struggled while winning only one and tying another in their last four starts. The Bears, bounced off that early defeat with three straight victories including an annihilation, 48-10, over the visiting Tampa Bay Buccaneers before their bye last week.

The Dolphins quick start has been leveled by two straight losses and now they face the tough Bears at home as underdogs on the point spread.

Are the Bears really that good?

Are the Dolphins really ready to tumble to a third straight loss?

What possible reason would there be to back the home team here given Chicago is playing so well and appears to be on a huge upswing while the Dolphins have been hurt by injuries? In the off-season, Miami looked to bolster their anemic offense with the addition of two established offensive lineman, center Daniel Kilgore and tackle Josh Sitton.

It was a good thought, but injuries have now sideliend both Kilgore and Sitton for the duration of this season.

Meanwhile, the Bears are hitting on all cylinders under first-year head coach Matt Nagy. The development of second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, who passed for six touchdowns against the Buccaneers before their bye week, and a defense that is talented throughout and now has the enforcer with Mack, Chicago is positioned to wrestle the division title away from two-powerhouses, the Packers and Minnesota Vikings.

So, what reason is there to take the Dolphins at home on Sunday?

Those reasons right there.

The Bears success with three straight wins and a blowout headed into their bye robs Chicago of any spike in their performance this week. They are as confident of a win this week as the paper trail would seem to indicate.

When a team has nothing to overcome, and are riding a win streak punctuated by a lopsided win in their most recent game, a motivational dip is likely. Add to this that the blowout Chicago victory came before their bye week, which gave them two weeks to celebrate their 48 point outburst, and you get an added element to depress their effort this week.

Finally, the Dolphins were good enough to hold a commanding lead over a division leader on the road last week in Cincinnati, the fact that they didn’t finish that game with a win only serves to enhance their preparation for this week’s game.

So, what possible reason would there be to take the Dolphins on Sunday over the Bears? How about this, they have all the motivational factors in their favor, and that is enough when they also get points on the spread.

Qoxhi Picks: Miami Dolphins (+3) over Chicago Bears