NFL 2018 Season - Week 16
 

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Pure Math
by Dennis Ranahan

It has been nine weeks since the Miami Dolphins visited Foxboro with an opportunity of pulling three games ahead of the New England Patriots in the AFC South Division standings. That meeting at Gillette Stadium found the Dolphins a perfect 3-0 on the season and the Patriots riding a uncharacteristic two game losing streak.

How did Adam Gase’s team do in that showdown?

Not well. The Patriots began their routine assent to the top of their division standings, they have won the AFC East in all but one season with Tom Brady at quarterback since he became New England’s starter in 2001. New England hammered the Dolphins in that fourth week matchup this season, 38-7.

That road loss began the Dolphins downfall from the top of their division to another season of disappointment. Miami has only won two games after their 3-0 start, a home upset win over the Chicago Bears and a road victory over the New York Jets. The Patriots, conversely, have only lost one game since that September meeting with Miami.

This week, the Dolphins look to end a two game losing streak when they meet another AFC South Division foe, the Buffalo Bills. The Bills come riding into Miami on a two game winning streak following victories over the Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars on each side of their bye week.

So, what do we have here?

The Bills have a much improved defense and an offense totally reliant on rookie quarterback Josh Allen. The Bills first round draft choice this year, the seventh overall selection, led Buffalo to a pair of wins before suffering an injury in the middle of October. In the three games he missed, the Bills were swept while being outscored 103-20.

Buffalo’s current two game winning streak coincides with Allen’s return behind center.

The Dolphins quick start was gained with Ryan Tannehill running their offense, but he was injured in the fifth week of the season and didn’t return until last Sunday’s game against the Indianapolis Colts on the road. He staked the Dolphins to a lead in that game, but Miami’s defense was victimized by the clutch play of Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, which provided the home team with a 27-24 win.

Even with only two wins in eight weeks, the Dolphins still get mentioned with teams in the hunt for a Wild Card berth. Their season mark of 5-6 is one game better than the 4-7 posted by the Bills. In the real world, where decisions are made not on statistical possibilities but more on probabilities, one would think that neither the Dolphins or Bills will be playing into January this year.

Had Miami held that lead last Sunday in Indianapolis, they would have both had a game advantage over the Colts and the tiebreaker edge based on a head-to-head win over Indianapolis. The Colts came out of that game with a 6-5 record, and are now in prime position to make a run at a Wild Card slot. The Dolphins, conversely, would need all sorts of help, and a season finish that matched their season start, to sneak into the playoffs.

Which leaves the Dolphins with only this to play for, do everything they can to keep their flickering playoff hopes alive. That miracle run, if it is to be, would have to begin with a victory this week at home over the Bills.

What we have here is a Buffalo team on a two game winning streak against a Dolphins squad they beat twice last year and coming into this contest on a two game losing run. This one can be reduced to pure math. The Bills are not good enough to win a third straight game against a team on the road they beat twice last year, while the Dolphins are looking to end a losing run with Tannehill making his second start since returning from injury.

The Dolphins win, now let's beat the point spread.

Qoxhi Picks: Miami Dolphins (-3½) over Buffalo Bills