Buffalo Bills Should Clobber Miami Dolphins, But…

Anybody who watched the Miami Dolphins struggle against the offensively inept New York Jets last weekend should expect one thing in Sunday’s first NFL playoff game: The Buffalo Bills to clobber the Miami Dolphins.

The spread of 13 (it opened at Buffalo -9) is by far the biggest on the board on wild card weekend. But then there is this:

The Bills lost only three games this season, and one of those was against Miami. What’s more, when the teams played in Buffalo last month and everyone thought the snow and the cold would hurt the Dolphins, the final score ended up being 32-29, as Buffalo won with a field goal on the final play.

Tua Tagovailoa has been ruled out, as he remains in the NFL’s concussion protocol, and third-stringer Skylar Thompson will once again be Miami’s starter. Thompson is a rookie, but no ordinary rookie. He is 25 years old, having spent five years at Kansas State because of an injury. And this will be his fourth consecutive start.

He is no Josh Allen. But he had two key passes to Jaylen Waddle on the drive that led to Miami’s game-winning field goal last week that clinched a playoff berth. Waddle had five receptions last Sunday, and it would seem he is Thompson’s favorite target. Remember that if you are building a parlay.

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So Is Miami Being Undervalued In This Game?

Well, look: The Bills are the (+400) second choice behind Kansas City (+350) to be the last team standing in Glendale, Arizona when the Super Bowl is complete, while Miami is +6000. Only the Seattle Seahawks have longer odds, +7000.

So the safe bet is Buffalo moneyline. But incredibly, DraftKings Sportsbook is seeing more handle being placed on Buffalo -13 (87 % of bets) than on Buffalo ML (86 % of bets). And that is understandable for a couple of reasons:

  • Sports gambling is not yet legal in Florida, so Dolphins fans in the Sunshine State are not wagering at that book.
  • Buffalo moneyline pays -850, which means a $100 bet returns $111.76. There are folks who will take a nearly 12% return any day of the week. But nothing is guaranteed in football or in life, excluding US Treasury Bonds, which are paying 4.83% if you lock your money up for six months.
  • Most of those moneyline bets are probably part of multi-game parlays, so take them with a grain of salt.

A better bet might be stocking up on gas-powered stoves before the fun-haters outlaw them, but we digress.

Look, the Bills are the better team. Period. Miami lost five in a row before eking out last week’s 11-6 victory over the Jets. And that game was tied 6-6 with 18 seconds remaining before Jason Sanders made his third field goal. Yes, the Jets have a nice young defense and an offense so bad that they just fired their offensive coordinator. But no TDs for Miami in a do-or-die game at home?

The Bills had two kickoff return TDs last weekend against New England and got three TD passes from Allen, one each for receivers Stefon Diggs, John Brown and Dawson Knox. They had 327 total offensive yards and would have had more if not for two lost fumbles. Tagovailoa threw for 234 yards the last time these teams met, but NFL and team doctors have ruled him out, and backup Teddy Bridgewater is still recovering from a broken pinkie.

Not having Tua was what made the line move so much.

“He, himself, is learning that he needs to listen to the advice of doctors and medical professionals. He understands the severity of doing that, so there’s a little bit of things that he can’t control,” Miami coach Mike McDaniel said. “He was an incredible part of the entire season. I think eight of our wins were as a result of him playing quarterback, among the team, and that did not come because it was just gifted. That was a lot of work and preparation, so it’s very frustrating, much as a lot of things in life and football are.”

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So What is the Best Wagering Strategy?

Aside from ordering as many wings as possible and inviting over your buddy who is a competitive eater and having a rigged Buffalo wing eating contest?

Well, Diggs was third in the NFL among receivers with 11 TD receptions, and we told you a week ago that he was overdue for at least one. His last multi-TD game came in Week 2 against the Titans, when it was still warm in Buffalo. Which will not be the case Sunday, as the forecast calls for  40% chance of snow showers and winds gusting at 10-15 mph in Orchard Park, NY.

As an anytime TD scorer, Diggs is only -130. But for two or more he is +450, and for three or more he is +1800. Diggs to be an anytime TD scorer and the Bills to win is a -105 wager, which circles us back to savings bonds, which we do not want to do.

The last time the Bills played in the snow was their last game against the Dolphins, so let’s look there for guidance. And let’s remember that the forecast was wrong that day and the snow did not start falling until the fourth quarter. Of Buffalo’s 69 offensive plays, 50 involved Allen passing or rushing. He was the Bills’ leading ground gainer with 77 yards on 10 carries.

DraftKings has an over/under rushing yardage line of 50.5 for Allen and has not yet posted an alternate rushing yardage line. But you will see that prior to Sunday, the guy has rushed for 70 or more yards five times and has had at least 10 runs in three of the last five games (not including the Monday Night fiasco at Cincinnati).

One more thing to watch: The line at eight of the nine New York sportsbooks is 13. FanDuel has moved it to 13 1/2, and we could see 14 or 14 1/2 by the time kickoff arrives. So this is one of the few instances where we give counsel, and we hereby advise Buffalo spread bettors to wager early.

And remember: What looks like a great bet on a Thursday can end up being a dud. Everyone has their own take, so good luck.

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