Last week we articulated a well-reasoned argument for why the Dolphins should cover as 3-point road favorites against the Detroit Lions. We cited the strength of Miami's defense, the effectiveness of Head Coach Philbin's halftime adjustments and an expected psychological boost owing to the greater importance of that game to the Dolphin's playoff chances.
In spite of our thoughtful narrative though, Matthew Stafford led Detroit on a drive late in the fourth quarter that culminated in a touchdown pass to Running Back, Theo Riddick, with 29 ticks left on the game clock. To our chagrin, Miami fell 16-20.
Nonetheless, a confluence of systems suggest that the Dolphins should rebound at home versus the Buffalo Bills in tonight's Thursday Night Football matchup. For one, Massey-Peabody Power Rankings put Miami about 6 points better than the Bills on a neutral field -- this difference is sufficient to cover the spread even before factoring in the Dolphins home field advantage.
Additionally, computer simulation-based systems such as that of OddsSharks and AccuScore likewise point to Miami notching the win against the number. Elo ratings too favor the Dolphins -4.
When these same teams met in week 2, Buffalo came away with a 29-10 win, easily besting the 1.5 point spread. However, as the Linemakers point out, the Bills stars from that day, E.J. Manuel (QB) and C.J. Spillers (RB), are not in the current lineup. To this point, Manuel's QBR was 54.6 in the week 2 victory, compared to replacement Quarterback, Kyle's Orton's, 41.7 passer rating for the 2014 season. Similarly, Spillers' 69 rushing yards on 12 carries (for 5.8 yards per) in week 2 represents the best performance of a Buffalo Running Back this season (Spillers is currently sidelined with a broken collarbone). Thus, tonight's game is unlikely to be a repeat of the September 14th get-together.
Also in Miami's favor, Buffalo is atrocious in the red-zone, ranking worst in the league in touchdown percentage from inside the 20 yardline.
At the end of the day, both of these teams are defensive specialists (Miami ranks 5th in points allowed, while Buffalo is 7th). By the numbers though, Miami sports a better offense (the Dolphins are 11th in points scored, versus 23rd for the Bills). Thus we expect that the Dolphins are capable of delivering, more-or-less, their average output with the ball, while winning the turnover battle -- and stifling the Bills offensive efforts. We like the Fins to avenge their week 2 loss at the Bills and to right-foot themselves after coming up just short last week at the Lions.