The 2019 NFL regular season concludes on Sunday and for the New England Patriots, it means a chance at earning a first-round bye for the tenth straight season.
To do so, they will need to defeat the Miami Dolphins for the second time this year. The Dolphins are a much different team than the last time they played New England in Week 2.
There are several familiar faces on the Dolphins, including former defensive play-caller Brian Flores as head coach and coordinators Chad O’Shea and Patrick Graham. There’s also Calvin Munson and Nate Brooks, two members of the Patriots practice squad this season who were signed by Miami and became immediate starters.
But the Patriots won’t be in any mood for a reunion atmosphere. They are treating Week 17 as a playoff game, and in all regards, it is one. Should the Dolphins pull a shocking upset, it would force New England to play in the Wild Card round should Kansas City also win.
Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots
Sunday, December 29, 2019 at 1 p.m.
Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Massachusetts
*All odds and betting info courtesy of OddsShark and originally posted by BetOnline
Spread: New England (-16.5 at -111)
Over/Under: 44.5 (-110 either side)
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Miami has come a long way since the opening few weeks of the season, allowing over 100 points and showing very little signs of life. But a switch clicked, injuries happened, and all of a sudden the Dolphins are looking like a competitive team.
Ryan Fitzpatrick has solidified his role as the starting quarterback while Devante Parker and Allen Hurns have been producing well from the receiver position.
On defense, Christian Wilkins has emerged as a true playmaker and has drawn high praise from Bill Belichick. Wilkins has shown his ability as a run stopper, a pass rusher, and even as a fullback on offense — something he’s done since college. A Massachusetts native, Wilkins will be playing back in his home state for the first time in the NFL.
New England Patriots
The Patriots defense continues to be stout, holding a tough Buffalo team to just 17 points. Stephon Gilmore is pacing that unit and is a frontrunner for Defensive Player of the Year. Pro Bowl linebacker Dont’a Hightower has also molded into form as an outside disrupter on the line while showing his prowess in defending the pass.
The offense has been the chief concern for New England, but the team looks to be finding a bit of identity at the right time. Rex Burkhead has emerged while Sony Michel has had his two best games of the year over the past two weeks. As a receiver, Julian Edelman is enjoying his best season as a professional and was a notable Pro Bowl snub.
This is the final tuneup for New England ahead of the postseason, but it is still an important game despite the matchup. The Patriots need to win to earn a bye in the postseason and are also hoping to use this game as a method to figure things out on both ends before playoffs start.
Pick: The Patriots should take this one and cover the spread but will hit the under. It should be a similar contest to the one New England played in Cincinnati. Patriots take this one, 31-10.