The Buffalo Bills will open their postseason run by hosting the Miami Dolphins on Sunday in a first-round playoff battle between AFC East rivals.
The No. 2 seed Bills finished the year with a 13-3 record, far better than No. 7 seed Miami (9-8). However, the two teams split their season series, playing two close games in the regular season.
Miami could struggle to repeat those performances without starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa available for Sunday’s game. We’ll break down what that means for this Super Wild Card Weekend matchup in our NFL picks and predictions for Bills vs. Dolphins on January 15.
Be sure to also check out Sam Farley's Dolphins vs Bills Wild Card prop picks!
Dolphins vs Bills best odds
Dolphins vs Bills Wild Card Weekend picks and predictions
The Dolphins have played the Bills tough this year. In their first meeting, Miami managed to pull out a 21-19 victory in Week 3. Buffalo managed to get some revenge in Week 15 at home, though the Bills only won by a 32-29 margin.
Those results make the 13-point line in Sunday’s game look silly. However, there’s one massive factor that explains the discrepancy: the fact that Tagovailoa won’t be able to play in this playoff clash. Tagovailoa was the quarterback for the Dolphins in both of the regular season matchups with the Bills, and he played well in those games, throwing for three touchdowns and no interceptions.
While his numbers weren’t out of this world, Tagovailoa was able to make plays when he needed to against a sometimes-vulnerable Buffalo secondary. But with the Miami quarterback remaining in concussion protocol, the Dolphins will have to go to another option for Sunday’s playoff game.
Most observers thought veteran Teddy Bridgewater could get the starting nod for Miami, provided he recovered from a dislocated pinkie on his throwing hand. But Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel says that he’s now preparing rookie Skylar Thompson out of Kansas State to start under center for this postseason contest.
That’s not a great sign for Miami. In seven games this year, Thompson has completed just 57.1% of his passes, throwing for one touchdown against three interceptions. Against a strong New York Jets defense last week, he did manage to complete 20 of 31 passes, but only went for 152 yards and no scores. ESPN’s QBR metric rated Thompson at just a 14.8 on its 0-100 scale, due in large part to the fact that he only averaged 4.9 yards per attempt.
Thompson will face another solid defense on Sunday. The Bills are giving up just 17.9 points per game this season, the second-lowest mark in the NFL. Buffalo has also played well against opposing quarterbacks, allowing just six yards per passing attempt.
We’ve already seen this scenario play out against the Jets. While Thompson was able to lead Miami to a victory in their regular-season finale, he only generated nine points of offense (with the Dolphins defense adding a safety on the last play of the game). He may have nearly as much trouble leading the Dolphins into the endzone against the Bills this weekend.
I like a lot of bets that favor Buffalo in this game. But for my best bet, I’d like to focus on the futility of the Dolphins offense instead. The consensus line on the Miami team total is 14.5 points, and I find it hard to believe that Thompson can even get them to that number in an important game. I’m taking the Under on Miami’s team total, and fully expect Thompson to struggle to generate anything for most of this game.
My best bet: Dolphins team total Under 14.5 points (-115 at DraftKings)
Dolphins vs Bills
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Dolphins vs Bills Wild Card Weekend spread analysis
Buffalo opened Sunday’s game as an 11-point favorite. As Miami’s quarterback situation came into focus, that line moved up, and most sites are now listing Bills -13.5 as their main line, though you can also find Buffalo -13 at some books.
As we’ve already broken down, it’s unlikely that the Dolphins will generate much offense in this game. It’s even less likely that Miami can win this matchup, with most sportsbooks listing the Bills as at least a -850 favorite on the moneyline.
The question then becomes how much Buffalo can win by. The Bills should be able to score points against this Miami defense, as they’ve averaged 28.4 points per game this season, second-best in the NFL. Miami’s defense struggles against the pass, allowing 234.8 yards per game through the air, and has given up 23.5 points per game to opponents.
Bills quarterback Josh Allen threw for four touchdowns in his last meeting with the Dolphins. He has led an offense that has scored 32 points or more in each of its last three playoff games, and looked great against the New England Patriots in Buffalo’s regular-season finale.
That’s all enough for me to predict the Bills win this game in a blowout. It’s scary to give up 13 points in a playoff game, but this is a spot where that line is appropriate. As long as the spread stays under 14, lay the points with Buffalo.
Dolphins vs Bills Wild Card Weekend Over/Under analysis
The total on this game opened at 43.5. As of early Friday, it still stands at that number, with virtually every sportsbook offering an Over/Under of 43.5 with -110 lines on both sides.
I’m surprised there hasn’t been some downward movement on the news that Thompson will most likely start on Sunday for the Dolphins. It’s possible that bettors aren’t interested in whether Thompson or Bridgewater plays, and that only the absence of Tagovailoa matters for Miami, something that would already be factored in.
Since I’m predicting that Miami will score less than 14.5 points in this game, the question becomes just how many points Buffalo can put up. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Bills score over 30 points, as they’ve done in their last three games and in their last meeting with the Dolphins.
Even if the Bills end up around 35 points, that leaves a little work for Miami to do. I don’t expect Buffalo to pitch a shutout, though, and even if the Dolphins get to seven or 10 points, that makes the total very tight to the 43.5 Over/Under.
I’m going to stay off the overall total in this matchup. I think it’s clear that the Dolphins offense won’t put up many points in this game, but I’m less certain on how badly the Bills will blow out Miami.
Dolphins vs Bills same-game parlay
Skyler Thompson Under 0.5 passing touchdowns
Josh Allen Over 1.5 passing touchdowns
For my same game parlay, I’m going to bet on both quarterbacks to meet my expectations heading into this game. I’ve talked plenty about how Thompson is overmatched here, as he has accomplished little this season and even less against capable defenses like the one he’ll face in Buffalo.
Thomson has had significant action in three games and has thrown for just one touchdown against three interceptions on the season. Against the New York Jets — the best comparison for the Bills' defense — he threw zero touchdowns and one interception in 64 attempts over two games.
Meanwhile, Allen should be able to tear up the Dolphins' secondary. In their last meeting, Allen tossed four touchdowns against Miami, and he has thrown for at least two scores in five of his last six games overall. Buffalo will want to put this game away early and will likely allow Allen to let it fly in the first half.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see Allen hit the Over by throwing two touchdowns before halftime, so I’m adding him to this parlay despite the fact that there’s a lot of juice on this side of the line. I’m happy with both sides of this SGP, and the fact that the Dolphins may have Teddy Bridgewater available to replace a struggling Thompson at some point makes this parlay even more promising.
SGP Odds: +341 at BetMGM
Dolphins vs Bills betting trend to know
The Dolphins are 3-7-1 against the spread in their last 11 meetings against the Bills in Buffalo. Find more NFL betting trends for Dolphins vs. Bills.
Dolphins vs Bills game info
|Location:||Highmark Stadium, Buffalo, NY|
|Date:||Sunday, January 15, 2023|
|Kickoff:||1:00 p.m. ET|
|Opening odds:||Bills -11, 43.5|