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Wild Card Weekend odds, pick

For all of the playoff rematches defining NFL Wild Card Weekend, no matchup was as hotly contested in the regular season as Bills vs. Dolphins – with Miami scoring a two-point win in Week 3 and Buffalo rallying to win by three in the snow in Week 15.

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That makes it a bit jarring to see the Bills laying nearly two touchdowns ahead of their playoff opener against the Dolphins, which is on pace for the largest spread we’ve ever seen in the NFL wild-card round. Can Miami keep it close in Round 3 without star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (concussion), or will Buffalo make easy work of its division rival?

Here’s how we’re betting Sunday’s contest, which kicks off at 1 p.m. ET on CBS.


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Bills vs. Dolphins odds (via BetMGM)

  • Bills -13 (-110), moneyline -800
  • Dolphins +13 (-110), moneyline +550
  • O/U 43.5 (-110)
Josh Allen
Josh Allen
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Bills vs. Dolphins prediction and analysis

Before Tagovailoa was officially ruled out, I was eyeing the Dolphins as sneaky underdogs in a matchup that felt much closer than the early odds suggested. After all, this was one of the best teams in the league before its five-game skid to end the season, which coincided with Tagovailoa’s own slump and eventual injury.

Then news broke that Tagovailoa would miss his third straight contest and fifth overall, and bettors immediately pounced on the Bills. I would, too, even at a price that’ll make your eyes water.

Let’s just get this out of the way now: at full strength, this would be an all-out duel. Miami was quietly a top-10 team all season long behind an MVP contender in Tagovailoa, even as folks tried to discredit what Mike McDaniel had built in his first year in South Beach. The Dolphins’ passing game was electric, with Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle shredding opposing defenses, and even one of the NFL’s most demanding schedules wasn’t enough to break this group.

Then came the issues under center, and everything else crumbled. Miami went from averaging 25.6 points through the first 12 weeks – sixth-most in the league – to scoring 21 or fewer points in five of the last six weeks, capped off by a season-worst 11 points in last week’s win over the Jets. Don’t expect much better than that this week with backup Teddy Bridgewater (finger) still limited, forcing third-stringer Skylar Thompson into another spot start on Sunday.

Skylar Thompson
Miami Dolphins rookie quarterback Skylar Thompson is set to make his first playoff on Sunday in place of injured starter Tua Tagovailoa.
Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

What have we seen from Thompson to engender confidence in his playoff debut this weekend? The seventh-round pick has been downright awful in his rookie season – his passer rating of 76.3 last week was his highest in a game with at least 10 snaps, and he has more interceptions (3) than touchdowns (1) on 105 career attempts.

Clearly, the coaching staff doesn’t trust Thompson to air it out, which is the biggest draw of this offense with Hill and Waddle on the outside. When Tagovailoa is playing point guard under center, this offense just works; when he isn’t, it just doesn’t.

There really isn’t much to say about the Bills, because we know who they are at this point. Buffalo was the best team in the regular season by DVOA and was the only team ranked in the top five on offense (second), defense (fourth) and special teams (first). Its average scoring margin (+10.6) was the best in football, and its seven double-digit wins were tied for the second-most in the league.

You can see why these teams are priced historically far apart. Since the NFL playoffs expanded in 1990, no team has ever laid more than 11.5 points in the wild-card round. That said, double-digit home favorites are 13-3 against the spread in the last 20 postseasons – including a ridiculous 11-1 ATS run since 2010, with those 11 wins coming by an average of 18.3 points.

Betting on the NFL?

Last year, Buffalo opened the playoffs with a 30-point win over an overmatched Patriots team that clearly didn’t have enough juice at quarterback. This spot feels eerily similar but somehow worse: Thompson is a clear downgrade from Mac Jones, and the Dolphins’ defense has been a liability all season long.

Since 2002, quarterbacks making their first postseason start have gone 17-36-1 ATS (32.1%), while rookie passers are 4-7-1 ATS in the wild-card round. This spot is simply too big to trust Thompson to keep it close, and the Bills are too experienced to botch the layup on Sunday.

Bills vs. Dolphins pick

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