Miami Dolphins vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Preview
Where: Heinz Field – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
When: Sunday, January 8, 1:05 PM ET
TV Broadcast: CBS
Writer’s Pick: Pittsburgh Steelers (-11)
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Betting on the Miami Dolphins (+11)
The Miami Dolphins were arguably the biggest surprise of the NFL regular season. The Fins went 10-6 in their first season under head coach Adam Gase, and went 9-2 after a 1-4 start.
The Dolphins don’t look like anything special on either side of the ball. They’re a middling offense – they ranked 14th per DVOA – and are 19th on defense. But Gase has been able to maximize what’s been available to him, especially on offense. From Weeks 6-16, the Dolphins averaged an impressive 26.1 points per game.
Of course, that impressive run started against their next opponents, the Pittsburgh Steelers. That was the game where Jay Ajayi announced himself to the country as he rushed for 204 yards on 25 carries with 2 TDs to lead the Dolphins to a 30-15 win.
Ajayi, who finished fourth in the NFL with 1,272 rushing yards and also had 8 TDs, wasn’t exactly the most consistent back. He topped triple-digits in rushing just four times this season. However, he did have another 200-yard rushing performance in Week 16 against the Bills, and the Dolphins offense will lean heavily on him again vs. the Steelers.
Meanwhile, Matt Moore has done a reasonably good job in place of the injured Ryan Tannehill. Moore is completing 63 percent of his passes for 225 yards, and has thrown 8 TDs against 3 INTs in three starts.
Betting on the Pittsburgh Steelers (-11)
The Pittsburgh Steelers will enter the postseason as one of the hottest teams in the league. The Steelers have won seven games in a row, including key come-from-behind division wins over the Bengals (24-20) and Ravens (31-27).
Meanwhile, the Steelers’ starters – and more importantly, the Big Three of Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and Le’Veon Bell – should be relatively fresh for their wild-card round matchup against Miami after being rested in Week 17 against the Browns.
Bell was surprisingly limited to just 53 rushing yards in their Week 6 meeting against the Dolphins, his second-lowest rushing total of the season. But Miami is ranked 30th in run defense, giving up 140 rushing yards per game and is tied for last with 4.8 yards per carry. Bell rushed for 835 yards from Week 11 through Week 16 before the Steelers rested him Sunday, and should be ready to get that Dolphins run defense back.
Roethlisberger also didn’t have a great game against Miami, going just 19-of-34 for 189 yards with 1 TD and 2 INTs. Big Ben has been up-and-down for the past few weeks, and has thrown six picks in his last four games. But as he showed in his excellent fourth-quarter against the Ravens, he can still come up big when it matters the most.
The Steelers are 4-1 in their last five home playoff games. However, they lost their most recent one in 2014 against the Baltimore Ravens.
The Dolphins were able to surprise the Steelers once, but Pittsburgh should be more prepared for the threat the Fins will pose in this playoff matchup. The Steelers (-11) show their class and run out 28-14 winners.
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