Saturday’s NFL schedule includes what could be a play-in game for the AFC playoffs between the Miami Dolphins and Las Vegas Raiders. Kickoff is at 8:15 EST. Despite playing on the road, the Dolphins are 3-point favorites with an over/under of 47.5 points.
Not long ago, the Raiders were surging toward a playoff spot. However, they’ve now lost four of their last five games after an overtime defeat against the Chargers last Thursday. At 7-7, the Raiders will need a minor miracle to reach the playoffs, making this a must-win game.
The Dolphins are in a little better position in the playoff race, although they still have a lot of work ahead of them. Miami enters Week 16 tied with Baltimore for the final Wild Card spot in the AFC, with both teams sitting at 9-5. There are some complicated scenarios that could put the Dolphins in the playoffs. However, two wins in their final two games will be enough, putting them in control of their own destiny.
A Little Help
While rookie Tua Tagovailoa has been proficient in recent weeks, the Miami offense is far from prolific. The Dolphins are dealing with many injuries right now, specifically to wide receiver DeVante Parker and tight end Mike Gesicki. When you take those two out of the equation, the Miami offense is void of serious playmakers, shifting a lot of pressure onto the rookie quarterback.
That being said, the Las Vegas defense is full of holes that can be exploited by just about anybody. The Raiders have allowed the fourth-most points in the NFL this year. Even the Jets scored 28 points against them, as Las Vegas has conceded 36 points per game over their last five games. As mentioned, the Raiders lost four of those five games. They’ve been getting gashed on the ground, even against teams that aren’t great rushing teams. That could be good news for the Dolphins in their quest to make up for playmakers in the passing game.
With Derek Carr getting hurt last week, it remains to be seen if he’ll be healthy enough to face the Dolphins. Based on the way he limped off the field, there’s every chance that Marcus Mariota starts for Las Vegas. Of course, Mariota looked sharp against the Chargers, especially for a quarterback who didn’t see any action in the first 14 weeks of the season. It was a promising sign for the Raiders, especially since Mariota’s legs add another dimension to the offense.
That being said, the Dolphins have allowed the fewest points in the NFL this season. If you take away Miami’s loss to the Chiefs, the Dolphins have held five straight opponents to 21 points or less. Even in that loss to Kansas City, the Miami defense put up a fight, stuffing the run and forcing four turnovers, including three interceptions by Patrick Mahomes, who has only thrown five all season.
Taking a road favorite against a desperate team is a little risky. But between Miami’s defense and the Raiders likely using a backup quarterback, the Dolphins are in good shape. Even if Carr plays, Las Vegas hasn’t looked like a playoff team in recent weeks, and their defensive issues should allow the Dolphins to win and cover.