Miami Dolphins at Pittsburgh Steelers
Heinz Field – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Sunday, December 8, 2013, 1:00 pm Eastern, TV: CBS, NFL Sunday Ticket
Opening Line: Pittsburgh -3 1/2
Current Line: Pittsburgh -3 1/2
Opening Total: 41 1/2
Current Total: 40 1/2
Opening Money Line: Steelers -165 / Dolphins +140
Current Money Line: Steelers -195 / Dolphins +165
The race for the last playoff spot in the AFC is a jumbled mess. Six teams are either 6-6 or 5-7. The Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins are currently tied for the last wild card spot at 6-6, but Baltimore holds the tiebreaker by virtue of beating Miami earlier in the season. The Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Jets, San Diego Chargers and Tennessee Titans are all one game back at 5-7. With the 9-3 Kansas City Chiefs virtually assured of grabbing one of the two wild cards barring an almost total collapse, the six teams are fighting for one spot. Every game is crucial, especially when the teams play each other. Pittsburgh hosts Miami in one such contest Sunday.
The Steelers have won all five meetings with the Dolphins since 2001, but they haven’t played since 2010. Pittsburgh won the last meeting in Miami 23-22. The Dolphins haven’t played in Pittsburgh since 2007, in an ugly Monday night game played in a driving rain storm that turned Heinz Field into a muddy mess. The Steelers won that game 3-0.
Miami is coached by Joe Philbin. The Dolphins opened the season 3-0 before losing 4 straight games. They snapped the losing streak on Halloween night at home against the Cincinnati Bengals with a 22-20 overtime victory. Miami also has home wins over the Atlanta Falcons 27-23, San Diego Chargers 20-16 and last week against the New York Jets 23-3 along with road wins over the Cleveland Browns 23-10 and the Indianapolis Colts 24-20. The Dolphins have road losses at the New Orleans Saints 38-17 and New England Patriots 27-17, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 22-19, along with home losses to the Baltimore Ravens 26-23, Buffalo Bills 23-21 and Carolina Panthers 20-16. Miami is 7-5 ATS and the total is 6-5-1 this season. The Dolphins were 1 point favorites against the Jets and the total was 39.5.
After a scoreless first quarter, Miami would kick two field goals to take a 6-0 lead into halftime against the New York Jets. The Dolphins expanded the lead to 20-3 in the third quarter. Miami added a fourth quarter field goal to make the final score 23-3. The Dolphins had 453 total yards including 328 passing yards. The Jets had 177 total yards with 10 first downs. New York had three turnovers and Miami had one.
Miami is outscoring teams 21-20.7 this season. The Dolphins are #24 in scoring and #9 in points allowed. The Dolphins are averaging 321.9 yards per game including 233.2 passing and 88.7 rushing yards. Miami is #17 in passing, #25 in rushing and #26 in total offense. On defense, the Dolphins are allowing 343.4 yards per game including 221.7 passing and 121.8 rushing. Miami is #9 in pass defense, #25 against the rush, and #14 in total defense. The Dolphins are +2 in turnovers. Miami is 60/173 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 67/181. The Dolphins have forced 37 sacks but allowed 45 this season. Miami has 2 defensive touchdowns and has allowed one this season. The Dolphins average 39 penalty yards per game and opponents average 51.
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill has completed 62.1% of his passes for 3,115 yards with 17 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, and he also has 34 carries for 164 yards and a touchdown. He has taken every snap this season despite being sacked 45 times this season. That isn’t even counting all the hits and knockdowns he has taken. He is probable with a thumb injury. The offensive line is missing three starters including Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito. The beleaguered offensive line took another hit when tackle Will Yeatman was lost for the year with a torn ACL.
Running back Lamar Miller has 136 carries for 547 yards with and 2 touchdowns along with 22 catches for 153 yards. Miller is probable with a pectoral injury. Daniel Thomas has 77 carries for 279 yards and 3 touchdowns, along with 12 catches for 54 yards and a touchdown. Thomas is questionable with an ankle injury. No other back has more than 6 carries this season for Miami.
Receiver Brian Hartline has 62 catches for 804 yards and 3 touchdowns. Mike Wallace has 56 catches for 743 yards and 3 touchdowns. Wallace signed with the Dolphins last off-season after playing with the Steelers for several years. Tight end Charles Clay has 53 catches for 581 yards and 4 touchdowns, and also has a rushing touchdown. Brandon Gibson had 30 catches for 326 yards and 3 touchdowns but is out for the season with a knee injury. Rishard Matthews has 30 catches, 312 yards and 2 touchdowns. Four defensive players are listed on the injury report.
Pittsburgh is coached by Mike Tomlin. After an 0-4 start, the Steelers have gone 5-3 to get back in the playoff race. Pittsburgh has home losses to the Tennessee Titans 16-9 and Chicago Bears 40-23, along with road losses to the Cincinnati Bengals 20-10, Minnesota Vilings 34-27 (in London), Oakland Raiders 21-18, New England Patriots 55-31, and last week against the Baltimore Ravens 22-20. The Ravens loss snapped a three game winning streak for Pittsburgh. The Steelers have road wins at the Jets 19-6 and Cleveland Browns 27-11, along with home wins over the Ravens 19-16, Buffalo Bills 23-10 and Detroit Lions 37-27. Pittsburgh is 6-6 ATS and the total is 5-7 this season. The Steelers were 3 point underdogs against the Ravens Thanksgiving night and the total was 39.5.
Baltimore took a 10-0 lead at halftime against Pittsburgh. In the third quarter, after a Baltimore field goal, Pittsburgh drove 80 yards for a touchdown to make it 13-7. On the ensuing kickoff, Jacoby Jones ran it all the back to the Pittsburgh 27. He looked like he would score on the punt return, but Steelers’ coach Tomlin stepped on the field. Jones ran into him and was tripped up. Tomlin said he inadvertently stepped on the field because he always watches returns on the Jumbotron and didn’t know he was on the field. The Ravens would settle for a field goal to make it 16-7. Tomlin would later be fined $100,000 by the league for the incident, and the league could also take away a draft pick from the Steelers. The fine was so heavy because it would later affect the point spread.
The Ravens would kick two more field goals in the fourth quarter to take a 22-14 lead with 5:37 left in the fourth. The Steelers took over at their own 21 after the kickoff. They drove down and scored a touchdown, but missed the tying two point conversion. Pittsburgh tried the onside kick with 1:03 left but it didn’t go 10 yards. Baltimore ran out the clock to secure the win. It was the fifth straight game between Pittsburgh and Baltimore decided by 3 points or less. Pittsburgh had 329 total yards including 257 passing yards. Baltimore had 311 total yards including 237 passing yards. Neither team had a turnover, but the Ravens did have 9 penalties for 55 yards. The Steelers had 4 penalties for 51 yards.
Pittsburgh is being outscored 23-22 this season. The Steelers are #14 in points allowed and #22 in scoring. Pittsburgh averages 338.6 yards per game including 261.8 passing and 76.8 rushing yards per game. The Steelers are #31 in the league in rushing, #8 in passing and #15 in total offense. On defense, Pittsburgh is allowing 340.5 yards per game including 225.4 passing and 115.1 rushing yards. The Steelers are #13 in total defense and #11 against the pass. Pittsburgh is -4 in turnovers this season. The Steelers are 69/176 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 75/185. Pittsburgh has forced 25 sacks and allowed 37 this season. The Steelers average 43 penalty yards per game and opponents average 49. Pittsburgh averages 31:12 in time of possession. Pittsburgh has allowed 2 defensive touchdowns this season and has one of their own.
Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has completed 64.4% of his passes for 3,375 yards with 21 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, along with 21 carries for 69 yards. He has been sacked 36 times this season. Running back Le’Veon Bell has 159 carries for 528 yards and 5 touchdowns along with 33 catches for 319 yards. Bell is probable with a concussion. Felix Jones has 38 carries for 137 yards and 9 catches for 63 yards. Jonathan Dwyer has 36 carries for 146 yards, plus 6 catches for 48 yards.
Receiver Antonio Brown has 85 catches for 1,103 yards and 6 touchdowns. Emmanuel Sanders has 54 catches for 604 yards and 4 touchdowns. Jerricho Cotchery has 36 catches for 509 yards and 8 touchdowns. Tight end Heath Miller has 46 catches, 468 yards and a touchdown. Twenty Steelers are listed on the injury report including 8 defensive players and 6 offensive linemen.
Miami is 6-0 ATS after allowing less than 250 total yards, 4-1 after gaining more than 350 total yards, overall and after allowing less than 150 passing yards, 6-2 in December and after passing for 250 yards or more, 7-3 on grass, 3-7 in road games, and 0-4-1 against teams with losing home records.
Pittsburgh is 4-0 after passing for more than 250 yards, and overall, 4-1 after a cover, after rushing for 90 yards or less, and on grass, 5-2 against AFC teams, and 2-5 after a straight up loss.
Both the Steelers and Dolphins are banged up on the offensive line. Neither can protect the quarterback or open up holes for the running game. Both have decent passing attacks, but they are too inconsistent. I suppose that is why they are 6-6 and 5-7. I like the Steeelers to win close at home on a late field goal.