MIAMI DOLPHINS (10-6)
at PITTSBURGH STEELERS (11-5)
AFC Wild Card Playoffs - Heinz Field – Pittsburgh, PA
Kickoff: Sunday, 1:05 p.m. ET
Line: Pittsburgh -10.0, Total: 47.0
The Dolphins will be looking to stun the Steelers when the teams meet in Pittsburgh for an AFC Wild Card matchup on Sunday.
Miami was seemingly left for dead after a 1-4 start to the season, but the team responded by winning six straight games and nine of its final 11. The Dolphins’ turnaround came on offense, as they scored 17 or fewer points in three of their first five games but scored 27 or more in seven of their last 11. It’d be big if they can hit that number against Pittsburgh, as the Steelers have hit that mark only five times in the past 11 contests. The Steelers are, however, as hot as could be right now. They enter the postseason on a seven-game winning streak, and they have really played well defensively. The Steelers allowed 20 or fewer points in five of their last seven games, and they’ll hope to stifle Miami on Sunday. That wasn’t the case when the teams met on Oct. 16, though. Miami defeated Pittsburgh 30-15 as a seven-point home favorite in that game, but the Steelers are 3-1 SU (2-2 ATS) when hosting the Dolphins since 1992. They’ll be hoping that their home field advantage pays dividends this weekend. It’s worth noting that the Steelers are 9-1 ATS as a home favorite of 7.5 to 10 points under head coach Mike Tomlin. The Dolphins, meanwhile, are 18-5 ATS in road games off two straight division games since 1992. QB Ryan Tannehill (Knee) is doubtful for this game, but he is working hard to make a return to the field soon.
The Dolphins are likely going to be without QB Ryan Tannehill (2,995 yards, 19 TD, 12 INT) for this game, but QB Matt Moore (721 yards, 8 TD, 3 INT) is one of the more reliable backups in the league. He has filled in admirably for Tannehill this season, and has actually led Miami to division victories over both New York and Miami in two of the past three weeks. The Dolphins scored 34 points in each of those games, so they’ll certainly feel confident in their ability to put up points in this one. They scored 30 the last time they faced this Pittsburgh team, but that had little to do with the play under center. RB Jay Ajayi (1,272 yards, 8 TD) carried the Dolphins to that victory, rushing for 204 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries. Head coach Adam Gase will surely plan to pound the ball on the ground in this one as well. The Dolphins know that they’ll need to win the time of possession battle, and running the ball successfully would certainly help them do that. Defensively, the Dolphins will need to do their best to get after Ben Roethlisberger in this game. DEs Andre Branch and Cameron Wake will be the guys trying to do that. They had success in the last meeting with Pittsburgh, combining to sack Roethlisberger twice.
The Steelers lost to the Dolphins earlier in the year, but there’s a reason the Steelers are still huge favorites in this game. That is because Pittsburgh has one of the most explosive offenses in football. The Steelers ranked in the top-15 in both passing yards per game (262.6) and rushing yards per game (110.0). QB Ben Roethlisberger (3,819 yards, 29 TD, 13 INT) is still as sharp as ever, and he’ll target WR Antonio Brown (106 rec, 1,284 yards, 12 TD) as often as he can in this one. Brown creates separation better than any receiver in the league, so it’s safe to assume that he’ll find some space to make plays in this one. The real stud for Pittsburgh has, however, been RB Le’Veon Bell (1,268 yards, 7 TD). Bell racked up over 100 yards from scrimmage in each of his last seven games of the season, and teams have no answer for him right now. The Steelers will give him the ball as much as he can handle on Sunday. Defensively, the goal for Pittsburgh will need to be to limit Jay Ajayi. Matt Moore is not an awful quarterback, but forcing the Dolphins to be a throwing team certainly benefits the Steelers.