The New England Patriots (-2.0) remain in Foxboro for a Week 17 matchup against AFC East foe Miami Dolphins that carries massive playoff implications. After opening the week as a 1.5-point home underdog, the injury to Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa had a strong impact on the spread. With Teddy Bridgewater now starting for Miami, New England resides as a 2-point favorite.
Gillette Stadium has been home to low scoring games this season, as the seven games there have averaged just 36.4 points per game. The total point mark has gone under in five of those contests, including the Patriots last four home games. The Week 17 matchup against Miami comes with a 41.5-point total on the DraftKings Sportsbook.
Here are our favorite bets as the New Year kicks off in New England.
With a backup quarterback set to start on Sunday, the Dolphins could look to establish their rushing attack against New England. However, they might not find success against a Patriots' run defense that is 10th in Football Outsiders DVOA rating.
In Miami's backfield, a full-blown committee has been established between Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr. Last week against Green Bay, Mostert started the game but the two had the same number of runs (including plays negated by penalties) and total touches. Either speedy back could have a tough time in Foxboro on Sunday, especially as fullback Alec Ingold and both of Miami's starting tackles may not suit up due to injuries.
The pick: Raheem Mostert Under 45.5 rushing yards (-115)
One area Miami could exploit New England's defense is with their explosive wide receivers. New England is severely limited in the secondary, as Jack Jones (knee) remains out and is joined by the electric playmaker Marcus Jones (concussion) this weekend. Jalen Mills (groin) is also questionable after logging a limited practice on Friday.
It's a bad week to be short handed, as Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle wait on the other sideline. New England could be forced to play more zone defense due to their current injury situation. If not, it could leave Myles Bryant on Jaylen Waddle while Jonathan Jones takes Tyreek Hill. New England should send help Bryant's way with different bracket coverages, but if not Waddle's speed is certainly a mismatch that Bridgewater will target.
The pick: Jaylen Waddle Over 54.5 receiving yards (-115)
For the first time since Thanksgiving night, the Patriots will have running back Damien Harris in their lineup after he missed the last four games with a thigh injury. Harris was removed from the team's final injury report of the week, meaning he's full-go on Sunday.
New England needs him, as Rhamondre Stevenson has been asked to do a ton for the offense lately - while battling an ankle injury of his own. On the year, Stevenson ranks ninth in the entire league in touches and has the highest offensive usage rate (68.4 percent) of any Patriots running back in the Bill Belichick era, since Pro Football Reference began tracking that data in 2012. For the first time all season, Stevenson admitted this week the heavy workload is catching up to him.
"I'd say I'm feeling it," Stevenson said Thursday. "I feel what everyone talks about with the NFL season. But I feel like I'm doing a good job taking care of my body, and I'm just trying to stay proactive more than anything. But yeah, I'm feeling the season for sure."
New England will hope Harris' return can take some of the pressure off of Stevenson, and when Harris is on the field he tends to find the end zone. In his last 14 games against AFC foes, the back has found pay dirt at least once in 11 of those contests. He will waste no time adding to that total this week.
The pick: Damien Harris Anytime TD scorer (+235)
New Year, New Beginnings
New England catches a break this week as they will face a Tua-less Dolphins' squad. In Tagovailoa's career, the Patriots are winless against the quarterback in four career meetings. That doesn't mean things will be easy, however, with Teddy Bridgewater under center. Throughout Teddy 'Spready' Bridgewater's career, he is 44-22 ATS, 24-8 ATS as an underdog, and 19-4 ATS as a road underdog. He now travels to Foxboro as a 2-point road underdog.
But, Miami has struggled this season without Tua at quarterback going 0-2 and scoring just 33 points in two games without him. With a banged up secondary, Matthew Judon and the Patriots' ferocious pass rush will continue to be leaned on to carry the load against an injured Miami front to continue the Fins' struggles.
In essentially a must-win game to keep their playoff hopes alive, New England gets the job done at home to get their biggest win of the season - covering against a team with a winning record for the first time this season.
The pick: Patriots -2 (-110)