Bills short home favorites Thursday vs. ‘Fins

Published on Nov. 15, 2012, at 1:20 p.m. Eastern.

By Brian Edwards

This week’s Thursday night NFL game takes us to Orchard Park in upstate New York, where Buffalo will take on Miami in an AFC East encounter.

As of late Wednesday afternoon, most books had Buffalo (3-6 straight up, 4-5 against the spread) installed as a 1 ½-point favorite with a total of 45 ½. By early this afternoon, the Bills were favored by 2 1/2. Gamblers can take the Dolphins on the money line for a plus-120 return (risk $100 to win $120).

Chan Gailey’s team nearly pulled a shocking upset last Sunday in Foxboro, only to come up on the short end of a 37-31 decision. Although the Patriots got the outright victory, the Bills hooked up their betting supporters as 13 ½-point underdogs.

Buffalo had a chance to win in the waning moments, advancing to New England’s 15-yard line. The Pats didn’t seal the deal until Devin McCourty intercepted Ryan Fitzpatrick in the end zone with 23 seconds remaining.

Fitzpatrick completed 27-of-40 passes for 337 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Fred Jackson rushed 16 times for 80 yards and a pair of scores. He also had four receptions for 35 yards, but he sustained a concussion on the Bills’ final drive that will keep him ‘out’ this week.

For the season, Fitzpatrick has connected on 62.5 of his passes for 2,011 yards with a 17/10 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Stevie Johnson is Fitzpatrick’s favorite target, hauling in 41 receptions for 502 yards and four TDs.

Without Jackson, C.J. Spiller will get more opportunities and that’s not a bad thing. The Clemson product has rushed for 632 yards and four TDs, averaging 7.3 yards per carry. Spiller also has 28 catches for 297 yards and one TD.

Buffalo is ranked 16th in the NFL in scoring offense, averaging 23.4 points per game. The Bills’ defense is the NFL’s worst, giving up 31.7 PPG.

Miami (4-5 SU, 4-5 ATS) is coming off its worst effort of the season. Tennessee went into South Florida last weekend and dealt out woodshed treatment from start to finish, collecting an easy 37-3 win as a 6 ½-point underdog. The 40 combined points slithered ‘under’ the 44-point total.

Miami rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill had not been intercepted since September, but he was picked off three times by the Titans. The Dolphins produced only 255 yards of total offense, and Reggie Bush had just six ‘touches’ (four carries, two catches).

Bush has rushed for 555 yards and four TDs, averaging 4.4 YPC. He also has 21 receptions for 179 yards.

Tannehill has completed 58.9 percent of his throws for 1,789 yards with a 5/9 TD-INT ratio. His favorite wideout has been Brian Hartline, who has 49 catches for 741 yards and one TD.

Miami’s defense has given up plenty of yards this year. To be exact, the Dolphins rank 22nd in total defense, surrendering 372.2 yards per contest. However, they are stingy about giving up points, allowing only 20.7 PPG (eighth in the NFL)

Joe Philbin’s squad has gone on the road five times, compiling a 2-3 SU record and a 3-2 ATS mark. The ‘Fins are 3-1 ATS as road underdogs.

Buffalo has only played at home three times, going 1-2 both SU and ATS. As a home favorite during Gailey’s three-year tenure, the Bills are 3-6-1 versus the number.

Buffalo will most likely be without two defensive starters. DE Mark Anderson (knee) and CB Aaron Williams (leg) are both listed as ‘doubtful.’

The ‘over’ is 6-3 overall for Buffalo, 3-0 in its home games. On the flip side, the ‘Fins have watched the ‘under’ go 6-3 overall, 4-1 in their five road assignments. Regardless of the venue, the ‘under’ has cashed in five consecutive Miami games.

Miami has won six of the last eight head-to-head meetings against Buffalo both SU and ATS, including a sweep of the season series last year. The Dolphins won by a 35-8 count as three-point home favorites, and they collected a 30-23 win as one-point road ‘chalk.’

The NFL Network will have the telecast at 8:25 p.m. Eastern. Temperatures at kickoff are expected to be in the upper 30s with a wind chill of 33 degrees.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

–With Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger ailing from shoulder and rib injuries suffered in Monday’s overtime win over Kansas City, Byron Leftwich will make his first start since 2009 on Sunday night at home vs. Baltimore. The Ravens are listed as three-point favorites with a total of 41. Roethlisberger could be out for an extended period of time.

–There are five home underdogs on the board in Week 11: Carolina (+1.5 vs. Tampa Bay), Oakland (+5.5 vs. New Orleans), Detroit (+3.5 vs. Green Bay), Pittsburgh (+3.5 vs. Baltimore) and Kansas City (+3.5 vs. Cincinnati).

–My take on the ‘Terrible’ Tebow remark from an anonymous Jets player: Tim Tebow is a unique human being and football player. He owns special qualities that few people possess and that also pertains to his strengths and weaknesses as a QB. Without a doubt, if a team decides to go with Tebow as its every-down QB, it must cater to his talents. But for all of those knuckleheads (too many to name!) who speak in a matter-of-fact tone when stating that Tebow can’t be successful as an NFL signal caller, I submit to you the real facts, ones that aren’t up for debate.

In the only significant sample size we have for judging Tebow as a pro QB, he thrived. He was given the keys to a Denver team with a 1-4 record that was left for dead. Then the organization intentionally set him up to fail by trading its best WR, Brandon Lloyd, within 48 hours of naming Tebow as the starter. (Lloyd had led the NFL in receiving yards in 2010.) The team that was done, one on its way to a 3-13 record, suddenly became the story in the NFL under Tebow. The Broncos won seven of its last 11 regular-season games to make the playoffs. Then in the postseason, Tebow helped the Broncos beat the Steelers in an overtime thriller. Next, they lost at New England in the playoffs. Last time I checked, a few quarterbacks and teams have been known to leave Gillette Stadium with ‘L’s in January.

And that’s all. There’s nothing else to judge Tebow by other than his 2011 campaign with the Broncos. And if memory serves, Tebow beat the Jets with a game-winning touchdown run at crunch time. On that play, Antonio Cromartie, the Jets’ cornerback who can’t keep track of his kids’ names, refused to challenge Tebow as he scampered toward the end zone. Instead, Cromartie pretended as if he thought Tebow was still behind the line of scrimmage and turned his back as if he was still in coverage. I wouldn’t be shocked if Cromartie is the anonymous source, either. And if he wants the word ‘terrible’ defined for him, all he has to do is check the tape of the play I just described.

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