Nov 23, 2023; Arlington, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) in action during the game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Commanders at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

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NFL Week 18 betting primer: Fishing for playoff-motivated contenders

The Miami Dolphins barely bothered to show up last week against the Baltimore Ravens, failing to cover the expanded +10.5 and scuttling a tasty three-team parlay.

It’s those spiraling Dolphins we’ll target this week in an epic Sunday night matchup to decide the AFC East champ.

See how this primary wager developed, along with a bonus play and a player prop below.

THE HEADLINER

Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins, 8:20 p.m. ET, Bills -3.

NFL fans are well aware that Buffalo needs a victory to take the AFC East title, and that provides sufficient motivation for the Bills.

The betting line has inched consistently toward Buffalo, landing at -3 by midweek.

Adding to the motivation equation is the fact that quarterback Josh Allen and company might need to win the game just to make the playoffs.

By any measure, though, a victory to seize the AFC’s No. 2 seed is the Buffalo target in South Florida Sunday night.

The Dolphins are trending downward. According to Action Network numbers, Miami gave up .54 expected points added (EPA) per play in last week’s 56-19 submission in Baltimore.

Although they beat Dallas on a last-second field goal the week before, that Dolphins effort landed in the bottom third of all defenses. Over the past month, Action reports Miami is 24th in defense.

Not good.

Coach Mike McDaniel’s offense isn’t bailing out the defense, either, ranking 16th in offensive EPA/play over the past month, again per Action Network numbers.

The Bills’ improving defense isn’t going to make it easy on the Dolphins offense.

Over its past four games, Buffalo’s defense gave up an average of only 17.5 points per game (No. 4 in the NFL during that span), 277 total yards per game (fourth) and a 66.7 passer rating (third best).

“I think it’s the rush and coverage working together and the communication that we’re developing with the back seven … ” Bills coach Sean McDermott said.

“I credit those guys on the back end but also the front with their ability to rush the passer.”

Working in Miami’s favor is Allen’s underwhelming passing numbers recently – a development largely the result of his offensive line’s failure to provide much time to throw.

Working against Miami? The absence of its top two pass rushers, Jaelen Phillips (Achilles) and Bradley Chubb (ACL).

Allen is ready to enjoy a little more time to find open targets as he did in the Week 4 meeting in Buffalo. He threw four TD passes in the 48-20 rout and added a rushing touchdown.

In addition to Phillips and Chubb, the Dolphins don’t expect starting corner Xavien Howard (foot) and No. 2 wideout Jaylen Waddle (ankle) to play.

And Miami deeply missed running back Raheem Mostert (ankle, knee) against the Ravens.

The bet: Bills -3 (DraftKings.)

THEY SAID IT

“We’ve talked about this for the last five, six weeks of how our season can go and what we want to do and what we want to accomplish and everything that we want to accomplish is still in front of us. But again, it’s going to take a group effort in all three phases to go get a victory on Sunday in a hostile environment.”

— Bills quarterback Josh Allen.

BONUS PLAY

Eagles at Giants, Cowboys at Commanders, 4:25 p.m. ET

The Eagles are stumbling; the Cowboys are riding good fortune in the wake of their last-gasp survival against the Detroit Lions.

If Philadelphia wins and Dallas loses, the Eagles claim the NFC East crown. The Cowboys just need to defeat the lowly Commanders to earn the division title.

This makes for a nice first-half opportunity. Both teams should be able to carve out a lead before halftime.

The bet: Parlay the Cowboys’ first-half moneyline (-380) with the Eagles’ first-half moneyline (-175) for a -102 wager. (DraftKings)

PROP CORNER

The debate continues in Chicago regarding quarterback Justin Fields’ status with the Bears, who own the top pick in the 2024 draft.

Has Fields done enough to cement his position as the starter, or will Chicago grab a QB with the No. 1 selection?

Take a swing with Fields in a game the Bears would love to win. They haven’t beaten Green Bay in more than five years, so there’s your motivation – and Fields should deliver a top effort.

Prop play: Bears QB Justin Fields’ 175 or more adjusted passing yards parlayed with 40 or more adjusted rushing yards. (+100 at FanDuel.)

–Field Level Media

Field Level Media
Sport Writer & Editor
FLM has a North American focus while tying into regional and hyper-local resources – providing the ability to distribute compelling content through the writing of professional journalists. As the U.S. sports content provider to dozens of digital and print media publishers through strategic partnerships with the likes of Reuters and Nielsen Sports, FLM covers the nuts and bolts with a breaking news desk and game event coverage.

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