The third and final game of the Saturday NFL slate features two AFC teams fighting for a playoff spot. The Miami Dolphins are on the road to the Las Vegas Raiders in a pivotal game for the playoff picture (8.15pm ET Saturday; TV: NFL Network).
If the playoffs ended now the Miami Dolphins would be the seventh and final seed with the Raiders on the outside looking in. The Dolphins are currently sitting at 9-5 and are ahead of the Ravens (9-5) and Raiders (7-7). The Raiders will need to win their next two games to have any hope at making the playoffs. This is a massive must-win for both teams.
Unfortunately for the Raiders they may have to do so without starting quarterback Derek Carr after he went out last week against the Chargers. Veteran quarterback Marcus Mariota had to finish the game and played pretty well but was unable to lead them to victory. The Raiders ultimately lost in overtime 30-27 to put their playoff hopes on life support.
The Raiders defense was without several starters and was embarrassed once again. They now rank 29th in the league and allow 30.1 points per game. In their last three games they have been even worse and have allowed 34.0 points per game on average. This is not a defense worthy of a playoff berth, but their offense makes up for their ineptitude. Without Carr I’m not sure they will be able to compete against a stout Dolphins defense. Carr was limited in practice on Tuesday with a groin injury.
The Dolphins are the best team in the NFL against the spread at 11-3. Head coach Brian Flores is 20-10 ATS in his career with the Dolphins thus far. Their defense has been the strength of the team and turn the ball over at will. They rank 1st in the league and average 1.9 takeaways per game. They average 1.1 interceptions per game, which is tied for 2nd. Their +10 turnover differential is second best in the NFL. Starting cornerback Xavien Howard leads the league with nine interceptions. The Dolphins defense also averages 2.6 sacks per game, which is good for 11th in the league.
Defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah has been a pleasant surprise and leads the team with nine sacks. This has been the best season of his career after amassing a career high 5.5 sacks last year for the Chiefs and 5.5 sacks in 2016 for the Browns.
I expect the Dolphins to continue their impressive takeaway streak against a backup quarterback. I think they will be able to wreak havoc on Mariota who looks to be on pace to make his first start of the season. Mariota threw an interception last week in his relief time and has thrown 45 in his 64 career starts.
The Dolphins can be exploited on the ground. They rank 19th and give up 120.0 rushing yards per game on average. I expect the Raiders to game plan around this and set Josh Jacobs up for a big game. He should be a must start in fantasy and daily fantasy leagues. Mariota can also move the ball on the ground. Last week he had 88 yards on nine carries while Jacobs only had 76 on 26 carries. Expect the Dolphins to sell out against the run and make Mariota beat them through the air. I think this added pressure on the veteran signal caller will lead to him forcing the ball and throwing an interception or two. The Raiders defense has also been horrible on the season so the offense will need to carry them with their backup quarterback in a must win game. I think the pressure will be too great and the Miami defense will cause havoc for Mariota and the offense.
Our Betting Preview’s Miami Dolphins vs Las Vegas Raiders Predictions & Picks Verdict
USA Betting will be riding with the Dolphins as road favorites at the sportsbooks. The Dolphins are -3pts. Their offense should be able to exploit a bad Raiders defense and their secondary will be able to turn the ball over and set the offense up in ideal situations. I do not trust Mariota in a high-pressure situation against the best defense in taking the ball away. I see this being a higher scoring game but a comfortable win and cover for Miami. Let’s say a 31-20 victory for the Dolphins as they look to hang onto the 7th seed in the AFC. So our Dolphins vs Raiders predictions for this preview are: