Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE
I like the Miami Dolphins. I've always liked the Miami Dolphins. Just not this week. Allow me to elaborate, if I may.
In my look at the spreads for the Thanksgiving Day games, I touched upon how the NFL was introduced to the UK in 1982-83. We would receive highlight packages on Channel 4 at 6 p.m. GMT on a Sunday evening of the games played exactly a week before and exactly as games were kicking off in the Eastern Time Zone in America for the current week.
As per my Thursday post, Pat Summerall and John Madden were like nothing we'd ever heard over here and their NFC broadcasts on CBS made the Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins and San Francisco 49ers very popular on this side of the pond. However, as alluring as this was, I was always drawn to the AFC and for those looking for a new team to follow in what was a *ridiculously exciting new sport to us, you couldn't blame anybody for falling in love with the Miami Dolphins. They had everything...well, almost everything. Everything except a running game and a defense.
*Ridiculously exciting until some people tried to watch a live game and couldn't hack sixty minutes lasting three hours with excessive ad breaks. Turns out we didn't need them anyway. I'm in the fortunate position of knowing it's their loss and I gave up explaining game breaks, clock stoppages and timeouts years ago.
I coulda been a Dolphin, but I wanted my team to be a little less public. Miami had, and still has, a huge following in the UK and I can confidently say it's down to four people: Daniel Constantine Marino, Don Shula and the ‘Marks Brothers', Messrs. Duper and Clayton. The team's record at the time was none too shabby either and with an audience that was growing week on week, season upon season, the Dolphins went 12-4 in 1983, 14-2 in '84 (AFC representative in Super Bowl XIX) and 12-4 in '85. You can see the attraction.
In a minor confessional, I always want Miami to do well. Just not this week.
I'd wanted them to do well, as ever, during the 1999 season and they reached the playoffs in what turned out to be Marino's last season. I remember that being a good news day. Not a good news day was them beating a team named the Seattle Seahawks in the wild card round of the playoffs, in the last ever game in the Kingdome an' all. It wasn't supposed to end like this and especially not in the playoffs.
Curiously, that was Marino's first ever playoff win on the road and if you're going to begin pulling down the Kingdome, then you could do worse than having a first ballot Hall of Fame quarterback begin the process.
Back to the future and thank you for allowing me the indulgence.
The Thanksgiving Day games pushed my record ATS to 25-14 for the season as Detroit (+3.5) scraped home by half a point over Houston and the Patriots (-6.5) demolished both the Jets and the line. I missed the latter, but the former had me rapt and was everything you could've asked for, including yet another Ndamukong Suh Thanksgiving transgression and a scoring controversy.
One certainty as we focus on Sun Life Stadium this week is that both Seattle and Miami won't have any gripes about not being rested. The Seahawks are coming off their bye week while the Dolphins last stepped out Thursday of last week, November 15, on primetime in Buffalo.
Seattle's 2-3 ATS on the road and find themselves in the uncomfortable position of road favourite this week, uncomfortable in that it's a dwelling they've resided twice previously this season, only to come up short on both occasions, in Arizona and St. Louis. Even more uncomfortable is that the line is exactly the same as in those two games, -2.5, but shall we focus on something positive? I turn you over to one Golden Tate, a fella you may have heard of.
Coming off the bye, Tate succinctly addressed where the Seahawks currently sit while offering hope to all of us waiting for the team to move on from a solitary W away from the CLink.
"I like where we're sitting. I think we're still growing, but I think we've figured out a lot of things. We know how to win. It's still a challenge to play on the road. We plan on fixing it the next two weeks. If we can accomplish that - winning on the road, executing on the road - I think we'll be real dangerous."
Ain't that just about one of the most warming things you've read this week? I can't stop reading it, especially those last six words.
Miami are in a wretched run of form right now, coming immediately after pummelling the Jets in NJ four weeks ago and running the Colts close on the road the following week. Their 37-3 humiliation at home to Tennessee two weeks ago came out of nowhere and was a disgrace of a performance for a 4-4 team with wild card aspirations. If you'd heard that the Dolphins had lost that heavily at home without knowing the opponent, you'd assume that Belichick and Brady had done a number on them, but no, this was to a team who'd shipped 51 points to Chicago the previous week, the Titans' own nadir.
They disappointed in Buffalo last time out and we can only hope that they'll feel inclined to replicate on Sunday their first half of 50 yards and two first downs against the Bills.
Much of the hullabaloo surrounding this one will centre around the two rookie quarterbacks, Russell Wilson and Ryan Tannehill, which is probably right and proper because if we're honest with ourselves, this matchup won't set pulses racing around the NFL. It might be at the centre of our universe, but this one is most definitely Tatooine to the rest of the league.
As we know, Wilson at home looks scary, throwing 11 TDs and 0 INTs, all of his eight picks coming on the road and he's thrown at least one in each game. Tate's words relate directly to Wilson, not that he's apportioning blame (nor am I), but it's glaringly obvious. If Wilson had thrown half the picks he has this season, we would, in all probability, have at least two road wins, most notably in San Francisco, but that night was, admittedly, more about dropped passes. However, his interception wasn't pretty.
I would like to focus on Wilson's recent form against the Vikings and Jets, but it's folly to do so considering they were home games. Instead, it's interesting to look at Tannehill's effort against Tennessee. Before that game, he'd gone four weeks without an interception, but threw three against the Titans and, tipping my hat to ESPN Stats & Information, it's worth noting that each of those picks came on throws less than 10 yards downfield.
As a small aside, when asked after the game what Tannehill may have learned, Dolphins coach Joe Philbin quipped: "Don't throw it to the other team." Nice.
Tannehill's thrown 6 TDs compared to 11 INTs (1:5 over his last games) and faces a Seattle defense ranked third overall against the pass, allowing 196.2 yards per game through the air. It would be crass of me to suggest Tannehill's confidence is shot to pieces at the prospect of facing who is widely regarded (currently) as the league's best cover corner in Richard Sherman this week, but he'll probably wish in his heart of hearts that the Seahawks weren't bringing their defense to town.
Should Philbin decide to run it on Seattle, he'll have to back his judgement with a running game ranked 21st in the NFL and one that embarrassed itself on national TV last week. Buffalo was yielding 163.7 rushing yards per game heading into Week 11 yet Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas combined for just 53 yards on 22 carries against them.
Somehow, you get the feeling Miami won't manage to be as offensively inept as they have been recently. If they are, then the Seahawks are going to cover the spread with ease. If they are, it means the Dolphins have wasted their elongated week. If they are, Philbin may be quickly proving he's no motivator of men after he had this to say of the Bills game: "We had nothing going on. We weren't throwing the ball well. We weren't running it well. They did a great job on defense. We didn't execute well on offense. It was a huge struggle on offense."
Neutrals would predict another huge struggle for the Dolphins this week and when looking at the spread in black and white, why wouldn't the Seahawks win this by at least a field goal? If this were played in Seattle, it wouldn't be close and Miami would be ten point underdogs.
The oldest news on these pages is that Seattle possesses the league's worst passing offense, but it's pointless preaching to the converted and the analysis on Wilson has been done spectacularly all over Field Gulls so you'll read nothing from me. And so say all of us.
Seattle's offensive strength is matched by Miami's defensive strength and the outcome may indeed rest on how Wilson performs against a Dolphins pass defense ranked 27th. They're giving up 266.3 passing yards per game, a figure Wilson's surpassed just once this season, against the Patriots when he threw for 293 yards (and three touchdowns). The theory work he puts in rivals that of Peyton Manning and we know he's doing everything he can to succeed, which of course means bringing a Lombardi back home, instead of just getting there. It's already working at home and the steep learning curve he's already lived on the road so far is good for both him and us in the long term.
So, Seattle's offensive strength, the run game...Miami's defensive strength, stopping the run. Only, Miami's defensive strength hasn't looked that strong over their last two games. Having allowed just 83.9 yards per game on the ground through their first eight games, they've given up an average of 148.5 rushing yards per game against Tennessee and Buffalo.
Marshawn Lynch is well rested and can naturally be relied upon to pound away on the Dolphins in his own inimitable way, needing 60 yards to keep his place behind only Adrian Peterson in the rush to become the league's leading rusher. Barring injury, Peterson already looks to be too far ahead for Lynch to catch, but Lynch's eye won't be on Peterson. He's a complete team man and his team needs him, particularly on the road.
Seattle are 5-1 ATS over their last six and as I have them pegged as four point favourites here, I really like them to win by just a field goal in order to cover against a team who's season is as good as over. Miami sits two games behind Pittsburgh and Indianapolis in the wild card race while the Seahawks are going to be motivated to the hilt. (Aren't they?).
The line looks skinny and the biggest obstacle could be a kickoff time of 10 a.m. PST, but even that isn't putting me off. This game means much more to the visitors and, dare I use this name in a Seahawks article, this is my ‘Aaron Curry' bet.
Having already locked up two winners this week, I feel as though my work here's already half done and with the Seahawks ticket in the back pocket, my other bets this week are:
Please gamble responsibly.