BILLS (5-4) at DOLPHINS (5-4)
▪ Line: MIA by 5
▪ Cote’s pick: MIA 23-20
▪ TV: 8:25 p.m., NFL (airing in South Florida)
NFL Week 11 unfurls with urgency draping Dolphins’ first prime-time appearance of the season. When you are 5-4 – presently tied for ninth in the hunt for six AFC playoff spots – your margin of error has grown very small. When you have just lost a heartbreaker at Detroit and Peyton Manning is on deck awaiting you in Denver, you had damned well better beat the Bills at home. It’s an interesting matchup even beyond the two fandoms – the first time since 2000 these AFC East rivals have met this late in a season both with winning records. I am surprised Miami is favored by more than three points, considering Fins are 1-4 vs. Bills including three straight losses in the Joe Philbin/Ryan Tannehill era. I think Miami will win, but that may rely on getting the ground game going to take heat off Tannehill. There is an opportunity there; Buffs have given up 460 run yards the past three games. Miami also must protect its QB – a load of a task, with LT Branden Albert out injured, and Bison defense leading the NFL with 34 sacks. A running game will deter the blitz and buy Tannehill an extra second in the pocket. These are two big-time defenses and two offenses that both tend to struggle in the red zone, so I’d imagine a low-scoring game. That’s one more reason why the betting line feels a bit plump.