The Miami Dolphins aren't incapable without Tua Tagovailoa.
They played three games this season with Tagovailoa inactive or missing more than a half due to a concussion. Here were the results:
Loss to Bengals, 27-15: This was the game in which Tagovailoa suffered a scary concussion in the second quarter. This was not a blowout. With about three minutes left, the Dolphins trailed 20-15 and were in Bengals territory when an interception came on a miscommunication. Miami could have won that one.
Loss to Jets, 40-17: The score looks bad. But Teddy Bridgewater went out in the first series of the game and the Dolphins still were in the game until the fourth quarter with rookie Skylar Thompson at QB. Early in the fourth quarter, Jason Sanders missed a field goal that would have put the Dolphins ahead 20-19. The game got away after that but it wasn't the blowout you'd think it was.
Lost to Vikings, 24-16: The Dolphins started rookie Thompson against a Vikings team that is now 12-3. Miami trailed 16-10 with four minutes left. They were going to have a first down at the Vikings' 26 when Jaylen Waddle lost a fumble. Dalvin Cook broke a long touchdown after that.
That's 0-3 without Tagovailoa, but they weren't terrible in any of the three games, even though the scores of all three ended up looking bad due to late fourth quarter touchdowns.
Tagovailoa is dealing with another concussion and the Dolphins have to push forward. They're in real danger of missing the playoffs after an 8-3 start. They've lost four in a row, and now don't know when their quarterback will return.
For all of the negativity about the New England Patriots, and most of it regarding the offense has been fully earned, they are still alive for a playoff berth. They'll need to win out and get help. The Patriots are a 2.5-point favorite at BetMGM and I'm going to have some blind faith in the Dolphins to play well and cover the spread. Miami will rally around Bridgewater. We'll see if that's enough this time.
What has happened to the Dolphins late this season is unfortunate. But there's still time to make the playoffs.
Here are the picks against the spread for Week 17 of the NFL season, with odds from BetMGM:
Cowboys (-12.5) over Titans
As I said in the Daily Sweat, I don't really know what to do with this game. If you're betting on a game the Titans just want to be over as soon as possible, good luck.
Falcons (-3.5) over Cardinals
The Cardinals will have Colt McCoy back, and that helps immensely. Maybe the J.J. Watt retirement news gives them a little bit of juice. But I'll go with the Falcons, because I think Desmond Ridder played better last week and they did fight hard against the Ravens. They'll be happy to take a step down in competition.
Lions (-6) over Bears
The Lions' loss last week should wake them up. Normally I'd worry about them looking ahead to playing the Packers in Week 18 but when Lions coach Dan Campbell greeted Panthers coach Steve Wilks last week to enthusiastically congratulate him for kicking his team's behind, you get an idea that the Lions will be motivated this week.
Chiefs (-12.5) over Broncos
The Broncos fired Nathaniel Hackett, and I'm not sure the effort could possibly get any worse than it was a week ago. But the Rams loss might have been the sign that backing the Broncos again this season is an unwise decision. The way the defense gave up last week was shocking.
Giants (-6) over Colts
I hate taking this many favorites. But did you see Nick Foles last week? I was on the Colts and knew almost immediately it was the wrong side. I expected Foles to be at least decent. That's asking too much for the 2022 Colts.
Eagles (-5) over Saints
The Saints, somehow, aren't eliminated yet. Still, I don't assume the Eagles will want to mess around any more with the NFC East race. They did just fine with Gardner Minshew at Dallas last week and they'll clinch the division this week.
Panthers (+3) over Buccaneers
Here's an underdog I like a lot. The Panthers are the better team right now. They beat the Buccaneers 21-3 already this season. I don't see why they can't win straight up again, and take control of the NFC South race.
Browns (+2) over Commanders
For a bad game, it's an interesting one. Is Deshaun Watson done as an elite QB? Can Carson Wentz possibly give the Commanders anything in his second go-around as starter? I don't think Wentz is going to save the Commanders' season, let's say.
Jaguars (-4) over Texans
There is still a path for the Jaguars to get a wild card spot if they win Sunday and lose in Week 18. The chances of that are small, but when has that mattered to an NFL coach? No coach wants to face the criticism of missing a playoff spot because every other leg of a 6% chance came through but you rested starters and lost in Week 17. So I believe Doug Pederson when he says he'll play starters this week, and think the Jaguars are too much for the Texans.
Raiders (+10) over 49ers
At this point, I feel like I'm forcing some underdog picks. I don't love Jarrett Stidham or anything, but are the 49ers going to just blast everyone in their path by double digits? Maybe, but that's usually not how the NFL operates.
Jets (-1.5) over Seahawks
The Jets are a different team with Mike White. I don't believe White is a very good quarterback, but he's a clear upgrade and undeniably the Jets like playing for him better than they do Zach Wilson. Seattle is a mess right now but I'm not sure they can steer out of this skid.
Vikings (+3.5) over Packers
The Vikings are still alive for the No. 1 seed, and it doesn't matter to most coaches that it's less than a 1% chance. Getting the No. 2 seed over the 49ers is tangible and important. This isn't a game between a Packers team that is playing for everything and the Vikings playing for nothing. I think Minnesota will play to win and if motivation is not a part of the analysis, then the point spread is too high.
Rams (+6.5) over Chargers
Brandon Staley is smart enough to know that getting the No. 5 seed, and playing the AFC South champ instead of the Chiefs/Bills/Bengals trio, is a pretty big deal. I still assume there will be some letdown after the Chargers clinched a playoff spot, and being on a short week won't help either.
Steelers (+2.5) over Ravens
The Ravens just can't score without Lamar Jackson, and I don't think Jackson returns this week. The Steelers are still playing hard, and what better highlight to their season than to potentially knock a rival out of the AFC North race?
Bills (-1) over Bengals
One of the games of the year. We'll have more to say about this game in the Daily Sweat on Monday. I can't rule out changing my pick before then either, because I keep going back and forth. Great matchup.
Last week: 5-10-1
Season to date: 122-112-4