Monday Night Gambling Preview: Who will win a critical, playoff picture shifting game- Miami or NOLA
Updated: Dec 27, 2021
There's no way to sugarcoat this, the NFL playoff picture right now is absolute chaos. With two more weeks in the regular season (in addition to tonight's matchup), 23 of the 32 NFL teams are within one game of a playoff spot. Every game from here on out matters, and every game is a must win. Who wants it more? Who's going to make the season-altering play? It all starts tonight between a battle of two 7-7 ball clubs as red-hot Miami heads to New Orleans.
Week 15 Monday Night Football, with odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook:
Miami at New Orleans
Line: Miami (-3)
Miami's Surging: Aside from Kansas City and Green Bay, Miami is the hottest team in the NFL right now, and it's not arguable. Brian Flores' club hasn't lost a game since Halloween. Let me say that again, the last time Miami lost a football game was October... we are a week away from January! They started out the season 1-7, and since then have rattled off 6 straight wins and find themselves at 7-7 right in the thick of an AFC wildcard spot.
Despite being winners of six straight, there's a reason they started the year losing 7 of their first 8 games. Their offensive line is atrocious and gives Tua Tagovailoa little-to-no time to throw the ball, and the pocket is rarely clean. This has led their offensive unit being ranked 30th in the run and 22nd in the pass. They essentially utilize quick, short passes to make up for their run game deficiencies. Tua is extremely accurate and has grown over the course of the season. It feels wrong to penalize him considering his offensive line because when he has a clean pocket he has 11 touchdowns to just two interceptions and flaunts the fourth highest QB rating (108.5) in the entire league.
On the other side of the ball is where Miami has created their identity this year. Flores is a defensive-minded guy, and that shows with their exotic blitz packages and intensity that they play with. They should thrive against former Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book making his first career start as a rookie.
What to make of New Orleans: This defense is every quarterback's nightmare. I mean, my god, they just held Tom Brady to ZERO points last week. I didn't think I would ever type those words in my life, yet here we are. Statistically, this unit ranks first against the run and sixth against the pass. What worries me about this game, aside from them being forced to start rookie quarterback Ian Book instead of Taysom Hill, is that Demario Davis and Malcolm Jenkins both find themselves in the NFL's Health and Safety protocols. Aside from being phenomenal players these guys are the heart and soul of this defense. In addition to being without Hill, Davis, and Jenkins, they will also miss their starting right tackle Ryan Ramczyk, defensive end Marcus Davenport, and wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith for various reasons. For an already shorthanded team, this is critical. Ian Book is going to need to answer the call and make a statement in this game if the Saints want a chance to win. Obviously, Alvin Kamara is a top running back in this league, and he thrives in the passing game just as much as the running game, but Miami is going to load the box and force Book to beat them.
Final Thoughts: This matchup is a must win for both teams. Both sit at 7-7 and getting a win would greatly boost their chances to slip into their respective wildcard spots. Sean Payton is a proven head coach and Brian Flores has shown his team can rally around him, but this game is going to come down to which offense can create the big play. And, to be honest, I don't think either will. I expect a slow-paced, ugly game where neither team can score more than 20 points. Miami should and will load the defensive against Kamara, and on the other side the New Orleans will feast on a poor Miami offensive line and wreak havoc in the backfield.
Game Prediction: Miami 20, New Orleans 16
Official pick: Under 38
Follow Jay Oppler on Twitter @JayOppler23
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