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The Miami Dolphins have a simple path ahead of them to make the NFL playoffs for the first time in five years.
Win out, and clinch a spot.
However, after running off seven straight wins against some of the worst teams in the league, the Dolphins (8-7) face a tough test Sunday in the Tennessee Titans (10-5), who are looking to seal up a second straight AFC South title.
Tua Tagovailoa and Jaylen Waddle have formed one of the top young combos in the NFL, while former Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill has found new life since joining the Titans in 2019. The Titans are slowly getting healthier, too, as tackle Taylor Lewan was activated off the COVID list, though they will still be without star running back Derrick Henry and receiver A.J. Brown.
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Here’s what the experts are predicting for Sunday’s game:
The Dolphins will be coming off a tough short week, having played the physical and well-coached Saints on the road. Nashville isn’t far from New Orleans, but it’s still a daunting turnaround, given the Titans played on Thursday night in Week 16 and will be much better rested. That said, Brian Flores’ defense can keep the game close and the offense has enough to receiving punch to stay in the game. The Titans win again with A.J. Brown being the key difference-maker.
The Titans offense looked much better with A.J. Brown back on the field last week in their 20-17 win over the San Francisco 49ers. This week they get a hot Dolphins team that has won seven straight, but I still don’t believe in the Dolphins as a legitimate threat in the AFC. The Titans remain the better team and should win by at least a touchdown at home.
Miami will be a problem if they get to the playoffs. The Titans will make that an even bigger if.
The Dolphins don’t have an easy path to the postseason, not with this game and the season finale against the Patriots. Then again, they didn’t have an easy path when they were 1-7, either. But seven wins in a row have brought them to this point, so why the heck not?
The Belichick-tree teams are so similar. Both defensive fronts are nasty. Both come up with weekly defensive game plans that often give them an edge. Both offensive lines struggle to pass protect, with resourceful quarterbacks who are better than they are given credit for. Both teams have one special wideout who tilts the field. Ultimately, I trust Ryan Tannehill, A.J. Brown and Mike Vrabel a bit more than their counterparts. The Titans have been in these games, and they’ve proven they can win them.
The Dolphins are one of the hottest teams in the AFC, but they are up against a Titans team that is 6-2 at home. This is Ryan Tannehill’s first start against his former team. Former Bill Belichick assistants Mike Vrabel and Brian Flores engage in a tight one that comes down to a last-second field goal.
The Dolphins followed a seven-game losing streak with a seven-game winning streak, but I think the winning streak comes to an end when they face their toughest opponent in months.
The Dolphins are playing on a short week after a Monday victory, while the Titans are rested after having played on a Thursday. That’s a huge edge for Tennessee. The Titans played much better on offense with A.J. Brown back against the 49ers, but this Miami defense is playing well. Look for a low-scoring game with the Titans winning it. Ryan Tannehill gets a victory against his former team.
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Miami Dolphins vs. Tennessee Titans predictions: NFL Week 17 picks