As 17-point favorites, Bills flip script, make Vegas betting history

Josh Allen's 10-yard touchdown run in the first quarter set the tone for the Bills' upset win in Minnesota last season. Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- In quarterback Josh Allen's first road start on Sept. 23, 2018, the Buffalo Bills were 17-point underdogs against the Minnesota Vikings.

This Sunday, the Bills (4-1) will see the same spread against the Miami Dolphins -- this time as the favorites (1 p.m. ET, CBS). In the Super Bowl era, no other team has gone from a 17-point underdog to a 17-point favorite in such a short span. This level of respect is rare for the Bills, who were last favored by this many points in 1992, when quarterback Jim Kelly led one of the league's premier offenses.

Buffalo crushed the Vikings last season 27-6, and Kelly's Bills lost 24-17 in 1992 to an inspired Jets team in Week 14. The 2019 Dolphins (0-5) seem inspired, as well, for the challenge the Bills' defense will present. Miami offensive coordinator Chad O'Shea said as much Tuesday.

"I've been in [the film room] looking at [the Bills] for the past several hours, and I really do think a lot of them," he said. "This is a very good defense, and it'll be a great challenge for us to play on the road versus a good team that, again, we have a tremendous amount of respect for, and we certainly have a lot of challenges here moving forward."

Calling Sunday's game "a great challenge" might be putting it lightly. There's a reason the spread is this big. On paper, Miami looks overmatched.

There aren't many other ways to describe a game that features some lopsided numbers in addition to the spread:

  • Buffalo's defense has allowed seven touchdowns; the Dolphins have scored four.

  • Buffalo ranks fifth in average time of possession; the Dolphins rank 32nd.

  • The Dolphins' 31st-ranked run defense will face Buffalo's sixth-ranked rushing offense.

  • The only offense averaging fewer than 60 rushing yards and 200 passing yards per game will face one of three defenses allowing fewer than 90 rushing yards and 190 passing yards per contest.

Buffalo's 11 turnovers are fifth-most in the NFL, but given the two turnovers Miami has forced all season, the Dolphins don't seem positioned to take advantage of their opponent's biggest weakness.

On the betting side, this season ranks 10th all time with eight games featuring at least a 14-point spread through Week 7. It's the most through Week 7 since the 1977 NFL season featured 12 such games. Miami is a big reason for that. The 2019 Dolphins have been, on average, 13.6-point underdogs in their five games.

If the spread holds this week, it will be the fourth time this season that the Dolphins have been at least 14-point underdogs, something only three teams in the Super Bowl era have been more frequently through Week 7 (the 1977 Seattle Seahawks, 1968 Atlanta Falcons and 1966 Dolphins at five times each). At this rate, the Dolphins will break their own record for worst combined point spread in a season; Miami was a combined 208.5-point underdog in 1966. It is on pace for 217.6 points this season.

Although things are looking up for Buffalo as of late, this franchise is no stranger to the other end of the spectrum. Per ESPN Stats & Information, the Bills' 31 games as at least 14-point underdogs are tied with that of the Patriots for third in NFL history; Miami is one spot behind New England with 30.

Bills coach Sean McDermott is not paying attention to the massive spread.

"If you're focused on that, then you're focused on the wrong things," McDermott said. "We've got to focus on where we're at, where we need to improve and make sure we're ready to go on Sunday. [Miami] is a good football team."