Following the news of Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa being ruled out for their Super Wild Card Weekend playoff game at the second-seeded Buffalo Bills, Miami's chances of victory appeared to drop from slim to almost none. The Bills are now 14-point favorites, making the Dolphins the biggest underdogs in NFL wild-card round history, since the round began in 1978.
Largest favorites in wild-card history (since 1978)
* Favorite covered the spread
The increase in point spread aligns with the Dolphins' stark quarterback production between Tagovailoa and his backups, Teddy Bridgewater and seventh-round rookie Skylar Thompson. Miami averaged 6.5 yards per play when Tagovailoa started, the highest team yards per play with a starting quarterback this season among passers with 10 or more starts. The Dolphins' figure in that category drops to 5.2 yards per play when Bridgewater or Thompson have started in 2022.
Dolphins by starting QB this season
* Highest by any starting QB this season (min. 10 starts)
With the Dolphins being a 14-point underdog, it means Miami is laying the most points in a playoff game since the 1998 divisional round at the Denver Broncos (+13.5). Dan Marino's Dolphins were pummeled by John Elway's eventual Super Bowl champion Broncos in that contest, 38-3. Sunday also marks Miami's largest spread as an underdog in a playoff game since the 1970 AFL/NFL merger.
On the other side of this matchup, the Bills are the first team to be favored by 13 or more points in a playoff game since the 2017 Patriots. The eventual AFC champions, were 13.5-point favorites in the divisional round against the Tennessee Titans, a team they ended up beating 35-14. Buffalo additionally stands as the first team other than the Patriots to be favored by 13 or more points in a playoff game since the 2001 Rams against the Patriots in the Super Bowl. That upset win ended up being New England's first of six Super Bowl wins with quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick.
Favorites of 13+ points in NFL playoffs since 2000 season
|Season||Favorite||Line vs. Opponent|
-14 vs Patriots
-13.5 vs Jaguars
-14 vs Chargers
-13.5 vs Broncos
-16 vs Texans
-13.5 vs Titans
However, in order for the Bills to have cracked the top five largest playoff point spreads since at least 1952, they needed to see their line increase at least 1.5 more points. The two biggest spreads were both Super Bowls: 49ers -19 vs. Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX (49-26 win), and Colts -18 vs. Jets in Super Bowl III (16-7 loss).
Largest NFL playoff spreads since at least 1952
|Season||Favorite||Line vs Opponent|
-19 vs Chargers
-18 vs Jets
-16.5 vs Cardinals
-16 vs Texans
-15.5 vs Bears
If the Dolphins somehow come away with a victory up in Buffalo on Sunday afternoon, CBS Sports play-by-play announcer Jim Nantz will have to come up with his equivalent to Al Michaels' "Do you believe in miracles? Yes!" call during Team USA hockey's run to the gold medal in the 1980 Winter Olympics, because Miami winning would be tied for the second-biggest upset in a playoff game during the Super Bowl Era.
Largest playoff upsets based on spread in Super Bowl era
Super Bowl III
Super Bowl XXXVI
1996 Divisional Round
Super Bowl XLII
* Dolphins: 14-point underdog at Bills on Sunday