The New England Patriots are a 15.5-point favorite over the Miami Dolphins in their Week 17 clash at Gillette Stadium, based on the latest Las Vegas betting odds. The Patriots’ overwhelming advantage over the Dolphins was first put on display in their Week 2 meeting where they torched their opponent, 43-0. The Patriots are not expected to let up since veteran quarterback Tom Brady declared that they want to finish their regular season strong with a win over the Dolphins. The Patriots will ride the momentum of a two-game winning streak over the Cincinnati Bengals and the Buffalo Bills into their regular-season finale against the Dolphins.

A win by the Patriots would give them the No. 2 seed in the AFC and the first-round bye that goes with it. Despite their offensive struggles in the past few games, the Patriots were picked unanimously by the sports staff of the Florida Sun-Sentinel as the winner of the Week 17 clash. The six-person sports desk sees no upset as they expect the Patriots (12-3) to romp away with the victory over the 4-11 Dolphins and the No. 2 seed in the AFC.

Patriots need the first-round bye in the postseason

Sun-Sentinel sports columnist Dave Hyde expects the Patriots to emerge as a 28-13 winner over the Dolphins, saying Brady and company would work hard to clinch the much-needed first-round bye to allow their banged-up cast to rest.

Omar Kelly, another Sun-Sentinel columnist, sees a closer score but the same result with the Patriots beating the Dolphins, 28-21. While the Dolphins have shown significant improvement on offense lately, Kelly said it would not be enough to pull off an upset over the Patriots.

Kelly also expects the Patriots to try out several new offensive and defensive packages that would give them an edge in the playoffs.

According to Sun-Sentinel sportswriter Safid Deen, the Dolphins will end their season the way it began, with a blowout loss to the Patriots by 42-10. However, Deen said the Dolphins will know their stand in the draft where they can address the pressing needs of the team to rebuild the franchise into a playoff contender anew.

Patriots will have an easy time covering the spread

Sun-Sentinel sports editor Kathy Laughlin believes that the Patriots will have an easy time covering the spread as she anticipates them to win by 48-21. Assistant sports editor Keven Lerner expects the Patriots to play all-out and emerge as a 34-13 winner to avoid a wild-card match.

Lerner said that in the last five years, no team that played in the wild-card round reached the Super Bowl. Steve Svekis, the other assistant sports editor, said the Dolphins will have a hard time on the road, with their quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick struggling to a 75.8 passer rating away from home. Svekis said the Patriots would beat the Dolphins, 27-17.

Linebacker misses practice, six others limited

During Thursday’s practice, Patriots linebacker Shilique Calhoun did not participate due to illness while six players were limited, including linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley (knee), offensive tackle Marcus Cannon (ankle), linebacker Jamie Collins (shoulder), wide receiver Julian Edelman (knee/shoulder) and cornerbacks Jonathan Jones (groin) and Jason McCourty (groin).