Buffalo Bills (5-9) at Miami Dolphins (6-8)
The Bills got blown out last week, losing 50-17 “at home” in Toronto to the Seahawks. As a result, they rank 28th in points per drive at -0.58. The Dolphins, on the other hand, rank 17th at -0.04. If you take the difference, multiply by 11 (average amount of drives per team per game) and add 2.5 points for home field, you get that Miami should be favored here by 8.5, rather than the 4.5 they actually are.
However, DVOA refutes this. I like to use DVOA to determine whether or not that net points per drive based figure is valid because it takes into account strength of schedule and things like that. Miami ranks 18th, while Buffalo ranks 22nd, which is a much smaller gap. That gap is even smaller still in weighted DVOA, which weights more recent games more heavily, as Buffalo ranks 22nd and Miami ranks 20th.
This is because, huge loss last week aside, the Bills have been playing some decent football lately compared to the Dolphins. Last week’s loss was actually their first of 12+ since week 5. Since then, they won in Arizona, lost by 1 at home to Tennessee, lost by 12 in Houston, lost by 6 in New England, beat Miami, lost by 7 in Indianapolis, beat Jacksonville, and then lost by 3 to a decent St. Louis team, before last week’s blowout loss.
Blowout losses week 1, week 4, and 5, plus last week’s really damage their net points per drive, but 3 of them were a while ago and I think last week’s blowout loss can be blamed on the fact that they don’t seem to get up for Toronto games. I was worried about the game being in Toronto when I picked the Bills last week (+6) and made it a smaller play for that reason. In hindsight, I should have laid off it completely, but it didn’t appear to be a true neutral site because it’s so close to Buffalo. Plus, Buffalo’s mediocre 1-2 record there didn’t alarm me because this is a generally a mediocre team anyway.
However, after that blowout loss and the subsequent comments by Bills center Eric Wood, I think I’ll lay off the Bills in Toronto in the future if they ever play there again. Wood called the game a “joke,” said that “nobody wants to play there” and hopes they “don’t renew it.” Wood stood by those comments later in the week, saying “It kind of ticked me off. The way I look at it was, last week we were still in the hunt, and we’ve got a team traveling from the West Coast and we make them real comfortable. They get on a plane to play in Toronto, in a dome, without much crowd noise. You provide comfort that shouldn’t happen when you travel to Buffalo. You should have a cold, uncomfortable feeling when people come in. That’s our advantage. We go up in that dome and we let them feel really comfortable.”
Given that, I don’t put a ton of stock into that game and even still, the difference between these two teams’ weighted DVOA is negligible so that 8.5 point figure seems to be invalid. We’re not getting any line value with either side. However, Buffalo is in the much better spot this week. Teams tend to bounce back well off of a blowout losses like that. Teams are 63-33 ATS since 2002 off a 31+ point loss. Just look at Arizona last week after Seattle blew them out. Buffalo is more talented than them.
Teams tend to be undervalued, overlooked, and embarrassed in that situation and I think that will be the case this week. They’re certainly undervalued as the line has shifted from -3.5 to -4.5 in the past week (more significant than you think because 4 is a key number) and still the public is on Miami. I love fading the public because they always lose money in the long run.
That’s not the only good spot the Bills are in, however. The Dolphins have a much bigger game next week in New England, while the Bills close out with a home contest against the New York McElroys. The Dolphins won’t be as focused as the Bills, especially with the Bills coming off that awful loss. Since 2000, the Dolphins are 16-26 ATS before playing their archrival the New England Patriots. Furthermore, since 2002, divisional home favorites are a ridiculous 15-48 ATS before being divisional dogs.
Going off that, teams are 43-85 ATS since 2002 before being double digit divisional dogs, including 7-21 ATS as favorites and 1-7 ATS as divisional home favorites before being double digit divisional dogs. If we go back to 1989 to get a larger sample size, that trend is 9-18 ATS. On top of that, because the Bills will be favorites next week, they are dogs before being favorites, a spot teams are 108-67 ATS in since 2011, including 118-61 ATS since 2008 as dogs before being favorites when their opponent will next be dogs.
Combining the last few trends, divisional home favorites are 4-27 ATS since 2002 before being divisional road dogs when their opponent will next be favorites. Look at Indianapolis’ near loss to the Colts a couple weeks back. They were in this exact same spot and barely beat the lowly Titans. If the Titans can almost beat the Colts, the Bills can definitely beat the Dolphins here.
One last note, the Dolphins have not been a good front running team over the last decade. I know they’ve had several coaching staffs and quarterbacks, but one thing always seems to remain the same, they struggle at home, especially as favorites and do well on the road, especially as dogs. Since 2004, they are 23-46 ATS at home, including 8-26 ATS as home favorites. This year, while they’ve covered 3 out of the 4 times as home dogs, they are just 1-2 ATS as home favorites. It might be different with a new coaching staff and quarterback, though there’s no evidence either way yet, but it’s worth noting and it’s not the biggest reason why I love the Bills this week. There are plenty of reasons and this is my pick of the week, as long as we’re getting 4 or more points with the Bills.
Public lean: Miami (60% range)
Sharps lean: BUF 12 MIA 2
Final thoughts: Sharps are all over the place this week, but it’s good to see that one of their few heavy leans is on the Bills, my pick of the week.
Buffalo Bills 20 Miami Dolphins 16 Upset Pick +185
Pick against spread: Buffalo +4.5 (-110) 5 units