Sep 132013

Miami Dolphins (1-0) at Indianapolis Colts (1-0)

Last season, no team’s record was less indicative of their talent level than the Colts’ 11-5 record. For one, they had a ridiculous record in games decided by a touchdown or less, going 9-1 in those types of games. In fact, they had just 2 wins by a touchdown or more, and one came against the 2-win Jaguars. Meanwhile, 3 of their 5 losses came by more than 20 points and only one of those teams made the playoffs. They lost 35-9 to the Jets! Overall, they were -30 on the season and had a Pythagorean Expectation of 7.2 wins. They made the playoffs because they were ridiculously good at pulling out close wins. That type of stuff evens out in the long run.

All of those close wins would be more impressive if they weren’t against teams like Cleveland, Tennessee, Kansas City, and Buffalo. They had an incredibly easy schedule, playing just 6 games against teams that went 8-8 or better. While they went 3-3 in those 6 games, the wins were by 3, 3, and 12, while the losses were by 20, 35, and 12. Their season essentially consisted of them barely beating bad teams and getting blown out by good teams.

They had just 1 win by more than a field goal against a team better than 6-10 and it was a week 17 game against the Texans. Once they got to the playoffs, they were just overmatched by the Baltimore Ravens, who beat them 24-9.When you combine their ridiculous record in close games and their weak schedule, the advanced metrics did not like them. They ranked 25th in DVOA and had the lowest DVOA by an 11-win team in DVOA’s 22 year history, dating back to 1991.

I thought the Colts would be improved over last season (in talent, not record). They spent a lot of money in free agency and while they didn’t get great value, it would be hard to argue they got worse this off-season. On top of that, they have Andrew Luck going into his 2nd year in the NFL in a system under Pep Hamilton that fits him a lot better than Bruce Arians’ downfield throw offense.

However, barely beating the Raiders, after winning 7 games by 7 points or less against 7 win or worse teams last season, doesn’t inspire any confidence. Andrew Luck looked good, completing 18 of 23 for 178 yards and 2 touchdowns, while rushing for another 39 and a score on 6 carries, and he could be on his way to a much improved 2nd season in the league, though it’s tough to tell against a defense like Oakland. However, both their defense and their offensive line looked just as bad as it was last season, despite all the money they spent.

Their opponent this week, the Dolphins, isn’t the type of pushover they are used to facing and barely beating. They’re not a great team by any stretch of the imagination and I don’t have them in the playoffs, but they are probably going to finish with 7-9 wins and I think they’re a better team than the Colts. This line suggests these two teams are equal, which I don’t think is the case. The public is also putting everything on the Colts, just like they did last week, because they seem to think that the Colts can rely on Andrew Luck pulling a win out of his ass every week. That’s not sustainable. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the Colts lost a close one here, rather than winning a close one, and I’m fairly confident in Miami +3 this week.

Miami Dolphins 27 Indianapolis Colts 23 Upset Pick +130

Pick against spread: Miami +3

Confidence: Medium

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