New England Patriots (8-3) Miami Dolphins (5-6)
The Patriots are on quite a roll right now. Once called an “average team” by Tony Dungy when they stood at 3-3, the Patriots have now won 5 games in a row including their last 2 by a combined 65 points and 3 of 4 by 30 or more. They’ve scored 108 points in their last 2 games, a modern era record. As you can expect, the public is pounding them here in Miami. I love to fade the public every chance I get because, in the long run, the public always loses money. The odds makers know what they’re doing so it’s not a bad idea to be on the same side as them.
While they are coming off two huge wins, that might not be a good thing for their hopes of covering this week. Teams are 27-42 ATS since 1989 off of back to back wins by 24+. Teams in this situation tend to be overconfident and overvalued. I mentioned that the public is backing New England heavily, well they’re doing it despite the fact that the line has shifted from -6.5 to -7.5 in the past week. That may not look like much, but we no longer have touchdown protection with the Patriots. They could be overvalued (more on that later). The overconfident part should be self explanatory. They’re on quite a roll right now and might overlook the lowly Dolphins, especially with games against Houston and San Francisco next on schedule.
That being said, I’m not betting against the Patriots right now. If they’re not the best team in the NFL, they’re at least 1a to San Francisco right now. They lead the league in points differential at +163, as a result of all of their blowout wins (8 wins by a combined 167 points, 3 losses by a combined 4 points). For reference, San Francisco is next in points differential at +121. Going off of that, they also lead the league in net points per drive at 1.07 (meaning how much their offense outscores their opponent’s offense on a per drive basis). There are an average of 11 drives per game, so that means that they would beat the average NFL team by about 12 points on a neutral surface.
Even when we take their somewhat weak strength of schedule into account with DVOA (which is net points per drive based, but takes strength of schedule into account, as well as a few other things), they rank 2nd in the league, only .1 point behind San Francisco and in weighted DVOA, which places greater value on more recent games, they lead the league. Miami, meanwhile, ranks 17th in net points per drive, 20th in DVOA, and 21st in weighted DVOA.
If we take the difference between their net points per drive and New England’s, multiply by that 11 drives per game, and subtract 3 points for Miami’s home field advantage, we get that this real line should actually be around New England -9, so even with the line movement, they’re not overvalued. Also, while teams tend to struggle off of back-to-back wins of 24 or more, teams tend to cover as favorites after scoring 49 or more in a game, going 24-14 ATS since 1989, though just 0-2 ATS after doing in twice in a row (it doesn’t happen often).
Besides, the Patriots are not a smart team to bet against after week 9. In the last 3 seasons between weeks 10 and 17, they are 19-0, outscoring opponents by an average of 20 points per game, with the average final score being 39-19. Even taking the spread into account, they are 13-6 ATS. I mentioned this last week when they played the Jets. Teams are also 50-30 ATS since 2002 as road favorites after a win as road favorites. The Patriots are also a whopping 18-7 ATS as divisional road favorites in the Bill Belichick era.
Also, while the Patriots tend to struggle at home as favorites of more than a touchdown (6-11 ATS in the last 3 seasons), they are a covering machine in all other situations going 22-8 ATS, something else I mentioned last week. It might seem weird to say that the Patriots are more likely to cover as big road favorites than big home favorites, but it’s true. Besides, look at their road wins this year. They beat Tennessee 34-13, Buffalo 52-28, NY Jets 49-19, and St. Louis 45-7 (on a neutral surface). We could easily see another blowout here. It’s not a huge play, but New England should be the right side. I also like the over. In the Patriots last 19 games between weeks 10 and 17, the total has gone over 17 times. Meanwhile, the over is 16-1 in their last 17 divisional games.
Public lean: New England (80% range)
Sharps lean: NE 16 MIA 5
Final update: I thought about boosting this to 3 units, but, on principle, I rarely make big plays on lines higher than a touchdown (what happened between San Francisco and Seattle earlier this year is a perfect example of why).
New England Patriots 38 Miami Dolphins 17
Pick against spread: New England -7.5 (-110) 2 units
Total: Over 51.5 (-110) 1 unit