Miami Dolphins (1-2) at Arizona Cardinals (3-0)
The Cardinals are 3-0 right now, but they’re incredibly overrated. Do you really trust anyone on this offense other than Larry Fitzgerald? The defense is great, but I don’t think they’re well rounded enough to make the playoffs in a loaded NFC. They have a negative yards per play differential and rank tied for 30th in offensive yards per plays. 3-0 is impressive, especially considering who they’ll played, but the Bills started 3-0 last year. Almost every year, there’s a team that gets off to a good start and then fades away and misses the playoffs and makes their believers look dumb (“This Ryan Fitzpatrick is the real deal.” “Rex Grossman is a legitimate franchise quarterback.”).
Winning 3 in a row at any point in a season isn’t that impressive, but when teams do it to start the season, it’s much more noticeable and you get idiots like Michael Silver putting them first in his Power Rankings (Really? Kevin Kolb is going to win the Super Bowl?). This is essentially the same team that finished last year 8-8 and I expect them to finish somewhere around there this year. Bettors should ride the correction for the rest of the season.
Bettors should also take advantage of a dynamic change with the Cardinals going from dogs in 3 straight (and pulling 3 straight upsets) to being favorites. It’s one thing to win when nobody believes in you. It’s another to win when you buy into your own hype (see the 49ers last week). As a result of this, home favorites are 3-12 ATS since 2008 after a win as a home dog (15-23 ATS since 2002, 38-51 ATS since 1989). The Cardinals could easily be overconfident in this one after 3 not as impressive as they seem wins against the “lowly” Dolphins, especially just a few days before a Thursday Night divisional matchup with the Rams.
Now onto the “lowly” Dolphins. They’re not as lowly as they seem. In fact, both they and the Cardinals have the same yards per play differential, which suggests this line should be -3, instead of -6. The Dolphins’ offense is completely inept, but their defense is not bad at all. They were the league’s 6th ranked scoring defense last year and this year they’ve picked up right where they left off. This should be a low scoring game and the Cardinals don’t have the type of offense to be 6 point favorites against a good defense. The Dolphins are also in a good situation. Teams that nearly pull off upsets as a home dog (loss by 3 or fewer) are 58-40 ATS in their next game since 2002.
Injuries will play a factor in this game as both Reggie Bush and Darnell Dockett are key players who are questionable for the Dolphins and Cardinals respectively. Dockett’s injury is bigger because he’s a key player on defense for them, such a key unit given their offense’s mediocrity. Bush is also more likely to play because he practiced today, while Dockett did not. Besides, in his absence last week, Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas didn’t look too bad.
I don’t love any one single play this week, but this is one of my favorite and a co-pick of the week. Arizona is overrated and struggles on offense. Against a tough and underrated defense, there’s no way they should be laying more than a field goal. If they win, it’ll be a game similar to their first 2 (by 3 and by 2), rather than last week, when Philadelphia imploded on themselves. Arizona won last week largely because they were +3 in the turnover margin. However, turnovers are very unpredictable on a week to week basis. Teams that win the turnover differential battle by 3 win the turnover battle by an average of +0.1 in their following game since 2002
They’re also in a prime letdown situation as home favorites after 3 straight upset wins. San Francisco is better coached, more proven, and more legitimately talented than the Cardinals are and even they bought into their own hype last week. Expect a similar result from Arizona this week against a similarly underrated team, especially with a divisional clash coming up in just 4 days.
The other thing I like in this game is that the public is pounding Arizona and predictably so. The general perception is that Arizona is a legitimate 3-0 team, while Miami is terrible, so Arizona should easily beat them by a touchdown. If this year is any indication, the general perception is normally wrong. That’s why the odds makers are rich. On games with more than 80% of the action on one side, the public is just 4-12 this year.
This game fits that description and yet the line is still dropping, indicative of a trap line. It also curiously didn’t move from last week to this week, despite Arizona’s huge win, as it was -6 last week and opened this week at -6.5 (it’s now dropped to -6 or -5.5). The odds makers want as much money as possible coming in on Arizona, probably because they know something the general public doesn’t understand, which is that these teams aren’t that unevenly matched, as their yards per play differential would indicate. Smart bettors won’t fall for their trap and will ride the correction against Arizona.
Public lean: Arizona (new thing I’m adding, siding with the odds makers on bets is not a bad thing to do since they make so much money, so I’m listing this here to allow readers to “fade” the public, if they so choose, in this example, the odds makers win if Miami covers)
Sharps lean (sharps is defined as anyone with a 66.7% winning percentage or higher in Las Vegas Hilton): MIA 16 ARZ 5
Update: My 3 co-picks of the week all coincide with the 3 strongest sharps leans of the week. Feeling good.
Miami Dolphins 17 Arizona Cardinals 16 Upset Pick +210
Pick against spread: Miami +6 (-105) 4 units