Houston Texans (2-4) at Miami Dolphins (2-3)
The Dolphins were the most disappointing team in the league for the first 4 weeks, going 1-3 (with one win on a punt return), and getting demolished by two divisional rivals, the Bills and the Jets, in games that were technically Miami home games. They used the week 5 bye to fire head coach Joe Philbin and install interim head coach Dan Campbell, previously the tight ends coach. Though Campbell has no head coaching or even coordinator experience, he seemed to do a good job with them in the transition period, as the Dolphins blew out the Titans 38-10 in Tennessee off of the bye last Sunday.
As a result, this line has shifted from 1.5 last week to 5 this week. Typically, I love to fade huge week-to-week line movements because they’re typically the result of overreactions to one week. This game will be no exception, as I think this line is way too high. The Dolphins still only rank 24th in rate of moving the chains differential. They’re probably more talented than that suggests, but they’re a deeply flawed team with major issues in the secondary and on the offensive line and also have a very inexperienced head coach and coaching staff.
The Texans have their own issues, but are playing much better of late, since switching back to Brian Hoyer at quarterback. Hoyer is Pro Football Focus’ 8th ranked quarterback this season and Houston ranks 13th in rate of moving the chains differential. There’s no way the Dolphins should be favored by 5 here, especially given that the Dolphins are just 3-7 ATS at home favored by 3+ points since Ryan Tannehill arrived in 2012. They shouldn’t be getting more than 2 points for their homefield advantage, which means that you should only take the Dolphins if you think they’re at least 3 points better than the Texans. I don’t think they are.
The Dolphins are also in a horrific spot, having to turn around and face the Patriots 4 days after this one, as they go to Foxboro for Thursday Night Football next week. Teams are 51-90 ATS since 2010 before being underdogs of 10 or more (the early line is NE –10.5). That’s because when you have a game coming up like that it generally means one of two things. One, you have a very tough game coming up that serves as a distraction. Two, you really aren’t that good of a football team. In this case, it’s more the first, but, as we’ve established, they’re not a great team either.
The Texans, meanwhile, host the Titans next week, a game in which they’ll definitely be favored in Houston. Favorites before being underdogs (like the Dolphins are) are 70-113 ATS when their opponent will next be favorites (like the Texans are) since 2010. Combining the two, favorites who will next be 10+ point underdogs are 19-47 ATS when their opponent will next be favorites since 1989. On top of that, the Dolphins are favorites before Thursday Night Football. Teams are 41-66 ATS in that spot since 2008. With arguably their hardest game of the season on deck, just 4 days after this one, I really don’t expect the Dolphins to be focused at all for the Texans.
The only edge the Dolphins have is in terms of these two respective team’s injury situations. The Texans will be missing starting cornerback Kareem Jackson and middle linebacker Benardrick McKinney for this one, though the former really hasn’t been playing that well this season. The Dolphins are just missing starting cornerback Brice McCain and he’s one of the worst starting cornerbacks in football. Still, I have no problem taking the Texans +5 as my Pick of the Week. The Dolphins will have trouble winning this one by more than a field goal.
Houston Texans 20 Miami Dolphins 17 Upset Pick +180
Pick against the spread: Houston +5
Confidence: Pick of the Week