Arizona Cardinals (5-6-1) at Miami Dolphins (7-5)
The Dolphins were shockingly blown out in Baltimore last week, the Ravens’ biggest win by point total since 2009. That almost definitely figures to be the worst game of the Dolphins’ season when all is said and done. Besides last week, they’ve played pretty well and are still a capable team that ranks 18th in first down rate differential. The Dolphins’ loss last week actually puts them in a good spot this week. That might sound counterintuitive, but teams are 92-54 ATS since 2002 off of an against the spread loss of 28 or more (the Dolphins lost by 32 as 3.5 point underdogs).
It makes sense when you think about it, as teams tend to be overlooked, undervalued, and embarrassed in that spot. On top of that, the Dolphins have a very easy game on deck as they head to New York to take on the Jets next week, a game in which they will almost definitely be road favorites. Home underdogs like the Dolphins are here (by 2 points) are 79-44 ATS since 2002 before being road favorites, as teams tend to be very focused in a tough home game before an easy road game.
The Dolphins could easily bounce back with a strong effort this week, but all that being said I’m picking the Cardinals as long as this line is under a field goal. The Cardinals are at the top of my underrated teams list. Despite their 5-6-1 record, they’ve won the first down rate battle in 10 of 12 games and they could easily be 9-3 right now, as they could have beaten New England, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Minnesota if one or two fluky things had gone their way (missed field goal against New England, punt return against Rams, blocked punt against Seattle, pick six against Minnesota).
The Cardinals actually rank 1st in first down rate differential. They ranked 1st in that metric last year as well. Carson Palmer is having a down year and they aren’t the same on either side of the ball without injured left tackle Jared Veldheer and injured defensive back Tyrann Mathieu, but they still have a strong defense and running game and are one of the better teams in the league in a year where there are very few top level teams. Even if the Dolphins bring a strong effort, the Cardinals could win by a field goal on the road, especially with the Dolphins missing center Mike Pouncey, linebackers Kiko Alonso and Jelani Jenkins, and defensive end Mario Williams with injury.
Arizona Cardinals 23 Miami Dolphins 20
Pick against the spread: Arizona -2