Miami Dolphins (0-0) at Los Angeles Chargers (0-1)
This game is a first for both teams. For the Dolphins, it is their first game of the season, as their week 1 game was re-scheduled to week 11 because of Hurricane Irma. For the Chargers, it is their first game in their new city, as the previously San Diego Chargers are now in Los Angeles, playing in the Stubhub Center until they can move into their new stadium in a few years. Fan attendance was an issue in San Diego, which is part of why they moved. That shows up in the box score, as the Chargers are just 8-16 ATS at home over the past 3 seasons.
However, it’s very possible that they have even less support in their new city. They will not only have to share the city with the Rams, but also with 2 basketball teams, 2 hockey teams (within an hour drive), 2 baseball teams (within an hour drive), and countless other entertainment options. Stubhub Center is a stadium designed for soccer that holds 27,000 (less than half of all other NFL stadiums) and the Chargers are still having trouble selling out, even for a home opener. The fans that do come are not necessarily going to be interested in the home team, so I really don’t see the Chargers’ homefield advantage improving from their 2-hour move north.
Even if we assume a normal 3 point homefield advantage for the Chargers, we’re still getting some line value with the Dolphins here as 3.5 point underdogs, as I have these two teams about even in my rankings. Ordinarily I’d have the Chargers a few spots ahead of the Dolphins, but the Chargers will have to play without talented cornerback Jason Verrett, who concerningly will sit out with knee pain after just 1 game back from the torn ACL that ended his 2016 season. That’s a major injury that casual bettors aren’t likely paying attention to. Casual bettors likely also underestimate the difference between a line of 3 and a line of 3.5, as about 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal.
The Dolphins are also in a better spot than the Chargers given that they play the Jets in New York next week. Teams tend to be very focused before an easy road game like that, with no real distraction on the horizon. Teams are 92-70 ATS since 2012 before being 4+ point road favorites (the Dolphins are -6 on the early line). The Chargers, meanwhile, host the Chiefs next week in a game in which they could be home underdogs. Favorites are just 64-97 ATS since 2012 before being underdogs when their opponent will next be favorites. Even if the Chargers are not underdogs next week, their upcoming game has a lot more potential to be a distraction than the Dolphins’ game does. This is a low confidence pick for now, but if this creeps up to 4 or 4.5 I may reconsider.
Los Angeles Chargers 24 Miami Dolphins 23
Pick against the spread: Miami +3.5