Miami Dolphins (2-2) at Atlanta Falcons (3-1)
The Falcons lost at home before their bye to the Bills back in week 4, but that was largely because they lost the turnover battle by 3. They lost the turnover battle by 3 the previous week as well and still managed to pull out the close victory in Detroit. Despite their 3-1 record, the Falcons are actually -5 in turnover margin, 5th worst in the NFL. Turnover margins tend to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis though and it’s actually very impressive that they’ve been able to get off to a strong start despite a poor turnover margin. In terms of first down rate differential, the Falcons rank second at 5.22%.
The bye week came at a great time for the Falcons, who were a little banged up before the bye. They were without right tackle Ryan Schraeder and top edge rusher Vic Beasley in their games against Detroit and Buffalo and then they lost Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu, their top-2 receivers, during the Buffalo game. Sanu remains out, but he’s the least important of those 4 players and Jones, Schreader, and Beasley are all set to return this week. At close to full strength, the Falcons are arguably the best team in the entire NFL and have a good chance to return to the Super Bowl if they can play turnover neutral football and avoid more major injuries.
The Dolphins, meanwhile, are one of the worst teams in the league. They were 10-6 a year ago, but that was because they had a very easy schedule (with 5 games against the Jets, Rams, 49ers, and Browns) and because they went 8-2 in games decided by a touchdown or less. They were already set to take a step back this season record wise, but then they lost quarterback Ryan Tannehill for the year with injury and signed Jay Cutler out of retirement to replace him. Cutler has looked terrible through 4 games and should be benched for backup Matt Moore, who was solid in limited action in place of an injured Tannehill in 2016.
The Dolphins are 2-2, but those wins came over the Chargers and the Matt Cassel led Titans and they easily could have lost both games, while their two losses were not close (by a combined 34 points). The Chargers game was decided by a pair of missed field goals, either one of which would have won the Chargers the game, while the Titans game was decided by a fumble returned for a touchdown. They’ve produced just 60 first downs and 3 offensive touchdowns this season, while allowing 76 first downs and 7 offensive touchdowns, and they rank dead last in first down rate differential at -7.86%.
The Falcons are favored by 12.5 points, but this line should probably be higher, given that this game is between one of the worst teams in the league and arguably the best. The only reason I’m not putting money on the Falcons is because this is a terrible spot for them, with the Super Bowl rematch in New England on deck. Double digit favorites are 56-75 ATS before being underdogs since 2002 and the Falcons could definitely overlook the Dolphins with New England on deck. The Dolphins, meanwhile, have an easy game against the Jets on deck, so they should be 100% focused. Underdogs are 105-66 ATS since 2012 before being favorites when their opponent will next be underdogs. The Falcons should win this game by at least two touchdowns, but I can’t be confident in them because of the spot they’re in.
Atlanta Falcons 28 Miami Dolphins 13
Pick against the spread: Atlanta -12.5