Oakland Raiders (3-5) at Miami Dolphins (4-3)
The Raiders finished last season 12-4, but are just 3-5 so far this season with essentially the same team. The biggest difference between this year and last year for the Raiders has been a huge swing of the turnover margin, from +16 in 2016 (tied for the best in the league) to -6 so far this year, 5th worst in the league. In terms of first down rate differential, the Raiders have actually improved from 19th last year at -0.49% to 10th so far this year at +2.93%, but they have been held back by not winning the turnover margin as often as they did last season.
The good news is turnover margins tend to be inconsistent on a week-to-week and year-to-year basis. Just like the Raiders were likely to have a significantly worse turnover margin than +16 this season, they are also likely to be better than -6 over the final 8 games. The Raiders were -3 in turnover margin last week in Buffalo, allowing a return touchdown in the process, which led to them losing by 20 despite winning the first down margin 23 to 17. However, teams follow up a -3 turnover margin with a turnover margin of around -0.1, on average, essentially even. Talent wise, this is still an above average team that is capable of going on a run in what is an overall weak league right now if they can play turnover neutral football going forward.
The Dolphins, meanwhile, are one of the worst teams in the league despite their 4-3 record. They rank 28th in point differential at -60 and 30th in first down rate differential at -5.64%. Their 4 wins have come by a combined 14 points, while their 3 losses have come by a combined 74 points. That being said, we aren’t really getting much line value with the Raiders here as 3 point road favorites, as this line has shifted significantly from Oakland -1 last week on the early line, as a result of the Dolphins’ 40-point loss in Baltimore on Thursday Night Football last week. Two points doesn’t seem like a ton, but about 1 in 4 games are decided by 3 points or less, so this line being at 3 is significant.
The Dolphins are definitely not a good team, as they ranked near the bottom in first down rate differential even before that huge loss in Baltimore, but they are not as bad as they looked last week on a short week with a backup quarterback, so that line movement is an overreaction that costs us significant line value with the Raiders. On top of that, teams tend to bounce back off of blowout losses like that, going 54-30 ATS since 2002 off of a loss by 35 or more points, as teams tend to be overlooked, embarrassed, and underrated after blowout losses like that. I don’t think the Dolphins are underrated, but they could definitely be overlooked and embarrassed this week. I’m still taking Oakland, but I’d need this line to at least drop back down to 2.5 to bet on them confidently. If that happens, I will revisit this pick.
Oakland Raiders 20 Miami Dolphins 16
Pick against the spread: Oakland -3