Cleveland Browns (0-2) at Miami Dolphins (0-2)
The Browns entered the season with arguably the weakest roster in the league and have had terrible injury luck already. On defense, defensive end Carl Nassib is out, while cornerback Joe Haden is questionable and could join Nassib on the sideline. On the offensive side, the Browns are already down to 3rd string quarterback Cody Kessler, a 3rd round rookie who reportedly is not close to ready to play quarterback in the NFL, while top receiver Corey Coleman is also out. With Josh Gordon still suspended, that leaves the Browns with Kessler throwing to the likes of Gary Barnidge, Terrelle Pryor, Duke Johnson, Andrew Hawkins, and Rashard Higgins. They’re also without starting center Cameron Erving. Right guard John Greco shifts inside, making the right side of their offensive line a major area of weakness.
However, there’s no reason the Dolphins should be favored by 10 points here. No team is bad enough to be 10 point underdogs in Miami, as the Dolphins aren’t very good themselves. They finished last season 31st in rate of moving the chains differential (RMCD) and they’re not much better so far this season, entering this game in 28th. As bad as the Browns have been over the past 2 seasons, they actually finished last season 29th in RMCD, higher than the Dolphins, and even still enter this game one spot higher than the Dolphins in that metric this season, as they enter in 27th.
The Dolphins are better coached this year, but have an even less talented roster than they did last season, after losing the likes of Olivier Vernon, Derrick Shelby, and Lamar Miller in free agency. Center Mike Pouncey is also out with injury. They did have some off-season additions and their roster is definitely more talented than the Browns’ roster is right now, but not enough to warrant this 10 point line. Teams that finish with 6 or fewer wins cover just 25% of the time as favorites of 6 or more since 2002. Of course, it’s too early to know for sure that the Dolphins are going 6-10 or worse, but you can make an educated guess.
Both teams have tough games on deck and figure to be underdogs of 6+ next week, with the Browns heading on to Washington to play the Redskins and the Dolphins going to Cincinnati next. Both big favorites and big underdogs struggle before being big underdogs, as favorites of 6+ are 23-50 ATS before being underdogs of 6+ since 2008, while underdogs of 6 or more are 45-71 ATS before being underdogs of 6+ since 2012. The Bengals are a tougher opponent than the Redskins are though and the Dolphins also have to turn around and play them on Thursday Night. Favorites are just 50-71 ATS before Thursday Night Football, since 2008. It also hurts the Dolphins that they are playing a week 3 home opener, which historically doesn’t go well. Teams are just 24-46 ATS in a week 3 home opener since 1989. This seems like a trap game for Miami, even if Cleveland’s lack of talent doesn’t allow them to actually pull off the straight up victory. It’s worth betting on them at 10, though I’d be more hesitant at 9.5.
Miami Dolphins 23 Cleveland Browns 17
Pick against the spread: Cleveland +10