New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins: 2017 Week 14 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (10-2) at Miami Dolphins (5-7)

The Patriots have been on a great run in recent weeks, winning 8 straight wins, including 4 straight by 17+ points since their week 9 bye. Over those last 4 wins (Broncos, Raiders, Dolphins, Bills), they have a 22 point per game margin of victory. They seem to be rounding into the Super Bowl favorite most expected them to be before the start of the season, even despite some injuries. Their defense is much improved, led by cornerback Stephon Gilmore, while their offense has remained unstoppable.

The Patriots are also on an impressive 15-game winning streak away from New England. They’ve covered the spread in 12 of those games and have an average margin of victory of 13.67 points per game. The Patriots have a national fanbase like the Cowboys, so it makes sense that they are able to have success regardless of where they play. In fact, it’s possible there will be more Patriots fans than Dolphins fans at this game. That being said, I can’t recommend betting on them this week. They are 11.5 point road favorites, which is a big number to cover without suspended tight end Rob Gronkowski, even against a weak opponent like the Dolphins. For pick ‘em purposes, however, the Patriots are the smarter choice, as it’s usually a good idea to pick Tom Brady unless you have a good reason not to.

New England Patriots 26 Miami Dolphins 13

Pick against the spread: New England -11.5

Confidence: None

Denver Broncos at Miami Dolphins: 2017 Week 13 NFL Pick

Denver Broncos (3-8) at Miami Dolphins (4-7)

The Dolphins have 4 wins, but they are are one of the worst teams in the league, as they rank 31st in both point differential (-115) and first down rate differential (-6.78%). Their 4 wins have come by a combined 14 points, while their 7 losses have come by a combined 129 points, an average margin of defeat of 18.43 points. They’ve been even worse since losing talented right tackle Ja’Wuan James for the season. He was their best offensive lineman and his loss is a huge blow to an otherwise weak offensive line.

The Broncos enter on a 8-game losing streak, but they are still the better of these two teams. They rank 24th in first down rate at -2.67%, not good, but significantly better than the Dolphins. Despite their long losing streak, they’ve actually won the first down rate battle in 3 of 7 games, against the Giants, Chiefs, and Bengals. They lost those games primarily because of turnover margin, but turnover margins tend to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. The Broncos rank 2nd worst in turnover margin at -16, but they could play turnover neutral football going forward if their defense can force more takeaways, after strangely forcing just 8 through 11 games. This week could be a good place to start, given their matchup.

In addition to winning the first down battle against the three aforementioned teams, the Broncos could have won the first down battle and the game last week against Oakland had Trevor Siemian started the game. Paxton Lynch was horrendous before going down with an ankle injury and Siemian was able to make it a one score game despite being down 21 in the 4th quarter. The only 3 teams that have beaten them convincingly on their losing streak are the Chargers, Eagles, and Patriots, who are among the best teams in the league.

Siemian will start this week for the Broncos. He hasn’t been good this season, but he’s probably Denver’s best quarterback, even if only by default. He was their quarterback when they started 3-1 and has shown he can win games in the past if the Broncos run the ball well and play strong defense, which they should be able to do this week against an inferior opponent. That being said, I wish the Broncos were not missing cornerback Aqib Talib and right guard Ronald Leary with suspension and injury respectively, as I have this line calculated at just Denver -2 with those two missing, meaning we aren’t getting much line value with Denver at -1.5.

The Dolphins are in a terrible spot though, with a huge home game against the Patriots on deck, as teams are 35-75 ATS since 2012 before being 6+ point home underdogs (Miami is -11.5 on the early line). Teams understandably struggle the week before a tough home game. The Broncos played their worst game of the season in Philadelphia the week before hosting the Patriots and the Dolphins could do so as well this week. This game is actually sandwiched on Miami’s schedule in between a pair of games against New England, so the Dolphins could definitely overlook the Broncos a little bit. The Broncos, meanwhile, have another easy game against the Jets on deck, so they should be focused this week. Given that, the Broncos are worth a small bet as long as the line stays under 3.

Denver Broncos 16 Miami Dolphins 10

Pick against the spread: Denver -1.5

Confidence: Medium

Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots: 2017 Week 12 NFL Pick

Miami Dolphins (4-6) at New England Patriots (8-2)

The Patriots are dealing with a number of injuries to starters yet again this week. Right tackle Marcus Cannon, center David Andrews, and wide receiver Chris Hogan remain sidelined with injury for the third straight week, while defensive tackle Malcom Brown could miss his 4th straight game after once again not getting a full practice in all week. Fortunately, they don’t have a tough opponent this week, with the Dolphins coming to town. Despite 4 wins, the Dolphins are one of the worst teams in the league, as they rank 30th in both point differential (-97) and first down rate differential (-5.41%). They’ve been even worse since losing talented right tackle Ja’Wuan James for the season. He was their best offensive lineman and his loss is a huge blow to an otherwise weak offensive line.

The Patriots have been playing well even through injuries in recent weeks too, winning big in Denver against the Broncos and in Mexico City against the Raiders. They’ve been much improved on defense in recent weeks and their offense has remained the best in the league despite missing several starters because of their depth. In stark contrast to the Dolphins, the Patriots are one of the best teams in the NFL. They’re also in a great spot this week with only a trip to Buffalo on deck. Big favorites tend to take care of business before being big favorites again, as favorites of 7+ are 66-42 ATS before being favorites of 7+ again the following week and the Patriots are -10 in Buffalo on the early line. At -16.5, this line is too big to bet on confidently, but the Patriots are the pick for pick ‘em poll purposes. At the very least, I don’t want to bet against Tom Brady right now unless I have a clear reason to.

New England Patriots 34 Miami Dolphins 17

Pick against the spread: New England -16.5

Confidence: None

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Miami Dolphins: 2017 Week 11 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-6) at Miami Dolphins (4-5)

I am kicking myself for not taking Tampa Bay +3 when it briefly showed up at the beginning of the week. A line of -3 in favor of the hometown Dolphins suggests these two teams are about even, which is not true. The Dolphins, despite a 4-5 record, are one of the worst teams in the NFL. Their 4 wins have come by a combined 14 points, while their 5 losses have come by a combined 101 points, giving them a point differential of -87 on the season. That’s the 4th worst point differential in the NFL. They also rank 3rd worst in first down rate differential.

The Buccaneers are not a great team, especially with Ryan Fitzpatrick, but they’re significantly better than the Dolphins. They rank 19th in first down rate differential on the season, as 3 of their 6 losses have come by 5 points or fewer. Obviously losing Jameis Winston hurts them, but, given the way he was playing before he went down, it doesn’t hurt them that much. Fitzpatrick is definitely not a great starting option, but he’s experienced and he’s overall an above average backup.

Fitzpatrick also has a fair amount of talent around him on offense, with Mike Evans returning from suspension. Third round rookie Chris Godwin played well in his absence and now the Buccaneers go 4 deep at wide receiver, in addition to having a talented tight end duo. Defensively, they’ve played better in recent weeks as they’ve gotten healthier in the back 7. Outside linebacker Lavonte David, cornerback Brent Grimes, and middle linebacker Kwon Alexander missed 2 games, 3 games, and 4 games respectively early in the season, which hurt this defense.

Unfortunately, this line has shifted from 3 all the way to a pick ‘em. That’s exactly where I have this line, so we’ve lost all line value with the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay is still the pick for pick ‘em purposes because they have a tough game against the Patriots on deck, in which they are 14 point underdogs on the early line. Teams are 48-78 ATS since 2002 before being 10+ point underdogs. It’s definitely a possibility that the Dolphins don’t give their best effort for a 3-6 non-conference opponent with a huge divisional game on deck. I just don’t have a ton of interest in betting on Fitzpatrick on the road without getting field goal protection.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17 Miami Dolphins 15

Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay PK

Confidence: Low

Miami Dolphins at Carolina Panthers: 2017 Week 10 NFL Pick

Miami Dolphins (4-4) at Carolina Panthers (6-3)

The Dolphins are 4-4, but they have been one of the worst teams in the league this season. Their wins have come against the Chargers, who missed 2 field goals, both of which would have won the Chargers the game, the Titans, who were starting backup quarterback Matt Cassel, the Jets, by a field goal, and the Falcons, in a game in which the Falcons jumped out to a 17-0 lead and then took their foot off the gas with a Super Bowl rematch on deck. Meanwhile, their 4 losses have come by a combined 77 points. They have a -63 point differential and rank 29th in first down rate differential at -4.57%.

The Panthers are not quite as good as their 6-3 record either, as they are 4-1 in games decided by a touchdown or less, including a home game against the Falcons last week that they likely would have lost if not for a Julio Jones drop. The Panthers are in a good spot though, heading into the bye week, at home, against an easy opponent. Home favorites of 7+ are 49-28 ATS since 1989 before a regular season bye week when their opponent does not have a bye week on deck. The only reason I wouldn’t put money on the Panthers is because I don’t think we’re getting much line value with them at -9. I have this line calculated at -7.5. It’s a low confidence pick, but the Panthers are the smarter choice for pick ‘em purposes.

Carolina Panthers 23 Miami Dolphins 13

Pick against the spread: Carolina -9

Confidence: Low

Oakland Raiders at Miami Dolphins: 2017 Week 9 NFL Pick

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

Confidence: Low

Miami Dolphins at Baltimore Ravens: 2017 Week 8 NFL Pick

Baltimore Ravens (3-4) at Miami Dolphins (4-2)

The Dolphins are 4-2 and went 10-6 last year, but both of those records were the result of close wins and an easy schedule. Last season, 8 of their 10 wins came by a touchdown or less and 5 of them came against the Jets, 49ers, Browns, and Rams, who were among the worst teams in the league last year. Of those 5 wins, just one came by more than a touchdown. They did defeat the Steelers by double digits in week 6 of last season, but that was their only win over a playoff team and it came in a game in which Ben Roethlisberger got hurt. With a healthy Roethlisberger, the Steelers defeated them 30-12 in the first round of the post-season. They also lost by double digits to the Patriots, Titans, Bengals, and Ravens in the regular season.

This season, their 4 wins have come against the Chargers, the Titans, the Jets, and the Falcons, by a combined 14 points. The Falcons were a tough opponent, but they got caught looking forward to New England the following week. The Chargers missed 2 makeable field goals in a 2-point loss. The Titans were without starting quarterback Marcus Mariota and the deciding score was a return touchdown. The Jets, meanwhile, are one of the worst teams in the league. Despite that, the Jets were still able to beat the Dolphins by 14 in their first meeting. The Dolphins’ other loss came in London against the Saints by 20, so they have a point differential of just -20, 25th in the NFL. In first down rate differential, they rank 29th at -4.10%.

In their victory last week against the Jets, the Dolphins had to come back from down two scores in the second half and likely would not have been able to if Jay Cutler had not gotten hurt. That injury allowed Matt Moore to take over at quarterback and he should have been their starter since Tannehill tore his ACL in the pre-season. Paying Jay Cutler $10 million to come out of retirement to be their starting quarterback was a questionable move, considering Moore is an experienced backup who knew the system with whom they had no drop off in offensive performance in 4 starts in 2016, and that move looks even more questionable given how much Cutler has struggled thus far this season. Moore isn’t the best quarterback in the world, but he should be an upgrade given how poorly Cutler was playing.

That being said, I still have the Ravens about a point and a half better than the Dolphins, given that the Ravens got key defensive lineman Brandon Williams back from injury last week. They should also be healthier in the receiving corps this week after being without their top-3 wide receivers in Minnesota last week. At the very least, they should be getting #1 receiver Jeremy Maclin back from a 2-game absence. The Ravens are far from a great team, but they are the better of these two teams. This line suggests they’re about even at -3, so we’re getting some line value with the hosts.

The Ravens are also in a good spot as the hosts in a non-divisional matchup on Thursday Night Football. Non-divisional home favorites are 28-15 ATS all-time on Thursday Night Football as long as both teams are on short rest, which makes sense because it’s very tough for a team to travel on a short week to face a comparable or better opponent, unless that opponent is a familiar divisional opponent. The Dolphins are relatively unfamiliar with the Ravens, so they should be at a huge disadvantage on the short week, especially since they are installing a new starting quarterback. This is worth a small bet if you can get the line at -3.

Also, by request, I’m going to be posting lines I lock in early in the week during my Thursday Night writeups this season, so readers can lock them in before they move. These are not all my picks for the week, just picks where I think the line may move in an unfavorable direction (usually underdogs). The rest of the writeups will continue to be posted over the weekend as normal.

DEN +7.5 @ KC (I would also take +7)

OAK +3 @ BUF

Baltimore Ravens 19 Miami Dolphins 13

Pick against the spread: Baltimore -3

Confidence: Medium