Miami Dolphins at Minnesota Vikings: 2018 Week 15 NFL Pick

Miami Dolphins (7-6) at Minnesota Vikings (6-6-1)

The Dolphins pulled off one of the craziest victories in recent memory last week, beating the New England Patriots on a last second lateral play that went 69 yards, pulling the 34-33 upset as 8-point home underdogs. Teams are typically flat the following week after big upset wins like that though, going 70-93 ATS over the past 30 years after a home win as underdogs of 6 or more, and I would expect the Dolphins especially to have difficulty matching last week’s intensity because of how crazy the ending was. The Dolphins won their Super Bowl last week in incredible fashion, but there could easily be a hangover effect this week.

This line is relatively high at Minnesota -7, but most of the Dolphins’ losses have not been close this season, as 5 of their 6 losses have come by double digits and their average margin of defeat is 15.50 points per game. Their 7 wins, on the other hand, have all come by 8 points or fewer, as the Dolphins have made a habit of squeaking out victories in close games. That’s the kind of habit that’s tough to maintain every week though and the Dolphins rank 25th in point differential at -55. That’s -55 point differential comes despite a +8 turnover margin, which is also the kind of habit that’s tough to maintain every week. In terms of first down rate differential, they rank 28th at -4.81%, despite the 4th easiest schedule in terms of opponents’ DVOA.

The Dolphins have been better with Ryan Tannehill under center, but he’s not at 100%, dealing with shoulder and ankle injuries, and they are also missing top cornerback Xavien Howard, a massive loss on defense. The Vikings have disappointed this season, but they’re still a solid team and they’re healthier than they were earlier in the season. With the Vikings likely going to a much more balanced offensive attack under new offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, I have this line calculated at Minnesota -10.5 and I like their chances of handing a likely flat Dolphins team their 6th double digit loss of the season. Without a better option this week, this is my Pick of the Week at -7.

Minnesota Vikings 23 Miami Dolphins 10

Pick against the spread: Minnesota -7

Confidence: Pick of the Week

New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins: 2018 Week 14 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (9-3) at Miami Dolphins (6-6)

When this line was New England -10 on the early line, I was thinking about taking the Dolphins. The Patriots have not nearly been the same team on the road this season and they’ve historically struggled in Miami, including last year, when they lost as 11-point favorites in Miami in this exact same situation, right before a much bigger game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, who the Patriots face again next week. There’s obviously a huge talent difference between these two teams, but 10 points seemed like enough cover to play with.

Unfortunately, we’ve lost line value in the last week, with this line shifting to 7.5. It’s not really clear why, as New England beat the Vikings by two touchdowns last week, while the Dolphins almost lost at home to the Bills, but maybe the oddsmakers just realized the line was too high last week. The Dolphins will also be without their top cornerback Xavien Howard with injury, a big loss against a team like the Patriots, but this line doesn’t seem to take that into account.

With that in mind, I’m actually going to flip to the Patriots, even in a tough spot. Five of the Dolphins’ six losses have come by more than a touchdown, while all of their wins have come by 8 points or fewer. They rank 29th in first down rate differential, 24th in point differential, and, while their offense is better with Ryan Tannehill back, he doesn’t appear to be 100% right now. It’s also typically not smart to go against the Patriots late in the season without a good reason, as they are 67-42 ATS in the final 8 games of the regular season with Tom Brady under center. This is a no confidence pick, but the Patriots are the pick for pick ‘em purposes.

New England Patriots 24 Miami Dolphins 16

Pick against the spread: New England -7.5

Confidence: None

Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins: 2018 Week 13 NFL Pick

Buffalo Bills (4-7) at Miami Dolphins (5-6)

These two teams have had pretty similar seasons. Both have struggled statistically, as the Dolphins rank 27th in point differential at -60 and 30th in first down rate differential at -6.03%, while the Bills rank 30th in point differential at -111 and 31st in first down rate differential at -7.30%. Both teams have also been without their starting quarterbacks for stretches, but both the Bills’ Josh Allen and Dolphins’ Ryan Tannehill are back on the field now.

The quarterback injury affected the Bills a lot more though, as the Bills had to start street free agents in Allen’s absence, while Dolphins started Brock Osweiler, who statistically wasn’t much worse than Tannehill. In 5 games started and finished by Josh Allen, the Bills are 3-2 with a point differential of -8 and they were also leading on the road in Houston before Allen got hurt. The Dolphins, meanwhile, are 3-3 with a -18 point differential in 6 games started and finished by Tannehill. The Bills have also faced a much tougher schedule, 8th toughest in terms of opponents record at 54%, while the Dolphins rank 25th at 47%.

Allen still has his issues, as a raw rookie quarterback, but he’s playing his best football right now, both as a passer and a runner, and seems to be fully over his elbow injury. Tannehill, meanwhile, did not have a good first game back last week, with just 130 yards on 24 pass attempts if you don’t include a 74-yard touchdown where his receiver did most of the work. The Dolphins had a first down rate of just 33.33%, against an underwhelming Colts defense, and it’s very possible that Tannehill’s shoulder is still not at 100%.

In addition to his own issues, Allen also doesn’t have a good supporting cast on offense, but Tannehill’s is falling apart fast, with their 2 leading receivers, Albert Wilson and Danny Amendola injured right now. Most importantly, the Bills are much better on defense, ranking 12th in first down rate allowed at 35.36%, as opposed to 21st in first down rate allowed at 37.82% for the Dolphins. Both teams have their issues, but the Bills are at least even with the Dolphins right now, if not a little better.

The Bills are also in a much better spot, as they host the Jets next week, while the Dolphins host the Patriots. Underdogs are 90-55 ATS since 2014 before being favorites when their opponent will next be underdogs. On top of that, teams are 22-44 ATS since 2014 before being home favorites of 7 or more (Miami is +10.5 on the early line), as big upcoming home games tend to be a distraction for teams. We could easily see a much better effort from the Bills than the Dolphins this week, in which case the Bills would have a great shot of stealing this game on the road. I like the Bills a lot this week as underdogs of more than a field goal.

Buffalo Bills 17 Miami Dolphins 16 Upset Pick +160

Pick against the spread: Buffalo +4

Confidence: High

Miami Dolphins at Indianapolis Colts: 2018 Week 12 NFL Pick

Miami Dolphins (5-5) at Indianapolis Colts (5-5)

The Dolphins are 5-5, but they’ve been much worse than their record. While all 5 of their wins have come by 8 points or fewer, their 5 losses have all come by double digits, giving them a -57 point differential in the season, 5th worst in the NFL. In terms of first down rate differential, they are even worse, ranking 30th at -5.47%, only ahead of the Cardinals and Bills. They get quarterback Ryan Tannehill back healthy this week, but backup Brock Osweiler was not much a downgrade from him and there’s no guarantee he’s 100% after missing over a month with a shoulder injury.

The Colts are also 5-5, but they’ve been much better. They rank 8th in point differential at +49 and 8th in first down rate differential at +3.09%. They’ve also been much better over the past few weeks, after an injury plagued start to the season, winning 4 straight games by a combined 77 points and playing at a legitimately high level. Four of their five wins have come by more than a touchdown and they should be able to hand the Dolphins their 6th multiscore loss. I think we lost some line value when the Colts blew out the Titans last week (I can’t tell for sure because this line was off last week because of Tannehill’s uncertainty) and I wish we were getting a better line like -7, but I have this line calculated at Indianapolis -12, so we’re still getting line value with the Colts, who remain underrated despite their recent strong play.

Indianapolis Colts 31 Miami Dolphins 20

Pick against the spread: Indianapolis -7.5

Confidence: Medium

New York Jets at Miami Dolphins: 2018 Week 9 NFL Pick

New York Jets (3-5) at Miami Dolphins (4-4)

When these two teams met in week 2, the Dolphins got an upset victory as road underdogs in New York, winning 20-12. That doesn’t necessarily mean the Dolphins will win at home though. In fact, divisional home favorites only win about 55% of the time over the past 15 years against a team they previously beat as road underdogs and they are just 35-64 ATS against the spread. Evenly matched teams tend to split the season series, even if the road underdog pulls the upset in the first game.

The Dolphins have also had a lot of injuries since that game, with quarterback Ryan Tannehill, wide receivers Albert Wilson and Kenny Stills, and defensive ends Charles Harris and William Hayes all going down with injury since week 2, though the Jets are likely without their top-2 receivers Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson, along with center Spencer Long and cornerback Trumaine Johnson, so neither team is in a good injury situation.

The Dolphins are also in a terrible spot with a trip to Green Bay on deck, while the Jets return home and face the lowly Bills next week. Favorites are just 41-71 ATS since 2002 before being double digit underdogs, which the Dolphins are on the early line for next week’s game, and favorites in general are just 51-84 ATS before being underdogs when their opponent will next be favorites, which the Jets will be next week. I wish we were getting a full field goal with the Jets because I have these teams about even in my rankings, so there’s no line value at +2.5, but the money line is a good play at +125 and if this line moves up to 3 before gametime I will make this a higher confidence pick.

Update: Two developments in this game Sunday morning. For one, the line has shifted back and +3s are available. On top of that, both Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson are expected to suit up for the Jets, despite limited practice this week. They likely won’t be at 100%, but they should still provide a boost for a very thin receiving corps. The Jets are a solid play this week if you can get +3 because they’re in so much better of a spot than the Dolphins.

New York Jets 20 Miami Dolphins 17 Upset Pick +125

Pick against the spread: NY Jets +3

Confidence: Medium

Miami Dolphins at Houston Texans: 2018 Week 8 NFL Pick

Miami Dolphins (4-3) at Houston Texans (4-3)

Typically the rule of thumb for betting Thursday Night Football is to take the home team as long as they are comparable to or better than their opponents and as long as it’s not a division game. Non-divisional home favorites are 32-15 ATS all-time on Thursday nights, including 13-5 ATS as favorites of a touchdown or more. That makes a lot of sense, as it’s very tough for a team to travel on a short week and face an unfamiliar opponent, especially if that opponent has a talent advantage as well.

That trend is certainly in play here, with the Dolphins traveling to Houston on a short week as 7.5 point underdogs. Putting the Dolphins at even more of a disadvantage is the fact that they’ll be without arguably their two best pass catchers due to injury, with both Albert Wilson and Kenny Stills sidelined for this one. The Dolphins have solid depth at the wide receiver position, with both Jakeem Grant and Devante Parker capable of filling roles in 3-wide sets with slot receiver Danny Amendola, but this passing game could easily be out of sync with such limited practice time this week.

The Dolphins also have other problems besides the receiving corps. They’re 4-3, but they have a -26 point differential (4 wins by a combined 26 points, 3 losses by a combined 52 points) and rank 23rd in first down rate differential at -2.51%. They’re also starting backup quarterback Brock Osweiler for the 3rd straight week and, while he might not actually be that much of a downgrade from mediocre starter Ryan Tannehill, him starting just makes it more likely this passing game will be out of sync on a short week, with a backup quarterback throwing to unfamiliar receivers.

The Texans have some issues on offense too, with Deshaun Watson at less than 100%, playing behind arguably the worst offensive line in football, but their defense has played like a top-5 unit this year with all of their key players back healthy, ranking 3rd in first down rate allowed at 31.22%, only behind the Ravens and Jaguars. Overall, they rank 8th in first down rate differential at +2.47%. I wish we were getting more line value with the Texans, as I have these two teams about 4.5 points apart in my roster rankings, suggesting this line is accurate, but they are the pick for pick ‘em purposes and I would definitely bet them if the line went back down to 7 where it briefly opened, as the Texans should be able to win this game by at least a touchdown.

Houston Texans 24 Miami Dolphins 13

Pick against the spread: Houston -7.5

Confidence: Low

Detroit Lions at Miami Dolphins: 2018 Week 7 NFL Pick

Detroit Lions (2-3) at Miami Dolphins (4-2)

The Lions are coming off of a bye and teams tend to do well as significant road favorites after a bye, going 25-9 ATS as road favorites of 3+ since 2008. The Dolphins faced a Bears team in the same spot last week though and pulled the upset as 7-point underdogs. That’s probably partially because the Bears were expecting to face regular Dolphins starter Ryan Tannehill, who was surprisingly ruled out Sunday morning, after suffering a setback to his shoulder injury at practice the previous Friday.

Instead, the Bears faced Brock Osweiler, who has shown in the past he can play well when teams aren’t expecting to face him, playing arguably his best game of the past 3 seasons as a mid-game injury replacement last year with the Broncos against the Colts. With the Lions having a full week to prepare for him, I would be surprised if Osweiler didn’t regress this week, even with the Lions having an underwhelming defense.

The Dolphins are getting some starters back on defense for this one, with defensive end Cameron Wake and cornerback Bobby McCain returning to practice this week after missing the past two games and practicing in full on Friday, but the Lions are getting healthier too, with right guard TJ Lang returning after the bye and defensive end Ezekiel Ansah possibly playing for the first time since week 1. There isn’t enough line value to take the Lions as 3 point road favorites, but this should be able to win this one with relative ease.

Detroit Lions 26 Miami Dolphins 20

Pick against the spread: Detroit -3

Confidence: Low