New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins: 2021 Week 18 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (10-6) at Miami Dolphins (8-8)

The Dolphins won seven straight games, but that came to a crashing halt last week when they were blown out by a final score of 34-3 in Tennessee. Their losing streak was always the result of an easy schedule, as their only two games over their seven-game winning streak against teams with a record better than 5-11 were against the Baltimore Ravens, who were in a near impossible spot playing on a short week after an overtime game, a spot in which teams have covered just 3 out of 28 times historically, and the New Orleans Saints, who were starting a fourth string quarterback behind a skeleton crew offensive line, also a near impossible situation. Their other five opponents on their winning streak are a combined 21-59.

On the other hand, the Dolphins have struggled in tougher games, losing four of five games against likely playoff qualifiers by double digits. The one exception was week one against the Dolphins’ opponents this week the New England Patriots, but the Patriots won the first down rate and yards per play battle by 0.6 and 2.56% respectively in that game, losing because they lost the fumble margin by -2 in a 1-point loss. Fortunately for the Patriots, fumble margin is highly non-predictive, while yards per play and first down rate differential are much more predictive. On the season, in terms of schedule adjusted mixed efficiency, which is based on yards per play and first down rate, the Patriots rank 4th, while the Dolphins rank 30th.

The Patriots also were starting a rookie quarterback with a bunch of free agent additions week one and did not have their full offensive line, so the Patriots should fare even better in the second matchup than they did in a week one matchup which they should have won if not for two lost fumbles. Unfortunately, we’ve lost a lot of line value with the Patriots in the past week, as they have gone from 2.5-point favorites on the early line last week to 6-point favorites this week, in the wake of their blowout loss over the Jaguars and the Dolphins’ blowout loss to the Titans. My calculated line favors the Patriots by 8.5, so we’re still getting some line value with them, but I think I would need this line to drop to at least 5.5 for the Patriots to be worth betting.

Update: This line has dropped to 5.5 before gametime, so I am going to place a small bet on New England.

New England Patriots 26 Miami Dolphins 17

Pick against the spread: New England -5.5

Confidence: Medium

Miami Dolphins at Tennessee Titans: 2021 Week 17 NFL Pick

Miami Dolphins (8-7) at Tennessee Titans (10-5)

The Dolphins started the season 1-7, but have since won seven straight games and have become a trendy sleeper pick. It’s understandable why, as the Dolphins seem to have a knack for getting better as the season goes under third-year head coach Brian Flores, starting 0-7 in Flores’ first season in 2019 before going 5-4 in their last 9 games, and starting 1-3 in 2020 before going 9-3 in their last 12 games. However, that doesn’t tell the whole story.

For one, the Dolphins were not as good as their 10-6 record suggested last year, as they faced a very easy schedule and they benefited from an unsustainably high turnover margin (+11), opponent’s field goal percentage (3rd lowest at 73.91%), and 3rd/4th down conversion rate allowed (33.02%), which was actually lower than the 34.07% conversion rate they allowed on 1st/2nd down (4th highest in the NFL). On top of that, the Dolphins’ winning streak this year is largely the result of them having a very easy schedule.

During their 7-game winning streak, the Dolphins have faced just two teams with a record better than 5-10, one being the Baltimore Ravens, who were in a near impossible spot playing on a short week after an overtime game, a spot in which teams have covered just 3 out of 28 times historically, and the other being the New Orleans Saints last week, who were starting a fourth string quarterback behind a skeleton crew offensive line, also a near impossible situation. Aside from the Saints and Ravens, the other five teams the Dolphins have beaten on their winning streak are a combined 21-54. 

Despite the easy schedule on their long winning streak, the Dolphins are still negative in point differential and, in terms of schedule adjusted efficiency, they have been even worse as, not only have they faced a relatively easy schedule overall, but they have significantly overperformed expectations on third downs on offense, ranking 13th in third down conversion rate, but just 30th in both first down rate and in schedule adjusted offensive efficiency. Over-performing on third downs tends not to be sustainable long-term and, while the Dolphins do rank 11th in schedule adjusted efficiency on defense, their poor offensive rank drags their overall mixed efficiency down to 26th in the NFL.

The Dolphins’ schedule gets tougher this week, as they take a trip to Tennessee. The Titans’ 10-5 record is in part due to a 5-2 record in one-score games and they haven’t been nearly as good on offense since losing feature back Derrick Henry, averaging about a yard per play less in the seven games since he got hurt, but they have gotten back top wide receiver AJ Brown, starting left tackle Taylor Lewan, starting left guard Rodger Saffold, and starting right guard Nate Davis, who have all missed time in recent weeks as well, so they are still significantly healthier than they have been even if Henry remains out. 

The Titans might also have wide receiver Julio Jones available for this one, another key offensive player who has missed time recently, but he is still in COVID protocols, as is Denico Autry, a key player on the defensive side of the ball. My calculated line even without Jones and Autry in the lineup favors the Titans by 4.5, so we are getting line value with them as 3.5-point favorites either way, but, at the same time, even if Jones and Autry play, I don’t see there being enough line value for the Titans to be worth betting on unless this line drops to 3, as a field goal win by the Titans is definitely a strong possibility.

Tennessee Titans 24 Miami Dolphins 19

Pick against the spread: Tennessee -3.5

Confidence: Low

Miami Dolphins at New Orleans Saints: 2021 Week 16 NFL Pick

Miami Dolphins (7-7) at New Orleans Saints (7-7)

The Dolphins have won six straight games after their 1-7 start to surprisingly climb back into the playoff race in the AFC, but they have faced a pretty easy schedule over that stretch and have not been impressive in many of the wins. Of the six wins, five of them came against teams that are a combined 18-52 right now, while their only victory over a team with a record better than 5-9 came against the Ravens, who were in a near impossible spot playing on a short week after an overtime game, a spot in which teams have covered just 3 out of 28 times historically. 

Despite the weak schedule in recent weeks, the Dolphins still have a negative point differential at -27 and, in terms of schedule adjusted efficiency, they have been even worse as, not only have they faced a relatively easy schedule overall, but they have significantly overperformed expectations on third downs on offense, ranking 11th in third down conversion rate, but just 30th in both first down rate and in schedule adjusted offensive efficiency. Over-performing on third downs tends not to be sustainable long-term and, while the Dolphins do rank 17th in schedule adjusted efficiency on defense, their poor offensive rank drags their overall mixed efficiency down to 28th in the NFL.

Fortunately for the Dolphins, they get another break in the schedule this week. The Saints are 7-7 and are the best team record wise the Dolphins have faced since their Thursday Night Football game against the Ravens back in week 10, but the Saints are dealing with significant absences, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. The Saints pulled the upset in Tampa Bay as 11-point underdogs last week, but they primarily won because they won the turnover battle by two, which is not predictive week-to-week, and they lost both the first down rate and yards per play battle, which are more predictive week-to-week. Teams tend to struggle anyway after big upset wins like that, covering at just a 41.4% rate after a win as double digit underdogs, as teams tend to be flat after such a big win.

It also took a truly dominant performance from their defense, which held the Buccaneers to 4.14 yards per play and a 22.93% first down rate, to mask a very poor performance by their skeleton-crew offense, which averaged 3.53 yards per play and a 18.03% first down rate. In total, the Saints’ offense was without their original starting quarterback in Jameis Winston, a trio of expected started offensive linemen in Terron Armstead, Ryan Ramcyzk, and Andrus Peat, with Armstead and Ramcyzk being arguably the best offensive tackle duo in the NFL, their expected #1 wide receiver Michael Thomas and his replacement Deonte Harris, who leads the team in receiving and is an asset in the return game as well. 

There was some hope that the Saints might get some of those players back this week, most notably their offensive tackle duo, but, not only are none of those players expected to return, the Saints will now be down to fourth string quarterback Ian Book, with backup quarterbacks Taysom Hill and Trevor Siemian both being added to the COVID protocols this week and expected to miss this game. Book was deemed worthy of a fourth round pick by the Saints in this past year’s draft, but is very raw and the Saints have not seemed eager to get him into action as a rookie, despite a need at the quarterback position, so he should be a downgrade even from the poor quarterback play the Saints have gotten since Jameis Winston went down.

When the Saints’ defense is healthy, they are arguably the best in the league and they showed that last week, in just the fifth game all season in which the Saints had their dominant trio of defensive linemen (David Onyemata, Cameron Jordan, and Marcus Davenport) available at the same time, but defensive performance tends to be less predictive week-to-week than offensive performance and, even with those three aforementioned defensive linemen expected to play, the Saints defense is no longer at full strength, as they are expected to be without stud every down linebacker Demario Davis due to COVID protocols. 

We are still getting line value with the Saints, whose defense should still play at a high level even without Davis, but that line value is only because the Dolphins are an overrated team and I am not confident enough in the Saints to bet on them against the spread, especially since they could be in a bad spot after a huge win last week. The money line is worth a small play at +120, as the Saints should be considered no worse than 50/50 to win this game at home (my calculated line is New Orleans -1.5), but I would need at least a full field goal to consider betting on the Saints against the spread.

Update: This line has jumped to three today, probably because the public is realizing that Terron Armstead is unlikely to play, as the “limited” practice he got in yesterday was an estimation, with the Saints not actually practicing on Christmas, meaning Armstead still has not practiced in two weeks. I factored in that Armstead would be out yesterday when I did this write up, so that doesn’t change anything for me, but I like the value at +3 a lot more, enough to bet the Saints.

New Orleans Saints 17 Miami Dolphins 16 Upset Pick +135

Pick against the spread: New Orleans +3

Confidence: Medium

New York Jets at Miami Dolphins: 2021 Week 15 NFL Pick

New York Jets (3-10) at Miami Dolphins (6-7)

The Dolphins have won five straight games to put themselves back into playoff contention despite a 1-7 start. Between that and the fact that the Dolphins were 10-6 a year ago, the Dolphins are generally seen as at least an average team, but there are a couple things wrong with that. For one, the Dolphins were not nearly as good as their record a year ago, as they faced a very easy schedule and they benefited from an unsustainably high turnover margin (+11), opponent’s field goal percentage (3rd lowest at 73.91%), and 3rd/4th down conversion rate allowed (33.02%), which was actually lower than the 34.07% conversion rate they allowed on 1st/2nd down (4th highest in the NFL).

On top of that, the Dolphins’ schedule during their 5-game winning streak has been pretty easy, as only the Ravens are above .500 and they were playing a Thursday Night Football game after an overtime game, a near impossible spot, with teams covering at just a 16% rate in that spot all-time. Three of those five wins have come against among the worst teams in the league in the Jets, Giants, and the Texans, with two of those wins coming by just one-score, including a 7-point victory over these Jets in New York a few weeks ago.

That first Jets/Dolphins game was even closer than the final score too and, in fact, the Jets actually won both the first down rate and yards per play rate battles, which are the most predictive metrics. On the season, the Dolphins rank just 29th, 16th, and 27th in schedule adjusted offensive, defensive, and special teams efficiency, which are based on first down rate and yards per play, and their mixed efficiency, which ranks 26th in the NFL, puts them just about a point ahead of the Jets, who rank 28th. 

The Jets are not as healthy as they were the last time these two teams met, down their two best wide receivers Corey Davis and Elijah Moore, as well as their left tackle George Fant, but the Jets will have running back Michael Carter this time and the Dolphins are missing top wide receiver Jaylen Waddle and talented safety Jevon Holland due to COVID protocols. I have the Dolphins calculated as just 5.5-point favorites in this game, giving us significant value with the Jets at +9.5. The Dolphins are in a good spot in their third straight home game, a 55.2% cover spot all-time, and this is going to be a low confidence pick for now, but I may end up betting on the Jets on gameday once the results of COVID tests are back and we know for sure who is playing for each side.

Update: Holland will play for the Dolphins, while Folorunso Fatukasi is out with COVID for the Jets. The line has moved up to 10 to compensate, but I am no longer considering betting on the Jets, so this will remain a low confidence pick.

Final update: Jevon Holland will be inactive despite being cleared, but despite that, this line has moved up to 10.5 in some places. I am going to make a late play on the Jets at that number, as the Dolphins are very overvalued, especially without Waddle and Holland.

Miami Dolphins 24 New York Jets 19

Pick against the spread: NY Jets +10.5

Confidence: Medium

New York Giants at Miami Dolphins: 2021 Week 13 NFL Pick

New York Giants (4-7) at Miami Dolphins (5-7)

The Dolphins have won four straight games after a 1-7 start to move up to 5-7 and into the mix for a potential playoff spot in the AFC, but two of their wins came against two of the worst teams in the league, the Texans and Jets, by one score, another came against a Ravens team that was exhausted on a short week after an overtime game, a 16% cover spot all-time, and another came against a Panthers team that has arguably the worst quarterback situation in the league and then lost feature back Christian McCaffrey early in the first half with injury. 

In terms of schedule adjusted efficiency, the Dolphins rank 29th, 20th, and 26th on offense, defense, and special teams respectively and their 28th ranked mixed efficiency shows them to still be one of the worst teams in the league from a statistical standpoint, despite a recent winning streak. The Dolphins went 10-6 a year ago, but they faced a very easy schedule and they benefited from an unsustainably high turnover margin (+11), opponent’s field goal percentage (3rd lowest at 73.91%), and 3rd/4th down conversion rate allowed (33.02%), which was actually lower than the 34.07% conversion rate they allowed on 1st/2nd down (4th highest in the NFL), so they were not nearly as good as their record suggested.

The Dolphins continue to have an easy schedule this week, as not only are the 4-7 Giants coming to town, but they are doing so without injured starting quarterback Daniel Jones, who will be replaced by backup Mike Glennon. Jones isn’t a great quarterback, but he was not the problem with this offense and could at least make plays with his feet, while having some passing success, despite a terrible offensive line and a habitually banged up skill position group. Three of the Giants’ losses this season have come by three points or fewer, with none of their wins coming by that thin of a margin, so the Giants could easily have another couple wins and it’s a credit to Jones that the Giants have been able to be competitive in a lot of their games despite the issues on this offense around the quarterback.

Glennon is a significant downgrade from Jones and will also have to deal with that offensive line and a skill position group that is missing a pair of key wide receivers in Kadarius Toney and Sterling Shepard, though top receiver Kenny Golladay and feature back Saquon Barkley have returned from extended absences in recent week. The Giants’ defense is not healthy either, missing top cornerback Adoree Jackson from a group that already was not the same since losing top linebacker Blake Martinez and top safety Jabrill Peppers for the season earlier this year.

This line has jumped up to Miami -6, after favoring the Dolphins by just 2.5 points on the early line last week, so we’re getting some line value with the Giants even with all their injuries, which isn’t a surprise considering the Dolphins are overrated, but we aren’t getting nearly enough line value to take the Giants with any confidence, as many calculated line has the Dolphins favored by five points. Missing all they are missing due to injury, the Giants are among the worst teams in the league, so even the Dolphins should be favored by a significant amount at home against them, even if maybe not six points. I’m taking the Giants, but this is purely a fade of an overrated Dolphins team that has already struggled to separate from bad teams in the Jets and Texans in recent weeks.

Miami Dolphins 22 New York Giants 17

Pick against the spread: NY Giants +6

Confidence: None

Carolina Panthers at Miami Dolphins: 2021 Week 12 NFL Pick

Carolina Panthers (5-6) at Miami Dolphins (4-7)

The Dolphins started this season 1-7, but they have won three straight to push their record to a somewhat respectable 4-7. That, combined with the Dolphins being 10-6 a year ago, has caused the public to think this is no longer one of the worst teams in the league, but that is a flawed assessment for a couple reasons. For one, their three wins haven’t been impressive, as one came on a short week against an exhausted Ravens team who played an overtime game the week before, a spot in which just 16% of teams cover the spread, while their other two wins came by one score against arguably the two worst teams in the league the Texans and the Jets, with the latter coming in a game in which the Jets won both the yards per play and first down rate battle, which are the most predictive metrics. 

The Dolphins rank 31st, 22nd, 27th, 30th in offensive, defensive, special teams, and mixed efficiency respectively, which are based on yards per play and first down rate and adjusted for schedule, showing them to still be one of the worst teams in the league from a statistical standpoint, even though they are 4-7. The Dolphins did win 10 games a year ago, but they faced a very easy schedule and they benefited from an unsustainably high turnover margin (+11), opponent’s field goal percentage (3rd lowest at 73.91%), and 3rd/4th down conversion rate allowed (33.02%), which was actually lower than the 34.07% conversion rate they allowed on 1st/2nd down (4th highest in the NFL), so they were not nearly as good as their record suggested.

The Panthers, meanwhile, rank 30th, 2nd, 20th, and 18th offensive, defensive, special teams, and mixed efficiency respectively this season. Their offensive performance is concerning, especially because offensive performance tends to be the most predictive of the three phases, but they should be at least somewhat better now that they have feature back Christian McCaffrey back from an extended absence and now that they have probably their best quarterback of the year under center, with Cam Newton returning to the team a couple weeks ago. The Panthers defense, meanwhile, is legitimately one of the best in the league now that linebacker Shaq Thompson and cornerback Stephon Gilmore, two of the best players in the league at their respective positions, are both back healthy.

The Panthers are 5-6 despite having arguably the worst quarterback play in the league and being without their best offensive player for about half of the season, so with Newton and McCaffrey now in the lineup, the Panthers should be at least an average opponent going forward. Newton is certainly not without his faults, but, as bad as the Panthers’ quarterback play has been this season, it won’t be hard for Newton to be an upgrade and he could easily be a significant upgrade.

The Panthers lost at home to Washington in Newton’s first start last week, but that was a one score loss against a decent opponent and Newton should be more comfortable with the playbook this week, in what is a much easier matchup in Miami. Despite that, the Panthers are just 2-point favorites, which shows how much the Dolphins are overrated. My calculated line has the Panthers favored by 5.5 points and, in a game in which the Panthers basically just have to win to cover (about 8% of games are decided by 2 points or fewer), the Panthers are an easy choice against the spread, as long as the line stays under a field goal.

Carolina Panthers 23 Miami Dolphins 17

Pick against the spread: Carolina -2

Confidence: High

Miami Dolphins at New York Jets: 2021 Week 11 NFL Pick

Miami Dolphins (3-6) at New York Jets (2-7)

One thing I like to do is go against significant week-to-week line movements as, barring injuries, they tend to be an overreaction to a single week of play. This game is a great example. A week ago, the Jets were favored by a couple points on the early line, but the Dolphins pulled an upset over the Ravens on Thursday Night Football, while the Jets were blown out in Buffalo and now the Jets are 3.5-point home underdogs, without any significant injury developments on either side.

The Dolphins’ win over the Ravens is much less impressive when you take into account that the Ravens were coming off of an overtime game and playing a Thursday game, a spot in which teams only cover the spread at a 16.0% rate, while the Jets’ 28-point loss to the Bills isn’t as bad when you take into account that all six of the Bills wins have come by 15 points or more (with an average margin of victory of 26.2 points) and that the Bills are one of the top few teams in the league. 

The Jets are just 2-7, but the Dolphins have just one more win and, aside from last week’s fluky win over the Ravens, their other two wins have come in a one-score win over the Texans, one of the worst teams in the league, and by one-point over the Patriots week one in a game in which the Patriots won the first down rate and yards per play battle, but lost a pair of fumbles, including one in easy field goal range that could have won the game. 

The Dolphins were 10-6 a year ago, but a dropoff always seemed inevitable, as they faced a very easy schedule and they benefited from an unsustainably high turnover margin (+11), opponent’s field goal percentage (3rd lowest at 73.91%), and 3rd/4th down conversion rate allowed (33.02%), which was actually lower than the 34.07% conversion rate they allowed on 1st/2nd down (4th highest in the NFL). They were always likely to disappoint this season and it’s not surprising they have done so in such a big way.

Even with last week’s win over the Ravens taken into account, the Dolphins rank just 30th, 24th, and 25th in schedule adjusted offensive, defensive, and special teams efficiency and probably shouldn’t be favored by more than a field goal on the road against anyone, except maybe the Texans. The Jets also are likely getting an upgrade at quarterback with veteran Joe Flacco taking over for inexperienced former undrafted free agent Mike White. My calculated line is still about where this line was last week, favoring the Jets by 1.5 points.

On top of that, the Dolphins are also in a bad spot as a result of last week’s win, as teams cover the spread at just a 40.9% rate all-time after winning as home underdogs of 5 points or more, which applies to the Dolphins, who were 7.5-point home underdogs last week. Part of that is because teams tend to be overvalued after a big home win that could easily prove to be a fluke, which I’ve already covered, but teams could also be overconfident in this spot as well.

It would not be a surprise to see the Dolphins look past the Jets, who, by contrast, are coming off of a blowout loss and will want to play their hardest to avoid further embarrassment. With about 1 out of every 4 games decided by 3 points or fewer, we’re getting great line value with the Jets at +3.5 and, between that and the Jets being in a good spot, this is worth a big play, both against the spread and on the money line.

New York Jets 23 Miami Dolphins 20 Upset Pick +150

Pick against the spread: NY Jets +3.5

Confidence: High

Baltimore Ravens at Miami Dolphins: 2021 Week 10 NFL Pick

Baltimore Ravens (6-2) at Miami Dolphins (2-7)

The Dolphins won last week, but their 8-point victory over the terrible Texans does nothing to change my opinion of the Dolphins as one of the worst teams in the league. Their only other win this season came back in week one, by one point over the Patriots in a game in which the Patriots lost a pair of fumbles, but otherwise won the yards per play and first down rate battle by 0.6 and 2.56% respectively.

Meanwhile, of the Dolphins’ seven losses, only three came by one score: two games against the Jaguars and Falcons, among the worst teams in the league, and a game against the Raiders in which they lost the first down rate battle by 6.50% and the yards per play battle by 1.9. Overall, the Dolphins rank 30th, 25th, and 28th in schedule adjusted offensive, defensive, and special teams efficiency respectively on the season.

The Dolphins were 10-6 a year ago, but a dropoff always seemed inevitable, as they faced a very easy schedule and they benefited from an unsustainably high turnover margin (+11), opponent’s field goal percentage (3rd lowest at 73.91%), and 3rd/4th down conversion rate allowed (33.02%), which was actually lower than the 34.07% conversion rate they allowed on 1st/2nd down (4th highest in the NFL). They were always likely to disappoint this season and it’s not surprising they have done so in such a big way.

Unfortunately, the secret is out that this team is bad, so we’re not really getting much line value going against them. Baltimore is 6-2, but just two of their wins have come by more than a touchdown and, even though the Dolphins are the type of team they should beat easily, it’s also hard to be confident betting that they’ll be able to come on the road and win by multiple scores especially given how bad their defense has played this season, ranking 29th in schedule adjusted defensive efficiency. 

The Ravens have more talent on paper than their defensive rank suggests and, on offense, the more predictive side of the ball, the Ravens rank 4th in schedule adjusted efficiency, while also ranking 2nd on special teams, so there are still reasons to take the Ravens for pick ‘em purposes, but I would need this line to at least drop to a touchdown to even consider betting the Ravens. My calculated line has the Ravens as 9-point favorites and eight isn’t really a key number.

Update: I realized after I wrote all of this that the Ravens are coming off of a long overtime game. Teams only cover on a short week about 17% of the time after an overtime game. We saw the Colts cover in this spot a week ago, but they nearly allowed a backdoor cover when they took their foot off the gas in the fourth quarter and that was despite the Jets losing their starting quarterback to injury in the first half and despite the Jets being in a couple terrible spots, as non-divisional road underdogs on a short week and coming off of a huge home upset win. The Dolphins, on the other hand, have no significant trends working against them. We’re not getting line value with the Dolphins so this is a pure bet on a spot, but it’s such good spot that it’s worth at least a small bet.

Baltimore Ravens 31 Miami Dolphins 27

PIck against the spread: Miami +7.5

Confidence: Medium

Houston Texans at Miami Dolphins: 2021 Week 9 NFL Pick

Houston Texans (1-7) at Miami Dolphins (1-7)

The Texans’ season got off to a good start, as they won their week one game by multiple scores, but they have yet to win a game since. It also hasn’t been close most of the game, as they have been outscored 220-82 since that week 1 game, giving them a point differential of -122 which is the worst in the league. That margin looks even worse if you take out a 25-22 point loss to the Patriots, in a game in which the Patriots were missing most of their offensive line but still won the first down rate battle by 8.67%, and if you take out the meaningless 22 points they scored in garbage time against the Rams last week, after trailing 38-0 through 3 quarters.

The good news for the Texans is they will get quarterback Tyrod Taylor back this week, for the first time since the first half of their week 2 game against the Browns. That game was actually 10-10 at the time Taylor went down, with all of their subsequent struggles coming with raw rookie quarterback Davis Mills under center. Taylor doesn’t return to quite the same roster around him, with left tackle Laremy Tunsil, arguably the Texans’ best player, being the most notable absence, but with Taylor back under center, the Texans at least have a serviceable starting quarterback and they have had some success with him this season, so it was surprising to me that this line didn’t shift more than it did, with the Texans still being 5.5-point underdogs in Miami.

The Dolphins have also lost seven straight games since winning week one. They haven’t gotten blown out quite as much as the Texans have, but they still have lost by an average of 13.7 points per game and their win wasn’t as impressive as the Texans’ week one win. They did beat a more competitive team in the Patriots, while the Texans’ win came over the lowly Jaguars, but the Texans at least won convincingly, while the Dolphins won by just one point in a game in which the Patriots lost a pair of fumbles and won the first down rate and yards per play battle. If not for one of those two fumbles, the Dolphins could easily be winless right now.

The Dolphins were 10-6 a year ago, but a dropoff always seemed inevitable, as they faced a very easy schedule and they benefited from an unsustainably high turnover margin (+11), opponent’s field goal percentage (3rd lowest at 73.91%), and 3rd/4th down conversion rate allowed (33.02%), which was actually lower than the 34.07% conversion rate they allowed on 1st/2nd down (4th highest in the NFL). The Dolphins also aren’t getting any key reinforcements back this week, unlike the Texans, who get Taylor back. 

We’re still not getting much line value with the Texans, who, even with Taylor back, have such a bad roster that they are still a few points behind the Dolphins in my roster rankings and they are on the road as well, but with Taylor back the Texans are at least bettable in the right situation. This seems like that situation, as the Dolphins have to play a much tougher opponent next week (Baltimore) and they have to do it on a short week. 

Favorites cover at just a 41.5% rate all-time before Thursday Night Football, while favorites of 5+ cover at just a 42.8% rate all-time before facing a team with a winning percentage that is over 60% higher than their current opponent’s winning percentage, both of which should work against the Dolphins this week. I am hoping we get a +6 because I’m not sure I am going to bet on the Texans at +5.5, but I still may end up taking them at that number if we can’t get a better number. This is a low confidence pick for now, but that could easily change.

Update: It doesn’t look like we are getting 6 and, in fact, this line has dropped to 5 in some places. Taylor is a significant upgrade under center for the Texans and should make them more competitive than they’ve been without him, but when you consider that they have lost by multiple scores in 6 of their last 7 games, with the exception being a game against a team missing their whole offensive line, even capable quarterback play is unlikely to save this team. The Texans are still the pick for pick ’em purposes, but I don’t think they’re bettable unless we happen to get 6.

Update: Tua Tagovailoa is surprisingly inactive for the Dolphins, meaning they will start Jacoby Brissett under center. That doesn’t make a difference though, because they’re comparable quarterbacks, so nothing changes here.

Miami Dolphins 20 Houston Texans 17

Pick against the spread: Houston +5.5

Confidence: Low

Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills: 2021 Week 8 NFL Pick

Miami Dolphins (1-6) at Buffalo Bills (4-2)

The Dolphins have struggled mightily this season, going 1-6 with their one win coming by a single point in a game in which the Patriots fumbled at the goal line at the end of the game. The Dolphins were 10-6 a year ago, but a dropoff always seemed inevitable, as they faced a very easy schedule and they benefited from an unsustainably high turnover margin (+11), opponent’s field goal percentage (3rd lowest at 73.91%), and 3rd/4th down conversion rate allowed (33.02%), which was actually lower than the 34.07% conversion rate they allowed on 1st/2nd down (4th highest in the NFL).

The public seems to have caught up with that though, as this line is right where it should be, favoring the vastly superior Bills by two touchdowns at home. There isn’t any line value to be had with either side, but I am taking the favorite for pick ‘em purposes just because I think a blowout is the most likely result of this matchup, which resulted in a 35-0 Bills victory in Miami earlier this season. This is one of my lowest confidence picks of the week though and it could easily be a push.

Buffalo Bills 31 Miami Dolphins 17

Pick against the spread: Buffalo -14

Confidence: None