For a game matching two of the worst teams in the NFL, Sunday’s nonconference battle featuring the Miami Dolphins and New York Giants (1 p.m., CBS) presents a fascinating handicapping challenge.
— The favored Giants need to keep losing as they jockey for position in the 2020 draft. Even if they can’t catch the Cincinnati Bengals in the race for Joe Burrow, other high-impact players will be available. New York has lost nine in a row, including a collapse Monday night in Philadelphia in which the G-Men were outscored 20-0 after halftime. That suggests a commitment to draft positioning.
— Underdog Miami looked like it was tanking out of the gate, playing like a semipro team in September. The team has been much more competitive since. Miami is 3-3 straight up its last six games, 7-2 against the spread its last nine. We might actually see the underdog playing to win while the favorite plays to lose, a dream scenario for dog lovers.
— Home-field advantage is usually worth about three points in the NFL. But here we have a rare case of the visiting team playing its second straight game in the road stadium. Miami ( 4.5) lost to the Jets at MetLife 22-21 last Sunday. How much should home field count in this unusual scenario? Miami has actually played here more recently.
Through the week, the Giants have been favored by 3.5 points. That doesn’t make sense given those bullet points. Why isn’t the line closer to pick-’em? Shouldn’t the Dolphins be favored over a likely tanker? Among the possibilities:
(.) A perception that Miami will go back to tanking now that the No. 2 spot is within reach. The Dolphins did settle for seven field goals in last week’s loss despite a virtual dead heat in yardage. Should Miami lose to the Giants, both would be 3-11 with the tiebreaker smiling on Miami. Washington could also fall to 3-11 with a loss to Philadelphia. Miami already lost to Washington.
(.) A fear of asking a bad team to play two consecutive competitive games away from home. Bettors inclined to back the Dolphins already cashed last week. Why tempt fate with an interception-prone quarterback and a soft defense?
Good luck solving the Dolphins-Giants riddle.
Here is a look at VSiN’s estimate of “market” Power Ratings as compiled by Jonathan Von Tobel (“The Edge”) and me. These are based on settled late-week point spreads, adjusting three points for home-field advantage.
— NFC: 49ers 86, Saints 85, Seahawks 84, Vikings 84, Packers 82, Rams 82, Eagles 80, Buccaneers 80, Bears 80, Cowboys 78, Falcons 78, Panthers 75, Cardinals 74, Lions 73, Giants 73, Redskins 73.
— AFC: Ravens 88, Patriots 86, Chiefs 85, Texans 82, Titans 82, Bills 80, Chargers 79, Colts 79, Steelers 79, Browns 79, Broncos 79, Raiders 77, Jets 75, Jaguars 74, Bengals 73, Dolphins 72.