As the AFC East entries prepare to face each other Sunday afternoon in South Florida, betting markets are already struggling with finding a proper read on the questions “How good are the New England Patriots?” and “How bad are the Miami Dolphins?”
The defending Super Bowl champion Patriots may be better this year than last. Tom Brady and the offense were as sharp as ever in their season opening 33-3 rout of Pittsburgh this past Sunday night. And the defense might be developing into a true force. In its last two outings, it held the potent Rams and Steelers offenses to just three points each.
What is a Bill Belichick/Tom Brady-led team capable of if the defense is also championship caliber rather than “pretty good” or “adequate?!”
The market has already been chasing the Pats’ performance level for a few years during what was supposed to be Brady’s late-career decline. That 25-point cover over Pittsburgh brought New England to 41-17 against the spread its last 58 regular season and playoff games—a 71% success rate.
Despite sitting in a potential “hangover” spot last week—and facing a Steelers team anxious to find past glory after cleaning house—New England outgained Pittsburgh 465-308 on 6.9 to 5.0 yards-per-play, while winning third-down conversions 50% to 25%. All three Patriots’ touchdowns came on drives of 75 yards or more.
To say Miami is on the under end of the spectrum is an understatement. If evidence from last week’s 59-10 debacle at home against Baltimore is a true indication, analysts may have to re-define what spectrum even means in pro football.
Miami was outgained 643-200 on 8.8 to 4.3 yards-per-play, while losing third-down conversions 64% to 30%. Not common to see an NFL team outrushed by a margin comparable to 265-21. The Dolphins’ defense allowed four TD drives of 79 yards or more.
Sometimes you’ll see blowout scores in the pros that are driven by cheap points off turnovers or special teams. Scores like 59-10 can happen. But a total yardage differential of 643-200 against the HOME team?! Talent parity is supposed to prevent that at this level.
For Sunday’s head-to-head meeting, oddsmakers posted openers of New England -14.5 or -15. Sharps (particularly those that model off of game stats) pounded the Pats hard at those prices, and at -16, -17, and even -18. Who says the Wise Guys won’t lay big chalk! Who knows where the game will end up after the public jumps in over the weekend? It might take plus 20 for a sharp buy back to begin.