Chad Henne and Miami are 1-point ’dogs for Monday’s clash vs. the Pats.
Good handicapping requires you know when to the ride the trends, and when to go against the grain.
The Monday nighter (5:30 p.m. PT, ESPN) between the New England Patriots (2-1 SU, 1-2 ATS) and Miami Dolphins (2-1 SU, 2-1 ATS) at Sun Life Stadium offers a prime opportunity to do the latter.
The Patriots are 3-7 O/U in their last 10 road games, while the ‘under’ has cashed in eight of the Dolphins’ last nine games at home. Looks a game ripe for the ‘under’ at the betting odds window, right? Not a chance.
One glance at the 46-point 'total' for the matchup, and I immediately leaned towards the ‘over.’ A further look into the state of both teams confirmed it’s the play to make.
New England is seventh in total offense (370.7 YPG) after three games, during which it’s gone 3-0 O/U, but more importantly, it leads the league in scoring at 30.0 points per game.
New England’s offense is nearly as dynamic as it was three years ago when it ran the table in the regular season, and it could very well offer more balance.
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That’s all fine and dandy, but what makes the Patriots such a solid ‘over’ wager at this stage of the season is its porous defense. New England has played average offensive teams at best in Cincinnati, New York, and Buffalo, but it ranks 27th in defense (379.3 YPG), 25th against the pass (260.3 YPG), and 28th in scoring defense (27.3 PPG).
Add up the most basic of scoring metrics – points for and points against – and you can see Pats’ games offer an average of 57.3 PPG. I don’t see the contest against the Dolphins playing ‘under’ 46.
I like New England’s chances of putting up points against Miami, not only because it has as good an offense as any team in the NFL, but due to the Dolphins’ difficulties against teams with productive tight ends.
Last season, Miami allowed opposing TEs to catch 68 balls for 993 yards with four touchdowns. Those are borderline Pro Bowl numbers.
This season, it’s even worse: Opposing tight ends are on pace to rack up over 1,200 yards and 11 scores against Miami, which like New England, counts Buffalo as one of its opponents so far this season.
In 2009, the Dolphins held the Ben Watson-Chris Baker combination to only five receptions and 55 yards in going 1-1 SU and 2-0 ATS against the Patriots. Problem is, New England has upgraded at TE in a big way.
Rookies Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski have emerged as serious threats at Tom Brady’s disposal. Hernandez leads New England with 211 receiving yards this season, and is fourth league-wide among tight ends with 70.3 yards receiving per game.
Gronkowski has two touchdowns to sit one back of Randy Moss and Wes Welker for the team lead.
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It’s not as if the Dolphins can focus on the duo, either. Moss and Welker need to be keyed on when playing the Pats, who had five receivers with 40+ yards in its 38-30 win over the Bills (plus 14) last week.
I also expect Miami to put up points on Monday night. Chad Henne went 26-of-44 for a career-high 365 yards with two TDs and an interception in the Dolphins’ 31-23 loss to the Jets (plus 1) last week, while Brandon Marshall hauled in 10 passes for 166 yards with a score.
Yes, Darrelle Revis was out, but this is New York’s defense we’re talking about. It’s easy to see Miami pushing 30 points – especially if Buffalo can do it on the road – at home against New England.
NFL oddsmakers opened the Patriots as 1-point favorites for the Monday nighter, and despite over 60% of bets on the spread coming in on them. New England was still available as 1-point favorites at most offshore sports books as of press time. 5Dimes.com had the game as a pick 'em, juicing the New England play at minus 120.