Saturday, October 27, 2012

Miami Dolphins vs New York Jets: MIA +2.5 (5Dimes)


One of the most curious point spreads on the board in Week 8 is the Jets two and half point favorites over the Dolphins.  The spread was the same in the look-ahead line, so their performance vs the Patriots didn't change perception for anybody.  The question is whether or not the Jets should be favored in this game at all?

I waited all week to see if an affordable +3 would become available, but it appears like I'll have to wait closer to kick off for that to happen.  I'd be willing to play the Dolphins +2.5, but wait as long as possible for some potential late line movement.

Off and Into the Bye

There has been a lot of talk about teams before and after the bye week this season.  Beyond the Bets look at some historical data regarding teams heading into the bye and found there is nothing much to discuss here.  They make a great point because small sample sizes are notoriously flawed with variance.

At the same time, teams heading into a bye are 1-13 ATS this year after removing games where both teams were headed for a week off.  Some have speculated that these teams are looking forward to their guaranteed time off thanks to the new CBA.  Personally, I'm still on the fence about this mini-trend, but I'm also not going to ignore it.

In fact, there might be a direct correlation to the bad record going into the bye and the good record coming out of it.

Regardless of where things will wind up at the end of the year, right now we have one team coming off a bye (Dolphins), and one team going into one (Jets).  At the very least, I know this can't hurt those of us on the Miami side.

By the Numbers

Like a lot of match-ups, some clear differences emerge after we look beyond the surface.  This is why I really hate it when people refer to standard stats routinely found on ESPN and the like.  I cringe everytime I hear a TV talking-head refer to team A as having "the #1 ranking in total defense".

Just what does it mean if a defense is giving up the least or most amount of yards?  The answer is very little.  Some teams might put up big numbers thanks to the fact that they are always trailing.  Some might have a disproportionate ratio of run vs pass simply based on how often they are leading in a game.  The examples are endless, but it's much more important to dig into the numbers a little deeper to see how teams are doing in critical situations.

When we do that for this game, we'll find that Miami has had the more efficient passing attack this year, better pass protection, better on third downs, and better at converting red zone chances into touchdowns.

Conversely, the Jets run defense has been below average in pass defense, third down/red zone defense, and drive success rate.  The advantages might not be substantial, but they do provide an edge when taken collectively.

And once we look at the Jets offense vs the Dolphins defense, the advantages become even bigger.
The Dolphins defense ranks near the top in four key categories - vs the run, on third down, in the red zone, and with drive success rate.  This is important when you consider how average the Jets offense has been this year.

Neither QB has a big edge over the other and both are just as prone to turning the ball over, but I'll take my chances with the defense that performs better in the make or break moments.

Bottom Line

When you add it all up, I would actually make the Dolphins as short favorites in this game.  There's no denying that they've been the better team this season and they should be well prepared with an extra week off.  Meanwhile, the Jets are coming off an emotional loss against their division rivals, and have the bye week lurking over them.  This might not amount to anything after kickoff, but all the arrows are pointing Miami's direction.

NFL Pick: MIA +2.5.