Tuesday, October 29, 2013

NFL Predictions 2013 Week 9: Bengals vs Dolphins

Cincinnati Bengals vs Miami Dolphins: CIN -3 (Bet365)

Market Watch

Week 9 kicks off with an interesting point spread. Last week Las Vegas had the Bengals as -1 point
favorites for this matchup. After the weekend, it reopened at -1.5.  Early money quickly bet it up to -2.5, and on Tuesday sportsbooks moved it all the way to -3.

This is no surprise since 83 percent of the bets are on Cincy.

The question is if there is still any value on the Bengals?  In reality, the true line for this game was probably right when it was released. Anywhere between -1.5 and -2.5 is where it should sit, but there are two variables to consider. First, both of these teams are heading in opposite directions. Second, the Dolphins home field advantage is usually downgraded compared to the rest of the NFL.

I think an argument could be made for either team at the current number.

What to watch for

In a league of "what have you done for me lately?", Andy Dalton has answered his critics in a big way. He is coming off his third strong performance in a row. Last week all five of his touchdowns were in the red zone, as he completed 7 of 11 passes for 48 yards.

I was high on the Bengals coming into the season, but it sure wasn't because of Dalton. I'm still not sure if he's a guy who can elevate a team, rather than a guy who can run the system effectively. Three games is a very short sample size, so he'll need to replicate this kind of play later in the season when it really matters if I'm to buy in.

Another bright spot is the emergence of Marvin Jones. He is quickly becoming the answer opposite of A.J. Green. If he isn't just a flash in the pan, it is going to put a lot of pressure on opposing defenses regarding who to cover. Green is always going to draw the most attention, but now Cincy can line up in two tight-end sets, flex out Giovani Bernard, and look for Jones in one-on-one coverage. Oh, and let's not forget about the reliable Green-Ellis in the running game.

Speaking of the run game, the Dolphins couldn't stop anything on the ground last week. Patriots runners gained 95 yards before contact. The rest of the defense ranks around the middle of the pack after eight weeks of the season, but up front they aren't doing a good job stopping running backs. This is bad news if the Bengals gain a two score lead.

On the other side, the Dolphins still have issues on their offensive line despite the acquisition of Bryant McKinnie. The primary reason is the move has pushed Jonathan Martin back to right tackle. Even worse, Martin has been ruled out of this game. Look for Cincy to exploit that side of the line tonight. Tyson Clabo has been a liability for much of the year.

What Miami has to hope for is their running game continues to be productive. Ryan Tannehill is experiencing some growing pains and last week it was downright painful to watch in the second half. On 3rd down and 4th down situations, he only converted one of them. The result of the other four were three sacks and an interception. Tannehill and the passing game rank below average right now, and it's not all on the offensive line.

Bottom Line

This is going to be an intriguing game. The Bengals are hot, while the Dolphins are on a four game losing streak. Offensively, Cincy should have enough versatility in their schemes to put up some points against an average defense, and they rank near the top in the make-or-break situations (3rd down/red zone).

If Miami are going to win, or cover this game, Tannehill is going to need to step up in the big moments. The Bengals defense have had some problems in key situations this year, but they are trending upward of late.

I'm going to roll with the Bengals here. There isn't as much value as there was earlier in the week, but I like how they match up against Miami on both sides of the ball.

NFL Pick: CIN -3.