I’m about to say something you won’t hear a lot of other pundits say.
The terribleness of the 2019-20 Miami Dolphins could be a blessing for the NFL, or at least its speculators.
Fans can point at the top of the league and say that there’s no parity anymore – namely because the New England Patriots have won 99 of the last 100 Super Bowl titles and Tom Brady will retire at age 76 having won another 30 of them before its over. But the dominance of Bill Belichick’s team is not the only handicapping narrative.
Parity – mind-numbing parity – is still alive and well among most of the other 31 franchises. In fact, it’s among the reasons why ‘capping the National Football League is so damned difficult. I’d like to try an experiment of giving a randomized computer-generated set of results between a bunch of fair-to-middling NFL teams to beat writers (paid to stay off TV and the internet for a weekend) to see how many can guess that the final scores are fake.
Buccaneers 48, Saints 40? Jets 48, Lions 17? Dolphins 27, Titans 20? Those are all (real) results from Week 1 of 2018.
That Miami score – even against a non-Super Bowl caliber opponent like Tennessee – is especially hard to fathom in hindsight. The 2019-20 Dolphins have taken a rare step in a September campaign, showing signs from the preseason onward that the franchise is more interested in the long-term future than in winning right now.
Draft picks are being stockpiled, QBs like Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen are no one’s 1st choices, and the Ravens and Patriots combined for 100+ points against a poor Magic City defense in Weeks 1 and 2.
Everyone is acting like its a crisis for the league. It is not. To have an acknowledged best team (the Pats) and an acknowledged worst team (the Dolphins so far) isn’t a bad deal for the NFL. In fact, it makes some of the prediction angles a little simpler…if not easier.
Unlike in 100 games before or after, the Dallas Cowboys will be judged 1st and foremost by their margin-of-victory – not merely a W or L – when the Dolphins visit Jerry World on Sunday afternoon. That’s just fine for NFL point spread gamblers who have been judging teams in such fashion forever.
Who: Miami Dolphins at Dallas Cowboys
When: Sunday, September 22nd, 1 PM EST
Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX
Lines: Miami (+21.5) at Dallas (-21.5) / O/U Total: (47.5)
There is a loud minority of NFL know-it-alls whose brains are stuck in the 1980s, when Phil Simms – a QB who never moved a muscle except for his neck and right arm for 10+ seasons – was considered the ultimate “dynamic” passer. The pundits, like Colin Cowherd, subscribe to the religion that having a fast QB who can run (and who isn’t afraid to run) is actually a detriment in the NFL. Confirmation bias is then used to disqualify dual-threat NFL quarterbacks from Pro Bowl hype while the Pete Priscos of the world actively wish injury on them.
Russell Wilson lost a game to Matt Stafford? “It just goes to show you,” say Prisco and Cowherd. Wilson beat Peyton Manning by 50 points in the Super Bowl? “Homina, homina,” they say.
Dak Prescott of the Cowboys fits the mold – a QB whose “college” skill-set has led to a thousand unfair criticisms.
But Prescott is playing so well in 2019 that the haters are going into hiding. Dak began the season with a terrific aerial display against the rival New York Giants, then showed what kind of dual-threat he can provide in Week 2, throwing for another 3 touchdowns while leading the Cowboy backfield in rush average with 5 carries for 69 yards.
A conservative power-running NFL team with a good defense is hard to beat. When you add an excellent QB to that mix, look out.
The Cowboys are for real, and the team’s run-stuffing against the Redskins was so good that it’s a wonder the Silver Star didn’t win by more than 10 points while going 2-0 on the season.
As for the winless Dolphins, what hope is there that the team isn’t as horrible as it appears to be? Only the schedule offers any reassurance at this point – and not because it’s easy for Miami.
Instead, the strength of competition must be considered before ‘capping Miami to lose every game by 40 points in 2019. Baltimore appears to be 1 of the AFC’s best behind Lamar Jackson. New England is obviously not an easy opponent to play, and The Hoodie has the ‘Fins checked after going 100-5 (or something like that) against the Dolphins in Boston. Of course, last weekend’s 43-0 slaughter was actually in Miami…a reason why the club might actually be glad to get away from home and play in the boo bird-free confines of Jerry World.
There’s only about a 1-in-25 chance that Big D will actually lose this scrum – as in Week 1 against the Giants the ‘Boys are a safe addition to a parlay of moneyline favorites.
But despite the leap in talent from visitors to home team, my hunch is that the (+21.5) number has crept too high – NFL point spreads don’t usually get that far and it’s not a coincidence.
Week 3 is when clubs start to settle in and things start to genuinely shake out, and it’s also when desperate 0-2 rosters tend to play very hard.
The Miami Dolphins are professional athletes in a league full of parity. They’ll most-likely find a way to compete and close the gap to 21-or-less points in margin of defeat. Miami-to-cover is a weird but likely-winning wager.
Just stay away from that 13-to-1 ML on Miami…it’ll be an unlucky number no matter how low the risk.