MNF Features Battle Of Imploding Franchises
MNF FEATURES BATTLE OF IMPLODING FRANCHISES!
For weeks, the national media was talking about the horrible atmosphere behind the scenes with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Everybody hated the head coach. Management threw the quarterback under the bus, then bought him a ticket to ride that bus out of town. The players had stopped caring and would barely play out the string unless the coach got fired.
Does anybody remember that? NO!
That's because the Miami Dolphins are making even WORSE headlines with behind-the-scenes behavior that's scandalized individual players, the franchise as a whole, and even the entire NFL because it's seen as "condoning" certain kinds of bad behavior as long as it leads to a brand of football that sells tickets.
You know Roger Goodell and the rest of the NFL would just love to sweep these stories under the rug so viewers would forget about them while watching their favorite athletes rack up Fantasy league stats. Instead, the two imploding franchises are facing EACH OTHER on the biggest stage in the sport this week on MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL!
So much of handicapping this game in Las Vegas will involve figuring out which team is less fragmented and distraught that running the numbers seems kind of useless. That might turn out to be the case. If one team shows up to play...and the other team doesn't...well, the stats don't matter, and the team that's trying is going to cover a small spread by double digits. But, if BOTH teams decide to show up...or if NEITHER team decides to show up...then the skill sets expressed by stats are going to be the tie-breaker that determines the winner With that in mind...let's jump into our regular gauntlet of NFL preview indicators.
Won-Lost Records (strength of schedule)
Miami: 4-4 (#6 schedule in USA Today)
Tampa Bay: 0-8 (#8 schedule in USA Today)
Both teams have played very tough schedules. It's a credit to the Dolphins that they've managed to play .500 ball against that challenge. Of course, they'd be 3-5 if the Bengals hadn't self-destructed with turnovers a week ago Thursday. Tampa Bay is still winless. And, it's conceivable that management will be pressuring the coaches to NOT win so the team can stay in the race for the #1 draft pick. That's not an issue when Tampa Bay is a big dog. They can kinda/sorta play hard and still lose. Here, it's dicier because the spread is so close to pick-em. You'd better be sure Tampa Bay wants to win if you're going to back them.
Miami: 5.0 on offense, 5.2 on defense
Tampa Bay: 4.6 on offense, 5.5 on defense
Miami grades out fairly well again after you mentally adjust for their strength of schedule. Tampa Bay is still a losing team. Against a league average or soft schedule, the shape of this 2013 season may have been entirely different. It's easy to tune out a jerky head coach when you're losing badly to good teams.
Tampa Bay: +2
Would you have guessed Tampa Bay was positive in this stat? They've been conservative with rookie quarterback Mike Glennon. That's hurt their YPP that you saw above, but it's generally helped them at least stay in the neighborhood of competitiveness. Miami was -3 until last week's good fortune vs. Cincinnati. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been inconsistent, with poor turnover games leading to bad results the prior two weeks against Buffalo and New England.
Miami: 4-4 ATS
Tampa Bay: 2-6 ATS
Many in the market, particularly sharps, were optimistic about Tampa Bay entering the season. You'll recall they were road favorites at the NY Jets in Week One. A tight loss the next week against New Orleans tricked the market, and the Bucs would lose their next five ATS before covering last week against disinterested Seattle. Miami started the season underrated...but is 1-4 ATS its last five even with their cover against the Bengals.
Current Line: Miami by 2.5, total 41
Home field advantage is worth three points in the NFL. So, the market is saying Miami is about 5.5 points better on a neutral field given "tangible" evidence (consistent with what we've seen in the stats above). They'll let YOU take your shots on the "intangible" elements that could cause this game to blow up in one direction or the other.
JIM HURLEY knows that INFORMATION is the key to a game like this. You HAVE to know who's going to show up to play, or it's just a coin flip that isn't worth your time. That's why NETWORK has SCOUTS and SOURCES close enough to all 32 NFL teams to provide meaningful information is situations like this. JIM HURLEY wouldn't put you on the game unless he was extremely confident that his side (or total) was going to cash the ticket.
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Back with you tomorrow to preview a TREMENDOUS doubleheader in college basketball. Buckle up for #1 Kentucky vs. #2 Michigan State and #4 Duke vs. #5 Kansas in a TV twinbill on ESPN that will be played in Chicago. That might be this season's Final Four and they're playing in November!
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