The Miami offense will try to keep their hot streak rolling as they visit the New England Patriots on Thursday Night Football. Our NFL handicapper analyzes the matchup and gives us the value play for your Week 8 NFL Picks.
The Miami Dolphins look to continue to make their new coach, Dan Campbell, look like a genius by winning their third game in a row after he replaced Dan Philbin midseason. Unfortunately for them, they face a much stiffer test in this game than in the last two as they face Tom Brady and the Patriots in New England. Tom Brady is a much different quarterback than Marcus Mariota and Brian Hoyer of the Titans and Texans, of course. The odds listed in this game suggest this as well, as the New England Patriots opened as 8 point favorites – a line that has inflated to 9 points at books such as Bovada. The O/U total opened at 52 at Pinnacle, but has since dropped to 50.5 at the same book.
It takes a little bit of digging, but there is a significant difference in the opponents Miami faced in the two games they lost before going on this little hot streak. In those games they faced the #1 and #5 rushing defenses by YPG in the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills, respectively. Even the Jaguars in the game before those, which they also lost, was nearly in the top ten in the NFL in rushing defense. That drastically changed in the last two weeks, as Miami faced the #29 and #27 rushing defense in the Titans and Texans. For the record, the Patriots are 19th in the league in rushing yards allowed.
Facing a bad rushing defense will do wonders for the passing game. With Houston giving up 175 yards to Miami running back, Lamar Miller, that team is going to be forced to adjust. That opens up play action, which usually leads to more efficient passing. And by more efficient I mean almost perfect, as Ryan Tannehill set an NFL record with 25 completed passes in a row between the game with Tennessee and most of the Houston game. It would be a streak still going if Miami tight end, Dion Sims, wouldn’t have dropped the last pass Tannehill threw in the game. Still, a line of 18-19 for 282 yards and 4 touchdowns isn’t half bad.
Another quarterback with some NFL records is Tom Brady, and he hasn’t had to rely on play action to get the Patriots passing game going. Only second to the San Diego Chargers, the Patriots are passing for 327.2 YPG this year and are tied for the league lead with 16 passing touchdowns. Brady’s TD/INT is by far the best in the league though at 16/1. Who knows when Tom Brady will slow down any time soon, but right now he is playing like a man pretty pissed off at a certain event concerning flat balls. It is definitely one of the reasons that the Patriots are #1 in the NFL in overall offense at 35.5 PPG.
One statistic that is completely at odds between these two teams and must be pointed out is their relative 3rd down conversions percentages. In this statistic the New England Patriots are #1 in the NFL at 50.7% over their first six games. Coincidentally, the Miami Dolphins are dead last in this statistic as they hold a 28.6% 3rd down conversion rate. Now, it is hard to use this statistic as a predictor of future success or failure, after all the 6-0 Denver Broncos are 29th in the league in 3rd down conversion rate and Miami itself was 1-9 on 3rd downs in their blowout win last week. However, with a difference this large we can likely infer that the Patriots have a greater ability to stay on the field and sustain drives than Miami does.
With the short turnaround in this game, I like the chances of the New England scoring machine to roll on in Week 8. It’s going to be base schemes in play here where New England will have a definitive advantage, even if it is just in personnel familiarity. Last week the Jets were the #1 defense in the land, before the Patriots scored 30 on them. The Patriots will score in bunches, and I think Ryan Tannehill will be able to keep it rolling on offense just enough to make the Over of 50.5 at Pinnacle the play in this game and one of my Week 8 NFL Picks.