Weekend Edition: It's Not a Vice to Like Miami on Sunday

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David Malinsky

Friday, October 20, 2017 2:24 PM GMT

Friday, Oct. 20, 2017 2:24 PM GMT

Backing the Dolphins is a proper Miami Vice for this Sunday. ... Are there Trojan horses, or merely only ponies, in the DL this week. ... Gord Downie RIP.

Point Blank – October 20, 2017

The weekend board has us busy across all fronts as the new earlier NBA schedule turns up the volume, and perhaps we should at least feel blessed that the World Series will be over before the crunch of NCAA basketball fully sets in (I already have my Blue Ribbon Yearbook; it is worth the extra few bucks for the spiral bound edition).

That means a lot to sort through, both here and in the comments thread, which you can join each day by clicking the grey balloon in the upper left-hand corner. And as is the case for the Monday and Friday long reads, the jukebox is in play to help you glide through, although this time it is a bit different, one that is better viewed than merely listened to, a poignant moment for reflection on the week that Gord Downie took his last breath.

One of the longest-running tribute cycles from the Point Blank jukebox at the former platform dealt with one of the most stirring events in the cultural history of my lifetime, the farewell tour of Downie and the Tragically Hip last summer as they played their way across Canada. They challenged themselves to dare greatly in making it happen, Downie dealing with terminal brain cancer that did not provide a calendar of the remaining days, and the grace at which they carried themselves, and the spirit of the audiences across the nation, brought something mesmerizing to follow. It culminated in a final show in his hometown of Kingston last August that was broadcast live across the nation on the CBC, on an evening in which a national literally shut down for a few hours.

I have been blessed to have Canada as a second home to me for nearly two decades now, and it brought an introduction to Downie and the Hip that I might not have had otherwise. For those who have not had the opportunity to connect to their music it will live on, and because the themes are timeless it is worth searching out. There is also a Downie solo LP that will hit the streets later this month. For now we offer another PB tribute, “Ahead by a Century”, the closing song on the final pass through Edmonton last July:

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There are times in which we can all forget to embrace the almost limitless scale of opportunity that comes with the one life we each get to live, and whenever that happens, taking a moment for Downie to remind us of that can be time well spent.

Now let’s use some of the time that we do have to attack the weekend betting boards. Today we won’t just be talking about general technique, but putting some money into play. …

 Item: On Marketology, and Jets-Dolphins Round II

Let’s tell a tale of sports betting markets. It wasn’t that long ago, in a place not far away, that the general consensus was that the Miami Dolphins were about 8 points better than the New York Jets on a neutral field. That was entered into evidence because the teams were not playing Week 3 at a neutral site, but instead the small patch of green splendor inside of MetLife Stadium (yes, even in fairy tales sponsorships rule) that is amidst the industrial blight of northeast New Jersey. Since modern times tell us that NFL home fields are worth about 2.5 points, the closing line of the Dolphins -5.5 calls for the 8-point baseline.

The markets had watched the coaches and players for years in making their evaluations for that game, yet on that day appeared to be quite wrong, the Jets winning the game 20-6. The wizards questioned their methods; the shamans doubted their instincts; and the warlocks re-assessed the measurements of the ingredients in their cauldron, and re-did their potions. So when the two teams were to meet again only a short while later, the markets had reached the conclusion that the Dolphins were really only a half a point better on a neutral field, and that less than a month ago they had made a glaring miscalculation of more than a full touchdown.

I can’t think of a better way to lay this one out, and to explain why I will have #460 Miami (Sunday, 1 PM Eastern) going into pocket. This is one of the biggest single-season adjustments for a division rematch I have ever charted when there are no major injuries involved. In this game there aren’t even minor ones. Yes, there was some market error in the first meeting, but there were also some circumstances in play that were unique to that setting that lessen this significance. Let’s get to work on it.

When they played in East Rutherford it was a difficult setting for Miami. Hurricane Irma had disrupted the preparations to begin the season, cancelling a home opener vs. Tampa Bay and sending the team out to Los Angeles well in advance before playing the Chargers. At the time, I wrote about how it would be an advantage for the Dolphins that week. They won that game, but there will still distractions in play – they did not know if they would be flying back to Miami afterwards or heading to West Virginia to practice the following week at the Greenbrier before facing the Jets.

As it turned out they were able to go back to Miami, but that also meant attention going to some cleanup work of their homes. All the while the Dolphins weren’t just packing for New York, but also knowing that they were leaving for London immediately afterwards, and that made it difficult to take the Jets as seriously as they should, New York having been as bad as advertised in opening 0-2 vs. the Bills and Raiders.

The Jets commanded the game that Sunday, but it lacked a full integrity, and I did not attach the usual full weight in the data base. Apparently, the rest of the marketplace did, which helps to explain some of the line shift. But what if Miami really is the better team, which I believe, and what if the Jets really are near the bottom of the NFL? Have they truly proven those preseason expectations to be wrong? Let’s explore.

 

Item: About those Jets road games

New York has played three road games so far. The base results will show a respectable 1-2 SU and ATS; the reality has been far different. Let’s look at the game flows of those contests and the game flows of their opponents in all other games. The first two categories were vs. the Jets, the second pair for their other games, broken down to average per game:

Team          1st D  Yards         1st D  Yards
Buffalo      +12   +196          -6.3   -112.5
Oakland     +4     +139          -.3       -81.3
Cleveland  +8     +207          -.4        -42.2

How do you interpret this? In their three road games the Jets finished with an average of 10.3 first downs and 259.3 yards below how those three teams have played in all other games. That is bad football, but note the consistency – in all three games they were more than 200 yards worse than those teams managed in their other games.

As noted last in a take last week that pondered whether the Jets could become the first team to go from 3-2 to 3-13, they may still be who many of us thought they were in the preseason. Miami isn’t special, but the Dolphins are 3-2 and off of a confidence-boosting second half in which they whipped the Falcons 20-0 over a 30-minute stretch of excellent football. That carryover to this one makes it even easier to go the extra mile on practice this week to atone for those sins of the earlier loss to the Jets, especially with some of those young faces on defense making big contributions, which makes the current market price more than reasonable.

I believe the markets are also a bit short in a key college clash on Saturday night.

 Item: It is a limping Trojan horse heading to South Bend

One of the ironic aspects of having a weekly Tribute to Troy moment in the House of Yards podcast with Matt Landes (you’ll find the link a bit further down) is that the USC Trojans have been good for the pocket this season, largely by us going against the grain of market expectations. There was too much being expected too soon, the 2016 elevation as much as result of the Pac-12 and Notre Dame being down as major strides being made by the program, with the one legitimate strength, a terrific QB in Sam Darnold, being the sort of thing that overshadows other weaknesses.

This week we are in the game again for many of the same reasons – the markets have USC overvalued in general, but in particular are missing what may be a glaring weakness for this matchup, so make it #402 Notre Dame (Saturday, 7:30 Eastern) going into pocket, a little -3 now showing on the Friday morning board, but with -3.5 acceptable.

For a team that some considered Top 5 before the opening kickoff, the Trojans have some weaknesses, one of the season-long ones being a lack of game-breakers at WR to help Darnold use all of the playbook, but now an emerging one in the DL. South Bend is the wrong place to be when that is your weakest spot.

USC will be starting true freshman defensive tackle Brandon Pili, whom Clay Helton had been hoping to redshirt, because the losses of Kenny Bigelow, Josh Fatu and Marlon Tuipulotu have left them without options. Bigelow and Fatu were seniors, and that matters – there are no seniors on the DL two-deep for this trip.

Now the matchup problem that defensive front faces: Notre Dame is #5 in the nation in rushing yards per game and #3 in yards per rush. There are the other usual suspects at the top, Navy, Army and Georgia Tech leading the way, because that is what option football does. But the Fighting Irish don’t play option football; they run the ball by knocking people down in the trenches, keyed by a rarity in the left side of the OL, the legit prospect that Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson could both be first-round NFL draft picks next spring.

Josh Adams has taken advantage of those holes to go for 776 yards at a rather amazing 9.0 per carry, which is rare for someone who has as many attempts (86) as he has. QB Brandon Wimbush is at 402 yards and 5.9 despite sitting out one game and brings a dimension the Trojans rarely see in the Pac-12, while Deon McIntosh has 230 yards at 5.8.

The strength of Notre Dame literally goes into the biggest USC weakness this week, and I expect that to take a toll in the second half, the young Trojan defenders in the interior of the DL. The markets often don’t register injuries at the non-skill positions properly, and this looks like one of those settings.

 

About Last Night

Naturally the Laker defense was under the microscope based on the notions presented here in the Thursday edition of PB, and their loss to the Clippers was a game in which you do have to take a deeper look at the numbers. The defensive efficiency ratings for the Lakers weren’t horrible because the LAC offense was ragged, yet Luke Walton’s team fell down by as many as 30 points anyway.

Here is the issue with that game that jumps off the page: The Clippers had 107 field-goal attempts, a rather astonishing count, while the Lakers only committed 15 fouls. Having a low foul count can be a good thing if it means that the defense was fundamentally sound, but in this case it was a matter of LAL just not showing much aggressiveness or toughness.

The starting guard tandem of Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram, a pair of one-and-done guys that may be the worst defensive backcourt in the NBA, only committed one foul apiece across 59:52 of court time. That isn’t a good sign, it is a bad one. Outside of Brook Lopez, and whatever minutes they get from Andrew Bogut, there is a physicality lacking from the Lakers that will be an early storyline to follow.

 

For your listening pleasure …

I have already given you the gist of this week’s Moment of Troy, but there is still plenty more from Matt Landes and myself from this week’s House of Yards, including three more key NFL matchups, and the Beer of the Week. You can listen with a click below, and read on for Matt’s tasting notes on a beer that we were both drinking last Friday afternoon.

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 And for your drinking pleasure …

Matt was in town to watch the Vegas Golden Knights take on the Detroit Red Wings last Friday, showing that developing betting savvy as he punched in a ticket on the road team shortly before faceoff when it became an inflated line (Detroit won 6-3). Part of that afternoon was spent at a place I wrote about here a few weeks ago, 595 Craft and Kitchen, a fine lunch despite the fact that the group at the table was heavily tilted towards USC grads.

We were both drinking from the same tap handle, my deferring to Matt’s expertise in choosing something that would have the boldness to accent to what was coming from the kitchen, and I’ll let him take it from there (you can follow his hopping across the hops at Just_here_for_the_beer):

Brewery: Knee Deep
Beer: Deez Hops
Style: IPA
ABV: 6.5%

Pouring a clear, pale gold and giving notes of citrus, tropical fruit, and a slight resinous bite balanced out by a sweet malt backbone, Deez Hops is an old-school IPA with a new-school name.

It's a particularly worthy option to pair with boldly flavored food, fully capable of standing up to the fare and even adding its own punch without going too far. Deez Hops with a hot chicken sandwich, for example, makes for a self-cleansing ecosystem in your mouth that's sure to both satisfy your hunger and quench your thirst.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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