The model picks have gone poorly the last two weeks, but the SuperContest picks have at least stayed more or less afloat. That’s part of the point- as the most confident picks, they should have the best chance of being correct. That isn’t 100% the case since I have to pick five each week regardless of how many are ‘confident’; there could be 7 good games one week and 2 another. But overall, they should do well or at least hang in there regardless of how the other games turn out. Tonight’s game won’t make it into those picks, but let’s break down the Bengals and Dolphins anyway.
Miami is, I think, roughly in the position people would have guessed before the season started. They’re 3-4, or about average. They started off more promisingly, with wins over the Browns, Colts, and Falcons, with the first two coming on the road. The Colts win seems more impressive now, and the Falcons maybe less. But then the Dolphins went on a four game losing streak to the Saints, Ravens, Bills, and Patriots. Two of their wins are by 4 points and two losses are by 3 and 2, so their record could easily be a game or so different in either direction.
On offense, Miami is a mess. They are below-average in yards per attempt, are the third-most sacked team in the league, and throw an above-average number of interceptions. Their running attack is above average, but just barely. That leads to Miami being 25th in the league at yards per play. That isn’t a death knell, since they’re actually tied with the Chiefs on that stat, but the Dolphins don’t quite have the Chiefs’ defense. They’re pretty much average against the run, average at defensive pass efficiency, average at getting sacks, and average at getting interceptions. Average average average.
The Bengals have been playing better. They’re 6-2, with losses on the road in Chicago and Cleveland. They have ‘quality wins’ over Green Bay, New England, and Detroit, and that 40 point win last week has to count as quality regardless of what you think of the Jets; teams rarely win by 40. While Andy Dalton and the “is he or isn’t he good” question gets most of the press, the strength of the Bengals is their defense. They’re 4th in the league at defensive pass efficiency despite being fairly average in terms of interceptions and sacks. They just don’t give up a lot of yards through the air, and that’s important. They’re also a bit above average against the run.
The Bengals’ run game hasn’t been so hot, with the 25th best run efficiency. So maybe that’s a hint that Dalton isn’t doing too badly? Cincinnati is 6th in yards per attempt, about average in interceptions, and 8th at protecting against sacks. That puts them in a tie for 8th in yards per play, just behind the Saints and Eagles and even with the 49ers, Redskins, and Falcons. (Side note: the fact that the Eagles are 8th in the league at yards per play despite using three QBs, including a rookie, should tell you that the Chip Kelly offense is doing something right). So it seems like Andy can’t be doing too badly. He probably isn’t elite, but he seems pretty decent to me.
Overall it looks like we have Miami’s poor offense going against the Bengals’ good defense and the Bengals’ good offense going against Miami’s decent defense. The game is in Miami to mitigate those advantages a little bit, but the Hilton line is still Miami +2.5 (SBR seems to have it at more like 3). The models all agree that something in the 2 to 3 range seems right, so no strong opinion on this one. Look for the Bengals to win, but it should be close.
Luigi’s overall winners are the Bengals, Chiefs, Cowboys, Rams, Saints, Chargers, Panthers, Raiders, Seahawks, Ravens, Patriots, Colts, and Packers. His SuperContest picks are Tampa +16, Chicago +10.5, Rams +3, Chargers -1, and Cleveland +2.5. That Bears pick obviously depends on what you think Cutler is worth, since the model doesn’t know that he’s out. Luigi thinks that line is off by a bit over 4 points, and the Browns line is off by a bit over 2 points. So if you thought Cutler was worth 2.5 points or more, you’d want to swap that out and go for Colts -2.5. If you think Cutler is worth 2 points or less, then stick with the Bears. But in any event, these differences from the spreads are getting a little small at that point, so they’re kind of iffy either way.
Yoshi 2 is switching things up a little bit and instead of repeating Luigi’s picks is going with Tampa, Chicago, Rams, Cleveland, and Steelers +6.5. One game different! It has the Steelers and Chargers games as pretty similarly off from the line, so it isn’t really a big difference. Yoshi 1 is going with Tampa, Chicago, Steelers, Minnesota +10, and Atlanta +7.5. So in terms of agreement, Tampa seems like a good pick to cover (and while the Seahawks did not impress me against the Rams, I have no confidence in the Bucs), the Bears might be depending on your opinion of Cutler, and then things get dicey. Enjoy the game tonight!