9-3 on the season (75%) with his Matchbook Insights picks, Fabian Sommer takes aim at win no.10 with a big AFC home favourite!
The Miami Dolphins will host the Cincinnati Bengals at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday.
This is a very intriguing matchup as there’s a major mismatch to be found. When we use any kind of statistical model that uses season-long efficiency numbers, there’s no way we would get to the current market price of Miami laying 12 points at home. Even the delta in power numbers in a lot of Power Ratings probably won’t get to -12 here.
My raw number for the game with Ryan Fitzpatrick starting – I absolutely think he will – is Miami -10.5.
Going from there, I apply a subjective layer with things like matchup analysis and injury situation.
When it comes to spreads, we always think of a distribution of potential outcomes where we want to find the median outcome. In this specific matchup, I had to make a significant adjustment, because I am seeing an advantage for Miami that is not covered by season-long metrics or linear differences in a Power Rating.
The key advantage for Miami is the matchup of their defense against the Bengals offense around backup quarterback Brandon Allen.
Therefore, I think of a fatter tail on the right side of the distribution of potential outcomes. My friend Matt would say: take the Dolphins on the alternate spread if that’s the case.
I am already happy about any number up to -13.5.
The Dolphins are showing us how good cornerbacks and a proper scheme can transform a defense.
Xavien Howard is one of the absolute best cornerbacks in the league this season and highly-priced acquisition Byron Jones – while not playing extremely well – can basically play in a CB2 role.
The unit of HC Brian Flores and DC Josh Boyer uses different methods to confuse opposing quarterbacks.
It looks like the Belichick-way: apply various pressure packages and blitzes up front, take away the first read and play either confusing zone coverage or aggressive man coverage behind it.
Against the Chargers, Flores got into the mind of Herbert by showing him up to 7 potential blitzing defenders at the line of scrimmage and playing “double-one” – putting two coverage players on Keenan Allen, Herbert’s favorite target.
Defensive metrics are largely a product of the opposing offenses a defense plays against.
Good offenses and quarterbacks will regularly find ways to beat even the best defenses in the league.
Good pass defenses tend to overperform against weak offenses.
Famous examples are the 2017 Jaguars, 2018 Bears, or the 2019 49ers. These units got still beat by the good offenses – the 49ers defense fell off a clip during the second half of the year when playing a tougher schedule – but they usually tend to shut down bad offenses.
The Dolphins currently rank 3rd in defensive EPA/dropback in neutral game situations. They’ve been shredded by guys like Josh Allen and Russell Wilson, which shouldn’t surprise us. But they overperformed against signal-callers that I would describe as average at best:
- Cam Newton -0.10
- Gardner Minshew -0.13
- Jimmy Garoppolo -0.36
- Joe Flacco -0.37
- Jared Goff -0.41
- Drew Lock 0.25
- Sam Darnold -0.39
The league average is 0.11 EPA/dropback which illustrates at how many standard deviations they performed against those teams. Surprisingly, only Drew Lock had a good game.
The Bengals were a half watchable offense with Joe Burrow at the helm.
With Brandon Allen under center, we should think about them as a bottom 3 offense.
There is a reason why Allen is already on his fourth NFL team in five years with Sean McVay moving on from him as the 3rd-string quarterback.
Allen has 131 career dropbacks and his passing grade is 47.8.
For comparison, that would rank 39th among 40 qualifying quarterbacks this year, just behind Dwayne Haskins. There is some decent potential for turnovers and good field position in favour of the Dolphins.
Considering the fact that Cincinnati cannot even get a good run game going and their pass protection is very shaky, I don’t see a lot of paths to many points for the Bengals.
Ryan Fitzpatrick can just be a game manager against an underwhelming Bengals defense which should be enough for Miami to cruise to an easy victory.
The implied score is around 27-15.5, but I think a final result like 31-13 is more likely.
I am confident that Brian Flores is going to roll with Ryan Fitzpatrick since Tua Tagovailoa could only get two limited practices in on Wednesday and Thursday with his thumb. If Tua is in, I still like the Dolphins. But I’d prefer a healthy Fitz over Tua.
- Miami Dolphins -12 (-109 / 1.92)