5 reasons not to bet the ‘over’ when New England visits Miami

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 24: Brian Waters #54 of the New England Patriots prepares to block Jared Odrick #98 of the Miami Dolphins during the second half of New England's 27-24 win at Gillette Stadium on December 24, 2011 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 24: Brian Waters #54 of the New England Patriots prepares to block Jared Odrick #98 of the Miami Dolphins during the second half of New England's 27-24 win at Gillette Stadium on December 24, 2011 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images) /

The Patriots are currently favored by 19 points in their game against Miami on Sunday, but statistics show that New England isn’t even guaranteed a win.

The two most lopsided games of Week 1 in the NFL both came from the AFC East: the Patriots smothered Pittsburgh 33-3, and the Ravens annihilated Miami 59-10.

Luck has it that the Patriots and the Dolphins now meet in Week 2, and (on paper) it has the potential to be a historic beat-down. Vegas oddsmakers have the betting spread at a 19-point Patriots victory, which is one of the highest spreads of the last 20 years.

For those unfamiliar with sports betting, this means that you could bet that the Patriots will win by either more than 19 points or less than 19 points, as oddsmakers have concluded they’re equally likely.

NFL fans are expecting to see the Dolphins get blown out of the water on Sunday, and it makes sense at first glance. With the addition of Antonio Brown, the Patriots are arguably working with their best offense in franchise history. Their defense is also one of the most talented that coach Bill Belichick has ever put together; in fact, over the last six games they’ve played, the Pats have allowed opponents to score a cumulative total of just 10 points in the first half (!).

The Dolphins, on the other hand, return from an offseason of trading some of their only solid players in left tackle Laremy Tunsil and longtime quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Miami is in a year of rebuilding, likely hoping for their next franchise quarterback to emerge from the 2020 draft pool.

This game shouldn’t be close; the Patriots are Super Bowl favorites, and the Dolphins are prepping for a No. 1 overall pick. However, I don’t think it will be a blowout exactly. Here are some reasons why:

1. Antonio Brown

Perhaps the primary reason the betting spread is so high is the New England addition of Antonio Brown, which turns a formidable offense into an overpowered one. However, there are many reasons to believe AB won’t be taking the field much in Miami, if at all.

Brown’s first controversy as a Patriot is a rape allegation from his former personal trainer, which is actively being investigated by the NFL. Unless large strides are made quickly in disproving Brown’s guilt, Belichick and the Pats might keep him sidelined to ward away the spotlights until a final decision is made. Alternatively, if the allegations are true, the league will either suspend Brown or the Pats will release him.

Even apart from the allegations, it often takes time for offensive players to learn a team’s playbook. A typical new receiver might only play a handful of downs in his first match to feel out the team’s dynamic and schemes without putting too much weight on their shoulders. Don’t expect Brown to make a big impact on Sunday.

2. The heat

It’s been well-publicized that the Patriots have bad luck down in Miami, with Tom Brady actually posting a losing record in the stadium. What’s less discussed (and more important) is what probably contributes to it: the heat.

Brady has lost five of the six hottest games he’s played in during his career per CBS Sports’ John Breech, and Sunday’s game is forecasted to be 89°, which would be his third hottest ever. History shows a win on a hot Miami day, even against a tanking Dolphins squad, might not be that easy for Brady.

3. Brian Flores

Former Patriots defensive coordinator Brian Flores has taken the helm as Dolphins head coach in 2019, which works as a great advantage for the Dolphins. Flores knows more about the Patriots and their current playbook than any other coach, and even though he’s not with a particularly threatening team, he might be able to coach effectively enough to outwit some of New England’s play-calls… if he can anticipate them.

For example, we need look no further than the Lions’ Week 3 matchup against the Patriots last year, when former New England defensive coordinator Matt Patricia made quick work of his old team, coaching the Lions accurately against New England’s play-calling and holding them to just 10 points. Flores will attempt to follow Patricia’s lead and beat the Pats on the back of his previous experience with the team.

4. Bill Belichick 

Let’s suppose everything does go right for the Patriots and they find themselves leading by more than 20 points at halftime. Looks good for a 19-point spread, right?

I wouldn’t count on it.

It’s not too common for the Patriots to follow up a destructive first half with an even more destructive second half, and there’s a simple reason why. Coaches as astute and experienced as Belichick want to keep their playbook close to their chest, and if he was to keep calling their primary plays, opposing teams would have more future tape to study.

Thus typically, the second half of a blowout features more run-up-the-middle plays and basic passes. It’s why the Pats vs. Chargers divisional match in 2018 turned from 35-7 at halftime to 41-28. New England might lead by more than 20 at some point, but don’t be surprised if their offense slows down and Miami crawls back a bit.

5. Ryan Fitzpatrick

The final variable to the Dolphins match is their quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick is one of the most fascinating QBs of the decade. Most of the time, he’s a mediocre starter worth about 3000 yards per season. However, occasionally he activates the jets and puts up MVP-type numbers for a game or two, fooling fans of whatever team he’s on (he’s started for eight different ones over the course of his career) into thinking he could be a long-term solution. Fans have dubbed this phenomenon, “Fitzmagic.”

Just last year he led the dreadful Buccaneers to a Week 1 win over the NFC powerhouse Saints with a 417-yard, four-touchdown performance. Not content, he followed that game up with two more 400-yard exhibitions.

How was the rest of his year? He was benched.

You never know what to expect from Fitzpatrick, and the Pats can only hope he doesn’t pull any “Fitzmagic” on Sunday.

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All this being said, the New England Patriots are simply a far superior team to the Dolphins. Even though the Pats are almost guaranteed to emerge victorious, the final score is tough to predict. Las Vegas’ 19-point spread is enormous, and as vast as the difference between the two teams may be, I would stay away from betting the “over” at all costs… it might be a tighter finish than we expect.