2018 NFL Sunday Week 4: Miami Dolphins @ New England Patriots
Miami Dolphins @ New England Patriots
Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, MA
September 30, 2018, 10:00AM PDT
Much of the rationale for the Patriots expected bounce-back cover versus the Dolphins relates to the singular magic of Tom Brady. For instance, Brady is 7-2 SU and 6-3 ATS coming off back-to-back losses. Similarly, the Pats are 22-7-2 ATS since 2003 when the public is fading the Brady Bunch.
However, we counter with the fact that Tom Brady is 41 year old--past the point where great quarterbacks commonly demonstrate significant decline. To support this notion, consider research from Thin Air, which examined the Approximate Value score for a group of QBs that played well into their thirties.
The thick pink series in the chart above shows the average decline in Approximate Value for long-tenured NFL quarterbacks. Note that QB worth tends to slides more-or-less in a gradual manner until about age 38. At that point value falls off a cliff.
Similarly, a piece featured in the Boston Globe some time ago also highlights the late-30s as the average end of the road for NFL quarterbacks. This author noted that Adjusted Yards Per Attempt peaked, and interception rates spiked, for his sample at age 36, on average, while completion percentage topped out at age 38.
Brady has indeed shown signs of ageing in recent years. Note below the number of times that Brady's NFL.com Passing rank has dipped below average over the last few seasons. Prior to 2014, Brady had only two seasons (out of his first 12) where he failed to claim at least the number 8 spot on this list...and both of those occurred when Brady was still an unseasoned pup. In contrast to the (excusable) early-career instances, the future hall of famer has underperformed in half of his last four completed regular seasons, and is currently on track for his worst year ever, by this measure.
So, beyond statistics and betting trends that assume Brady never diminishes, credible power rankings schemes, such as Massey-Peabody's FiveThirtyEight's and ESPN Football Power Index all suggest the road dogs are worth a play from the current spot.
Further, the broader contextual climate is also consistent with a Miami cover. Teams playing in the regular season that 1) won at least 13 games last year, 2) dropped their last two ATS in the current season, and 3) are favored to win this week are 14-24-1 ATS (37%). Fading such teams has generated a 23% ROI. Further, when said teams are playing at home, the profitability of betting against them swells to 31% (17-7-1 ATS).
Bottom line: We fear that much of the narrative that is driving 56% of public spread wagers the Patriots way is irrelevant. We remind our readers that bettors lined up in week 2 to back the Patriots at the Jaguars, driving the line from a PICK to Pats -2, as Brady was 44-19-5 ATS against AFC competition. And last week, the Patriots Lions game was the most heavily bet match up of the week (and the third most heavily wagered game of the year). 77% of spread bets went New England's way, largely because Tom Brady's 32-10 ATS record off a loss had become common knowledge.
Both of those accounts led followers to losses, and our conviction is low that current story line is destined for a better outcome. Given the objective indications of value with the Fins plus the points, the public's support for the Pats and the environmental clues that this is tough spot for the home cover, we are taking Miami +7.