2021 NFL Week 1: Miami Dolphins @ New England Patriots
Backing the best bet in pro football last year to open the new season: Miami Dolphins +3.0 -125
We are backing the Miami Dolphins plus the field goal at the New England Patriots in week 1 NFL play. We detail herein contextual support for the road dog cover as well as a quantitative approach that likewise hints at slight value with the Fins.
Week 1 teams taking points in their division after missing the prior post-season have been good for a 30% long- term return on investment...
We hypothesize that the betting public's recency bias mentally overweights last season's records and undervalues off-season improvements by the League's lower echelon (who generally need to make up considerable ground to become contenders).
The Dolphins' opener fits this bill, as fellow AFC Easters, the New England Patriots, are slated as three-point favorites over Miami (the Dolphins have not earned a playoff berth since 2016, despite accruing a 10-6 SU record last season).
The Pats just cut Cam Newton and awarded the starting quarterback role to rookie, Mac Jones. Cam's performance last year was worse than the average replacement level pro QB, per the FootballOutsiders.com DYAR statistic, but we do not have faith that a rookie -- even a first round pick -- is ready to exceed expectations at this level out the gate.
Consistent with this thinking, Bryan Mears, writing for The Action Network, observed that between 2003 and 2017, QB's drafted in the first round were an uninspiring 16-19 ATS in their debut as NFL starters.
Since 2017, performance has improved for new quarterbacks. High draft pick QB's went 7-4 ATS from 2018 through last season ATS. But in aggregate the data (23-23 ATS) does not suggest highly prospected slingers are undervalued in their inaugural NFL start.
From a different angle, ESPN's Football Power Index makes the Pats only nominally better than the Fins on neutral terrain to start the 2021 NFL regular season. As such, this framework implies the difference between these teams in week 1 essentially comes down to home field advantage.
Jimmy Boyd's True Home Field Advantage methodology quantifies home field advantage as the half the difference between a team's home and away margins. This technique gives the Pats just over a two point edge as hosts of Sunday's action. However, much of the input for New England's true home field advantage is based on Tom Brady setting up behind the center. This is misleading since TB12 is now a Tampa Bay Buccaneer. Nonetheless, the average true home field advantage of 2.7 across the League suggests the estimate for New England might not be that far off.
New England's +0.4 edge per FPI, plus +2.2 for true home field advantage implies modest value with the Dolphins at the key spread level of +3.