@FastMoneyLabs’ Thursday Night Football Preview & Pick (Week 4)

Miami Dolphins (3-0) at Cincinnati Bengals (1-2)

Perfect 3-0 start? Knock off the Super Bowl favorites? Two intriguing headlines. Zero apparent impact on tonight’s spread, with Vegas listing the undefeated Dolphins as 4-point underdogs vs. Cincinnati, a 1-win team through 3 weeks. Not totally intuitive, but there‘s always a reason. So, what gives?

To help break it down, I’ve compiled a little cheat sheet that I’ll reference throughout my column:

FML

Noteworthy trends:

  • Cincinnati’s offense has clearly disappointed thus far vs. pre-season projections; however, it’s a small sample (3 games) and given their overall talent profile, brighter days are definitely ahead for the 2021 NFC Champs. It started to pull through in their blowout victory last week vs. the Jets (Cincy scored 20 first half points before taking their foot off the gas), but there’s still room to run, especially if they can figure it out on early downs.
  • The opposite narrative appears true for a Bengals’ defense that’s outperformed pre-season projections but could be due for worse performance soon, if not tonight as they’ll be without DJ Reader, their best defensive player and a team captain, who suffered an injury last weekend vs. the Jets.
  • Miami’s offense, meanwhile, has largely shined, outperforming pre-season projections thus far, and they deserve credit; I’m just not fully convinced it’s sustainable. A good chunk of their success traces back to a handful of explosive plays each game rather than consistent, productive drives. Explosive plays win games but can’t be depended on as a weekly lifeline. This makes Miami’s offense a negative regression candidate at a time when their top QB, 2nd best receiver and two starting offensive linemen all haven’t practiced and are questionable to play tonight with injuries.
  • The Dolphins’ defense has performed about as expected thus far, struggling to defend the pass but excelling against the run. This performance split might work vs. most teams but could prove problematic vs. a Bengals squad that excels through the air but struggles to pound the rock.
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String all these points together, and it makes sense why betting markets are so optimistic on the Bengals and pessimistic about Miami tonight. In a nutshell: Cincinnati has underperformed while the Dolphins overperformed. The expected corrections could be imminent, and tonight they  clash. Miami is also on the wrong end of a lopsided injury report, and Cincinnati has home field advantage.

While I’m mostly indifferent on the spread at -4, I agree with the market directionally and believe Cincinnati is the right side in what sets up as a statement game for the 2021 NFC Champs on National TV.

However for my best bet, I prefer a slight pivot off that idea, which is to back Joe Burrow to go over his Pass Yards total at any number up to 279.5. Miami’s secondary was completely carved up by 2 of 3 QBs faced this year (with the only miss being Mac Jones), and I don’t see them patching up the leak on a short week vs. Joe Burrow & Co.
Burrow’s also a HUGE home/road splits guy when it comes to pass yards. Since last season, he’s averaging:

  • 331.90 per game at home
  • Which compares to 233.78 on the road
  • His overall combined average was 285.42
  • Taken together, the stats imply he’s seeing a +16.3% boost in pass yards production at home relative to his standard average, and +42.0% compared to away games.

Given Burrow’s performance splits, the expected game plan and Miami’s clear deficiencies in pass coverage (and lack of time to fix them), I fully expect a 280+ performance from the Bengals QB here, if not more (for what it’s worth, PFF projections have him at 289.4).
I always suggest line shopping as they tend to vary by book, especially on pass props. I was personally surprised to find 268.5 hanging Wednesday night at FanDuel and locked it in practically immediately to win a unit. If you can’t get that line, I’d still bet this prop up to 279.5, which is a number he’s covered in 8 of his last 10 regular season starts at Paycore Stadium.

$FML's TNF Pick

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JOE BURROW OVER 268.5 PASSING YARDS @ -113

FML

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