Miami Dolphins (1-2 SU, 1-2 ATS) vs. Oakland Raiders (0-3 SU, 2-1 ATS)
NFL Week 4
Date and Time: Sunday, September 28, 2014 at 1:00 p.m. EST
Where: Wembley Stadium in London
TV: CBS, DTV 711
by Vesper Abadon, Pro Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Mia -3.5/Oak +3.5
Over/Under Total: 40.5
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Since 2007, the NFL has hosted a game in London’s historic Wembley Stadium. This year, three regular season games are scheduled to take place across the pond beginning with the Week 4 matchup between the Miami Dolphins and Oakland Raiders.
Thus far the Dolphins season has been a lot like a two-liter of soda - it was delicious and satisfying when first opened (remember when they ran over the Patriots in Week 1), but since then it’s lost all its flavor and fizzle. The Dolphins are coming off back-to-back losses in which they were thoroughly dominated, and now their quarterback, Ryan Tannehill, and defensive coordinator, Kevin Coyle, have come under fire.
It appears Tannehill, who is ranked the 29th QB in the league with a 74.1 rating after going 70 of 124 for 624 yards, four touchdowns, and two interceptions, will now be the starter come Sunday, but earlier in the week head coach Joe Philbin was non-committal. One thing is for sure, Tannehill, who has yet to complete a pass of more than 30 yards this season, needs to get something going as if his job depends on it.
As it stands, Tannehill leads the leagues 29th-ranked passing game, which averages just 190 yards per game (YPG). His top receiver has been Mike Wallace, who has caught 17 passes for 211 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but other than that he’s had trouble utilizing the usually effective Brian Hartline and Charles Clay, who have 87 and 79 yards receiving respectively.
While the Dolphins have had trouble getting things flying through the air, they’ve managed to put together a potent rushing attack, one that is ranked seventh in the league (averaging 137.3 YPG) and brings their overall offensive ranking to 22nd in the league. Knowshon Moreno got things going in Week 1, but after a Week 2 injury sidelined him, third-year running back Lamar Miller has taken over the reigns. So far this season he’s carried 37 times for 213 yards (5.8 Avg), though he’s yet to find the end zone on the ground.
Defensively the Dolphins are ranked ninth in the league holding opponents to an average of 324 YPG (198.7 passing YPG; 125.3 rushing YPG). As for the Raiders, they have the league’s 12th-best defense holding opponents to an average of 342 YPG (183.3 passing YPG; 158.7 rushing YPG); however, it does them little good as their offense is ranked dead last in the league. They’re also last in points, averaging just 12.3 per game.
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Passing-wise, the Raiders, who are coming off a 9-16 loss to the New England Patriots, are 30th with an average of 190 YPG (the same as the Dolphins). Rookie quarterback Derek Carr is ranked one spot ahead of Tannehill, coming in 28th with a 74.9 rating after going 68 or 108 for 588 yards, three touchdowns, and three interceptions. Without a doubt his favorite target has been veteran James Jones, who has quietly been having a good year catching 15 passes for 189 yards (12.6 Avg) and two touchdowns.
On the ground, the Raiders are ranked 31st with an average of 64.3 YPG. Maurice Jones-Drew has been out with injury, which leaves Darren McFadden to shoulder the load. He’s carried 34 times for 111 yards (3.3 Avg) and a single touchdown. To put that in perspective, Carr had rushed five times for 57 yards (11.4 Avg).
Vesper’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Miami has won the last four times these two teams met, but the Raiders lead all-time 19-16-1. Neither of these teams will have the benefit of home-field advantage - though technically this one is a home game for the Raiders - and a look at the numbers suggest the Dolphins have the edge.
Both teams have been equally inept through the air, and while this may prove a make-or-break game for Tannehill, he will have trouble being effective against the Raiders, who’re fourth at defending the pass. Likewise, Miami’s secondary will shift their focus on Jones while the front seven relentlessly pressure Carr. In other words, don’t expect these teams to dazzle through the air.
Instead, look for both teams to turn to the ground and pound. The Dolphins are far and away the better rushing team averaging more than twice as much as the Raiders, who are prone to give up yards on the ground. I look for Miller to have a big day and carry the Dolphins to the win while covering the spread. As for the over/under, don’t be afraid to bet on this being a low-scoring affair.