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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, September 25, 2013 at 7:00 AM

Most of the media coverage right now in the NFL concerns how many teams are off to surprisingly BAD starts. Any team at 0-3 is in crisis. Many at 1-2 are having their manliness questioned? A team that’s quietly off to a 3-0 start is about to become a big part of the national discussion.



*3-0 so far at games priced near pick-em

*Playing on Monday Night this week at New Orleans

*Hosting defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore next week

*Positioned to battle New England for supremacy in the AFC East

Even the most optimistic Miami Dolphins fans weren’t expecting their team to make a run at the New England Patriots so quickly. Maybe when Tom Brady got old and had to retire. Maybe if Ryan Tannehill lived up to his tools and became a star in a few years. But…in year TWO of the Tannehill era…which is also year two of the Joe Philbin era at head coach?

There’s some good news and bad news when you dig deep into what’s been happening so far with the Miami Dolphins. We start with the good news…

*That 3-0 start looks even better when you look at what their opponents have done. Beating Indianapolis on the road became even stronger when the Colts beat San Francisco on the road! Beating Cleveland on the road became even stronger when Cleveland played Baltimore tough then won outright at Minnesota. And, of course, beating Atlanta in a nailbiter means you topped the #1 seed in the NFL last year. This isn’t going 3-0 against Jacksonville, Oakland, and Buffalo.

*The offense has mostly been pretty sharp. You’ve probably heard chatter about the low number of penalties. The team has increased its pace without losing its discipline. That’s an extremely good sign when you’re dealing with so much youth.

*Ryan Tannehill is moving the chains. Third down conversion rate is a great indicator stat for measuring growth and maturity in young quarterbacks. Miami converted 50% against Cleveland (8 of 16), 42% against Indianapolis (6 of 14), and 58% against Atlanta (7 of 12). That’s 21 of 42 for the season, exactly 50%! Great sign.

Now…the bad news…

*If wins were based on total yardage, Miami would be 0-3! They were outgained by Cleveland 291-275, Indianapolis 448-398, and Atlanta 377-285. The best teams do NOT get outgained consistently like that. You leave yourself no margin for error. You can’t just always hope “bend but don’t break” works out for you on defense. You’re not going to matter in the playoffs if you can’t reach 300 total yards two out of every three games in the regular season.

*The rushing game leaves a lot to be desired. Miami ran for a paltry 20 yards at Cleveland (one of the lowest totals EVER for a team that won an NFL game), 101 yards at Indianapolis, and 90 yards vs. Atlanta. The best teams have balanced offenses, and can protect a big lead once they get one by running out the clock. And, it’s not like the Falcons and Colts are known for their stifling defenses at the point of attack. You can only hide a weakness like this for so long.

If “for real” means a playoff contender, then Miami is for real. They’re certainly good enough to be a Wildcard contender based on the stats so far. And, if New England continues to struggle in its transition to a new receiving corps, Miami is obviously capable of winning the division. Is Miami destined for a “shock the nation” run at the AFC championship? Well, that road runs through Denver…and this Dolphins team doesn’t measure up very well to the Broncos.

Who besides Denver, and possibly New England is clearly better than Miami in the AFC? How many teams in the NFC are clearly better? Playing clean football and moving the chains makes you a top 10 team almost by default these days. We’ll know a lot more about the Dolphins after those next two games with New Orleans and Baltimore. The first meeting with New England comes October 27 at Foxboro.

For now, we’ll leave you with this. Miami is 3-0 out of the gate. This Monday in New Orleans, and October 27 at New England look to be the only two games where the Dolphins will be clear betting underdogs the rest of the season.

JIM HURLEY knows that every team has a story…and that picking winners in the NFL involves understanding how those 32 stories weave together to create great betting opportunities. You can purchase his game day selections (in all sportrs!) right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, talk to a JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK representative in the Vegas-Sports-Masters office at 1-888-777-4155.

The big game preview schedule for the rest of the week here in the NOTEBOOK…

Thursday: San Francisco at St. Louis on the NFL Network

Friday: an early look at LSU at Georgia

Saturday: Wisconsin at Ohio State in prime time

Sunday: New England at Atlanta on NBC

Monday: Miami at New Orleans on ESPN

Arguably THE BEST WEEKEND OF FOOTBALL so far in 2013 is just hours away. Be sure you GET ALL THE MONEY with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!

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