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Week 4 London Game Preview: New Orleans Saints vs. Miami Dolphins Betting Advice

By Peter Brooks in Sports
| September 28, 2017 12:00 am PDT
nfl-wembley-stadium

For the second consecutive week and the second of four total games this season, the NFL will be bringing its product across the pond to Wembley Stadium in London, the home of English “football” (soccer).

Sunday’s London game features two teams who have both had the experience of playing in London before:

  • For the Miami Dolphins, this will mark their fourth regular-season game in London.
  • For the New Orleans Saints, this game will be their second appearance in a regular-season UK game.

It’s clear that the NFL’s international presence in the United Kingdom is not going away anytime soon. In fact, the league seems dead-set on attempting to increase its international presence, notwithstanding the concerns of players and fans.

The results of the NFL’s push to increase the popularity of the game in the UK have been dramatic.

  • Who: New Orleans Saints (1–2) vs. Miami Dolphins (1–1)
  • Where: Wembley Stadium. Wembley, London, England
  • When: Sunday, October 1, 2017. 9:30 PM (EST) on FOX

At the end of this current season, only six teams will not have played a game in London: The Texans, the Titans, the Panthers, the Packers, the Eagles, and the Seahawks.

For the rest of the 26 teams in the league, the trip to London has been a resounding success (except, perhaps for the Ravens, who were absolutely walloped by the Jaguars in their inaugural trip over the Atlantic last Sunday).

And for the fans, over the last 10 years, the NFL has seen considerable growth in viewership in the United Kingdom since the London Game Series started in 2007.

The number of UK-based viewers tuning into NFL games on Sundays has more than doubled during this time period, and the size of the UK Super Bowl audience has grown by over 75%. The league is licking its chops this year, looking to break a host of records for TV viewership numbers as the number of UK fans swells past 13 million.

And it’s not just that our friends in the United Kingdom are watching the games on TV, they’re also starting to participate more in American Football as well.

Specifically, amateur football participation in the UK has gone up roughly 15% every single year since the London Game Series began in 2007. The UK-based organization Sports England has reported that 40,000 youngsters age 14 and up regularly play American football, and the sport is now officially recognized in UK schools and universities.

The growth of the National Football League’s presence in the United Kingdom has been a good thing.

Even after so short a time, there are dozens of transplanted British-American players in the league. For example, Falcons’ defensive tackle Jack Crawford, Broncos’ offensive tackle Menelik Watson, and Dolphin’s running back Jay Ajayi are just a few of the high-profile stars the UK has given us.

Last week, during Sunday’s London game, we saw a story of a young player that truly demonstrates why these London games matter, and why they’re so important.

In the most recent 2017 NFL Draft, the Baltimore Ravens used one of their 5th-round draft picks to select Jermaine Eluemunor, an offensive tackle out of Texas A&M. But while they no doubt knew that the young man had been born in England, they probably didn’t know the whole story.

As it turns out, Eluemunor had grown up playing cricket and rugby with his friends and classmates in a suburb outside of London. One day, flipping through channels on a Sunday, he happened upon the 2007 London matchup between the Miami Dolphins and the New York Giants.

Being well on his way to above 300 pounds himself, Eluemunor was very intrigued by the possibility that he might play American football and dreamed of going to America, playing in high school and college, and coming back as a member of an NFL squad to play football in Wembley. 10 years later, that’s exactly how things turned out.

It’s stories like this that make us realize just how important international games are.

And in this game, pitting the same Miami Dolphins that Eluemunor watched in 2007 against the dynamic New Orleans Saints, the international fans are in for a real treat.

Below, we’ll cover the following bets for this exciting international game:

  • Moneyline bets
  • Bets against the spread
  • The total score over/under bet
  • Any prop bets or futures that could hold value

For fans in the United States, a London game might mean nothing more than an opportunity to have live football action turned on early in the morning. But for the fans across the pond, it could be the start of a dream come true.

Saints vs. Dolphins Betting

FootballMoneyLine
  • Saints -150
  • Dolphins +130

When picking games straight-up for moneyline odds, our philosophy is to try and determine which team will have a mental advantage in the game.

In our experience, when a team is able to find and secure a mental advantage, they keep the momentum on their side for longer during the game. And when the momentum is on their side, things start to flow: defensive players stay disciplined and stay in good position; offensive players make big plays; the battle in the trenches swings toward the team with momentum on their side.

However, when a team gets down mentally, and they lose the momentum, the exact opposite occurs: mistakes start to mount, such as missed assignments, blown coverages, penalties, dropped balls, errant throws, and potentially turnovers. When these mistakes start to pile up, a negative spiral ensues that almost always finds the team down on the scoreboard when the final whistle blows.

In this matchup, the biggest mental factor without a doubt is how these teams handle the travel.

The trip to London crosses five time zones, but the physical manifestations of jet lag might not even be the most difficult thing for the players to adjust to. The bigger difficulties include the following:

  • International air travel is physically uncomfortable for anyone. It’s cramped, you often get dehydrated on the plane, it’s easy to lose track of what you’re eating and when But for exceptionally large human beings who have to be at peak physical performance, these difficulties are greatly compounded and can put players at a physical disadvantage.
  • The flight to London being an overnight affair means that the players have to find a way to sleep on the plane, even though the accommodations may potentially make that difficult. When the players’ sleep gets out-of-whack, they’re much more likely to have the type of weird energy dips that can sap the life out of you and impact your athletic performance during the game.
  • Being abroad is a very exciting thing, particularly if you have never been before. For young men, most of whom are in their early twenties, many of whom are suddenly making more money than they’ve ever seen before in their life, some of whom have never traveled outside the US, the temptation to spend off hours irresponsibly can be great, and can put the players off.

And these are just three of the many reasons that a game in London can really mess with the players. In reality, the whole experience – from circadian rhythm to practice time to sunlight to any number of factors – makes the necessity of staying mentally tough absolutely paramount.

Both teams have played in London, but that doesn’t mean they’ll handle it equally.

If there’s one thing we learned last week from the Ravens’ goose egg on international television, it’s the fact that the biggest factor in determining success in London is the amount of experience the team has playing in London.

For the Ravens, even though they were likely the more complete team, the fact that they’d never before made the trip left them entirely unable to handle the mental challenge, and the Jaguars quickly jumped out to a big lead, capitalizing off of Baltimore’s mistakes.

Once the game gets out of hand in London, the mental errors compound and a game can quickly turn into a blowout.

And this was despite the fact that the Ravens’ team is studded with veteran leadership. They weren’t short of experience, they were simply short of experience playing in London. And in this instance, it matters that the Dolphins don’t have a quarterback who’s played with the team in London at the helm.

The Saints’ last London game was in 2008: Drew Brees beat his old team (the Chargers) 37 to 32.

While this was almost 10 years ago, it’s important to note that the man who is the unquestioned leader of this team, 38-year old Drew Brees, is still at the helm. In his first game in London, Brees threw for 339 yards and 3 touchdowns on an exceptionally efficient 30 for 41 passing.

And now, 9 years later, when Drew Brees tells his team – most of whom were not with the team when they played in London in 2008 – how they’re supposed to prepare, what they’ll need to do, where they’ll need to go, and what needs to happen, not only is he speaking from a place of experience, but he’s also speaking from a place of unquestioned authority with every single man in the locker room.

(And let’s not forget that head coach Sean Payton was also there in London in 2008, and so will be presenting a unified front with Brees.)

On the other hand, Jay Cutler with the Miami Dolphins is in his first season with the team, and wasn’t even present through the entire offseason program, believing that he was going to be in the broadcaster’s booth.

Cutler also has a game in London, back in 2011 with the Bears, but his outing was decidedly worse: Cutler threw for only 226 yards on 17 for 32 passing, with 1 TD to 2 interceptions and a passer rating of 60.2, surrendering a safety and giving the Tampa Bay Buccaneers every opportunity to come back and win the game despite the fact that Josh Freeman threw 4 interceptions in the game.

And now, with QB Jay Cutler new to the program and head coach Adam Gase not with the team the last time Miami played in London, we think they’re in trouble.

It doesn’t take much for a mental advantage to easily swing a game in London.

When the Dolphins were clearly dominated by the Jets in Week 2 to fall to 1–1, we noticed that this does not seem like the kind of team that will be able to push through adversity. Whereas, when the Saints surged on the road to take care of business against the division rival Carolina Panthers, we got a much different impression.

Look for the Saints to take care of business in front of the UK audience, and to go into their bye at 2–2.

Pick: Saints to win

FootballSpread
  • Saints -3 (-105)
  • Dolphins +3 (-115)

Now that we’ve established our pick, that the New Orleans Saints will beat the Miami Dolphins in London because the international experience of their veteran leaders will better enable them to handle the adversity of the trip, let’s now turn our attention to whether we believe that the Saints will win by more than 3 points.

When picking games against the spread, our philosophy involves taking a look at the way the winning team’s offense matches up against the losing team’s defense.

In our experience, if the winning team matches up very well on offense against the opposing defense, they are generally able to control the time of possession and score enough points to win against the spread. However, when the losing team’s defense is able to generate stops, they will often keep the game close enough to cover.

In this case, the key matchup to watch is between the Saints’ offense and the Dolphins’ defense.

For a team that has made its living over the tenure of Drew Brees’ career by relying on passing the ball 40+ times and utilizing the downfield passing attack to score points, the most surprising thing about the Saints thus far this young season has been their ability to move the ball on the ground.

With the offseason acquisition of Adrian Peterson, fans believed that the majority of the production would come from the former league MVP. But they were wrong.

So far, Sean Payton and the New Orleans offense has yet to completely work out their backfield rotation. But whoever’s back there has been playing well thus far, with feature back Mark Engram getting yards at a clip of 4.5 per carry through three games. With Engram and new rookie running back Kamara, the Saints feel like they a similarly potent combo as with Reggie Bush and Darren Sproles.

Last week against the discombobulated Carolina Panthers, the Saints rushed for 149 yards, averaging a promising 5.5 yards per carry.

The production in the running game has helped open up the play-action pass for Drew Brees, who so far has a sharp 68.5% completion rate through three games and a 109.7 passer rating, which ranks out at 5th in the National Football League.

Even with the departure of Brandin Cooks, Brees still has plenty of targets to throw to.

Physical receiving target Michael Thomas has been excellent thus far, even if the production in terms of touchdowns hasn’t been there just yet. As New Orleans continues to work out its offensive game plan, the contributions from Thomas should only increase: In Week 3, Thomas had 5 catches for 49 yards and a touchdown in the first quarter.

In addition, contributors have been coming out of the woodwork, such as undrafted second-year receiver Tommylee Lewis, who at 5’7” and 168 pounds fits the physical profile of the speedster type that the Saints lost when Brandin Cooks was traded to the New England Patriots.

As a slot receiver and a deep threat, Lewis has shown serious potential, catching an exciting 52-yard touchdown pass from Drew Brees in the Saints’ first game against the Vikings. After a sweet stutter-step move that broke the proverbial ankles of Minnesota CB Trae Waynes, Lewis hauled in a sweet toss.

Importantly, the New Orleans passing attack matches up well against Miami’s D.

Through the first three games of this young 2017/18 NFL season, the Dolphins have allowed a 79% completion percentage to opposing quarterbacks, which is dead last in the National Football League. Their opposing passer rating has also been the worst in the league thus far.

Luckily for the Saints, the biggest thing that the Dolphins have done well on D so far is to stop the run. Miami has allowed only 3.1 yards per carry, which is tied for the 4th best in the league.

For us, the biggest question about the Saints’ offensive production will be whether their offensive line can hold up against Miami’s pass rush. In the first two games of the season for New Orleans (losses to the Minnesota Vikings and New England Patriots), the inability of the offensive tackles to block edge pressure – particularly on third downs – ended too many offensive drives, and stymied the Saints

Ultimately, we’re going to side more with the Saints team that we saw in Week 3 against the Carolina Panthers rather than the Saints team we saw in Weeks 1 and 2. We believe that both the play and the game plan have improved enough to allow the Saints to get back more to their deep passing attack, and we think that the Dolphins’ weakness against the pass will give them plenty of opportunities.

Look for Drew Brees to test the Dolphins early and often, and for a handful of 50-50 balls in the deep passing game to land for the Saints. And in the end, look for this production to give the Saints the win against the spread in London.

Pick: Saints to win by more than 3

FootballTotal Score
  • Over 49.5 (-110)
  • Under 49.5 (-110)

Having established our pick for the New Orleans Saints to win this game because of superior leadership and experience in international games, and for the Saints to win by more than 3 points because of their potent passing attack, let’s now turn our attention to the question of whether the game will be generally high- or low-scoring.

In picking games for the total score over/under bet, our philosophy involves taking a look at the way that the winning team’s defense matches up against the losing team’s offense.

In our experience, when a team is both able to generate points on offense and generate stops on defense, this is the recipe for a game going under. However, when a team instead allows the other team the opportunity to stay in the game, the game will often morph into a shootout that can push the total score over.

In this game, the key matchup for us is between the Saints’ defense and the Dolphins’ offense.

When the Miami Dolphins brought in former Adam Gase collaborator Jay Cutler to replace the injured Ryan Tannehill, fans were enthusiastic about the possibility of salvaging what could have otherwise been a ruined season.

Unfortunately, however, the results thus far with Cutler have not been positive.

Basically, through two games (Miami’s first game was canceled due to Hurricane Irma), Jay Cutler has looked exactly as you’d expect.

Cutler has run a competent offense, but he’s looked wildly inaccurate at times. There was a pass just before halftime in the Dolphins’ Week 2 toss-up win over the L.A. Chargers that was easily 20 yards to the right of the right sideline, for no apparent reason – easily one of the most inaccurate throws you will ever see from an NFL quarterback.

Cutler has shown an inability to escape pressure, he’s looked slow, he’s thrown up 50-50 balls, and he’s showing his age.

And it’s not as if Cutler has no one to throw to. With Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker – one of the better tandems in the league – joined by former New Orleans Saint Kenny Stills, the options are endless for throws over the middle, down the field, or any type of scheme that Adam Gase will want to throw at an opposing defense.

Last season, Kenny Stills led the Dolphins with 9 catches on passes of 20 or more yards.

Catching these 9 balls on only 19 targets, Stills ended up with 380 yards on these throws and a total of 8 touchdowns. And in the team’s first game against the Chargers, Stills backed up his reputation as a deep threat with a deep crossing route where he burned Chargers’ linebacker Jatavis Brown for a 29-yard touchdown catch.

But even with a talented receiving corps, the Dolphins can’t move the ball on offense.

Last week, against the New York Jets (not exactly a world-beating defense), the Dolphins managed only 6 points in the game against their division rival, on a touchdown that came with less than 10 seconds left on the game clock.

By the time the game was into garbage time, coming up on the end of the third quarter, the Dolphins had 47 yards of offense, and the Jets were ahead by around 10 minutes in time of possession.

And the reason for this difference between the Dolphins’ Week 1 win and their Week 2 shellacking is obvious – in Week 1, running back Jay Ajayi had 30 carries; in Week 2, he had 11 carries. The Dolphins’ offense is predicated on the run, and when they’re not running the ball, they’re not executing their offense.

Of course, it’s a bit of an oversimplification to say that it’s all about carries. But it really is.

Last season, the Dolphins were 7–1 when Jay Ajayi had more than 19 carries in the game; they were 0–2 when he had less than this. When Ajayi is getting the ball, it means that the Dolphins are even in time of possession, that they’re not playing from behind the chains, and they’re not furiously passing the ball to come back from a deficit. These are the kinds of games Miami needs to play to be successful.

Fortunately for the Dolphins, the Saints have given up the 3rd most points in the league thus far through three games, and their run defense is allowing 4.6 yards per carry (26th in the NFL).

The Saints may have one of the youngest and most inexperienced secondary units in the league. The main reason why New Orleans GM Mickey Loomis traded away the team’s leading receiver to the New England Patriots to gain an additional first-round draft pick this past offseason was to be able to spend draft capital on improving the defense, but this has made them exceptionally young.

That’s not to say that there haven’t been good signs. One of the rookies that were bartered for in this arrangement, cornerback Marshon Lattimore, has looked strong so far, surrendering only one pass to the former Saint Brandin Cooks when New Orleans played New England in Week 2. The 11th overall pick tacked on two pass breakups and finished with 7 total tackles on the day (2nd on the team).

Ultimately, though, the Saints’ biggest weakness on defense is also the Dolphins’ weakness on offense.

If Drew Brees and the Saints’ offense jump out to an early lead, then Jay Ajayi is likely to spend most of his day in pass protection instead of carrying the rock. And when the Dolphins abandon the run, Jay Cutler is going to start making the same mistakes he’s been making all season.

For a young secondary unit that’s just trying to get its footing, a battle against a jet-lagged Jay Cutler and a sluggish Miami offense could be just what the doctor ordered, and with momentum on their side, the unit could have a pick party on foreign soil.

Long story short, we don’t see Miami pushing the over.

Pick: Dolphins 13, Saints 31

FootballProp Bets

Now that we’ve established our prediction for the game – that the New Orleans Saints will be better equipped to handle the international travel, that their dynamic passing offense will be enough for them to cover, and that the Dolphins’ offensive game plan won’t allow them to push the over – let’s now see if we can’t profit off of this view of the game by investing in some prop bets.

Specifically, we’ve identified the following bets as potentially holding good value in this matchup:

  • Jay Ajayi to go under his posted total for rushing yards. We foresee the Saints jumping out to an early lead in this game, which means that the Dolphins will likely need to abandon the run game early on. Look for Ajayi to get few touches in his home city, and to go under for yards.
  • Drew Brees over in passing touchdowns. Brees threw for 3 TDs the last time he was in London, just under a decade ago, and we see the wily veteran taking the opportunity back on foreign soil to bring his team back to a .500 record going into their Week 4 bye. Look for Brees to go off.
  • Jay Cutler to go over for interceptions. Once the Saints jump out to an early lead, the Dolphins are likely to abandon the run game. This means that Jay Cutler is going to have to try and force balls into tight coverage, and we see this ending up being a pick party for New Orleans.

In addition to the live in-game prop bets above that, we’ll get to watch unfold on Sunday morning, we would also direct your attention to the following future bets:

  • The New Orleans Saints to make the playoffs. While the statistics for teams starting out 0–2 hold around 10%, this only serves to make the odds better. With the Panthers out of sorts, the Buccaneers short on offense, and an easy schedule, it’s very possible that the Saints make it.
  • The Miami Dolphins to go under 7.5 wins. There was a lot of optimism surrounding the addition of Jay Cutler into Adam Gase’s system, but at this point, Dolphins fans are starting to get a taste for why the Bears parted ways with him after half a decade. Look for Miami to keep on losing.
  • Michael Thomas to win receiving touchdowns. While Thomas only has one TD so far on the season, being tied for 7th in the league for receptions and being on a Drew Brees offense means that it’s only a matter of time before the TDs start coming in bunches for Michael Thomas.

Veterans of NFL gambling know that you can’t just watch games for the fun of it. In order to make informed decisions for future bets, it’s important to watch game film with an eye for potential future bets that could be made. Look for clues for the bets above, and thank us later!

FootballSummary: Best Bets

The NFL’s London Game Series began in 2007, and since that time we have seen an explosion in the popularity of America’s game in the United Kingdom. This week will feature the return of Dolphins’ British-American running back Jay Ajayi to his home city for the first time as a professional (as he was on injured reserve when the Dolphins played a game in London in 2015).

We foresee the Saints’ superior experience in London games propelling them to a victory in this game. We believe that their dynamic passing offense will allow them to jump out to an early lead, at which point the Dolphins will be forced to abandon the run. And with Jay Cutler forced to make throws to catch up, the mistakes will start to pile on, and the Saints will run away with the game.

In order to profit off of this view of the game, here are our best bets:

  • Saints -150 moneyline
  • Saints -3 against the spread (-105)
  • The total score to go under 49.5 (-110)
  • Jay Ajayi to go under his posted total for rushing yards
  • Drew Brees over in passing touchdowns
  • Jay Cutler to go over for interceptions

For some fans, the NFL’s international series just opens up another time slot on Sundays to watch football. But for some international fans abroad, the league’s efforts to open their arms to audiences across the pond is a dream come true.

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