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Week 9 Sunday Night Football Preview: Oakland Raiders vs. Miami Dolphins Betting Advice

By Peter Brooks in Sports
| November 2, 2017 12:00 am PDT
Raiders vs Dolphins

The NFL trade deadline has come and gone, with all moves required to be reported to the league by 4PM EST on Tuesday, October 31st.

And on Sunday Night Football for Week 9, we’ll see two teams – the Oakland Raiders and the Miami Dolphins – who have both done some wheeling and dealing in the days leading up to the Halloween deadline.

  • Who: Oakland Raiders (3–5) vs. Miami Dolphins (4–3)
  • Where: Hard Rock Stadium. Miami Gardens, Florida
  • When: Sunday, November 5, 2017. 8:30 PM (EST) on NBC
The breaking news for this game is that the Dolphins

have traded running back Jay Ajayi to the Eagles.

In an unexpected move that has taken the entire league by surprise, Miami has officially sent away one of its best offensive players to the team with the best record in the NFL in exchange for a fourth-round pick in the upcoming 2018 NFL Draft.

Immediate reactions have raged on social media, with some claiming this to be one of the most boneheaded moves in recent league history, and others claiming it to be inspired.

Here are the facts: 23-year old Jay Ajayi was drafted in the 5th round of the 2015 NFL Draft, falling deeper in the draft than his talent merited because of concerns about longevity, due to lingering knee problems.

After a lackluster rookie season, in which Ajayi received only 49 carries in 9 games (to Lamar Miller’s 194 carries in 16 starts), Ajayi was one of the obvious breakout stories of last season, amassing 1272 yards on 260 carries (for an average of 4.9 yards per carry), scoring 8 touchdowns, and notching three games of 200+ rushing yards.

In the offseason preceding the 2017/18 offseason, it seemed that Jay Ajayi would be the bulk of the Dolphins’ offense. Now, 8 weeks into the season, he’s on the Eagles.

There are a lot of questions regarding what happened in Miami to cause the Dolphins to want to part ways with Ajayi. Everyone is asking a version of the same exact question:

Why? How is this a good idea?

The nearest that we can divine, the following factors all combined together to influence the decision:

  • Head coach Adam Gase wanted to send a message. After the Dolphins were shut out for the second time this season last week on Thursday Night Football, Gase called out his team (ranked last in the league in scoring), saying that the effort was there and that “it starts with our best players.”
  • Gase and offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen felt hamstrung. A year ago, in the midst of a 1–4 start, Jay Ajayi went into Adam Gase’s office and basically demanded that the team run a certain set of plays – mostly outside runs. It worked last year, but this year Ajayi refuses to change his tune.
  • The whole Dolphins run game had to be reset. In a season that has featured terrible offensive line play as well as the resignation of the offensive line coach, Adam Gase evidently felt that the 31st-ranked rushing offense (in terms of yards per carry) needed to be completely blown up, and reset from square one.
  • Jay Ajayi struggled with maturity. Last season, Ajayi was suspended after throwing a fit because he hadn’t been named the starter. When things were good, naturally there wasn’t much of an issue. But now this season, when things went south, Ajayi ranted on the sideline, and moped to the media.

While of course we’ll never truly know what went on inside of Adam Gase’s mind as the Dolphins made the decision to trade Jay Ajayi, we believe that these four factors contributed to the decision. Either way, the 23-year old back is now on the 7–1 Philadelphia Eagles, and the Dolphins are back on Sunday Night Football to figure out what comes next.

Meanwhile, the Oakland Raiders also made a personnel move this past October – albeit a much less high-profile move – to pick up 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman.

When a team in the midst of its rebuilding process cuts a player, it could be for any number of reasons, and so it’s no surprise that the 49ers parted ways with the 29-year old three-time Pro Bowler. The bigger question was why the Raiders picked him up.

While it’s true that Oakland was in dire need of personnel in the defensive front seven, they were also in dire need of quick linebackers who could play in coverage, and Bowman does not fit that profile.

But whatever the logic, the fact of the matter is that after only three days with the team, Bowman had picked up the defensive scheme well enough to wear the green communication dot and act as signal-caller for their Week 7 win over the Kansas City Chiefs, and the following week against the Buffalo Bills, Bowman played all 69 defensive snaps.

In this way, it’s clear that the two teams we’ll see

on Sunday Night Football are trying to improve.

Whether it be the surprise trade of one of your best players in order to light a fire under the worst scoring offense in the league, or the questionable acquisition of a released linebacker to bulk up a defense in dire need of some leadership, the struggling Dolphins and the struggling Raiders will both be desperate to establish an identity on Sunday Night, and to keep their playoff hopes alive.

And we’ve got you covered with all the information you need in order to make informed gambling decisions about the following wagers:

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

There’s nothing that makes for an entertaining game like desperation, and if the trade of Jay Ajayi and the acquisition of NaVorro Bowman are any indication, these two teams are plenty desperate. It should be a dogfight on this Week 9 edition of Sunday Night Football.

Raiders vs. Dolphins Betting

Moneyline

  • Raiders -160
  • Dolphins +140

When picking games straight-up for moneyline odds, our philosophy involves taking a look at the two teams holistically, in order to assign a mental advantage to one team or the other.

In our experience, whichever team is able to maintain their mental toughness for the entire 60-minute contest generally ends up winning the game.

On the other hand, when a team loses focus and allows the momentum to swing to the other side, mistakes start to pile up, like dropped balls, blown coverages, penalties, and a whole host of others, and the game swings out of control and ends up as a loss.

The first place we generally look to find a mental advantage

is which team is playing at home.

The Dolphins are not a team with a reputation for having a strong home field advantage. In fact, none of the Florida teams are well-known for having a strong home field advantage. Some of this has to do with the actual play on the field from these three teams.

But some of it also has to do with the pace and the people of Florida who form their three fan bases, distinctly different from the rest of the nation.

Either way, with the Dolphins not generally known for having a strong home field advantage and particularly struggling in recent weeks, we don’t foresee this impacting the game.

Meanwhile, on the side of the Raiders, there’s an argument to be made that the team might be less distracted on the road vs. at home right now. Before last week’s game against the Bills, the Raiders had a stretch of three consecutive home games and lost two of them, and even though the California wildfires aren’t really in the news any longer, the aftermath still impacts the players and the home fans.

Much more important than home field advantage is which team can find an identity.

Even in the context of a season that has been a great disappointment overall, the Oakland Raiders had an exceptionally bad game last week on the road against the Buffalo Bills.

The Raiders were -4 in the turnover ratio against the ball-hawking Bills defense: Their four giveaways gave the Bills a defensive score near the end of the first half that helped blow the game open, and a total of 13 points off turnovers altogether.

This performance was made all the more disappointing by the fact that the week before, they won a thriller against the Chiefs turning the ball over 0 times.

On Sunday Night Football this weekend, the Raiders have to decide

which team they’re going to be.

After last week’s loss, Raiders fans have to be feeling that their team has a dual personality. On the one hand, there’s the team that won 12 games last year, and which made a brief appearance in a thrilling, gutsy win over their division rival on Thursday Night Football in Week 7.

The team where Amari Cooper has 200+ yards, Derek Carr throws for 3 TDs, and the team hangs around and wins in clutch moments.

But on the other hand, there’s the team that showed up the following week against the Bills, with a lackluster passing offense, numerous mental errors from the offensive players, and a running game and a pass rush that are inexplicably unable to perform on the field despite looking great on paper.

We have to believe that the Oakland Raiders will bounce back in this last game before their bye week, because we have to believe that last week’s game was a fluke.

After all, Marshawn Lynch was suspended for this game against the Bills, and even though he hasn’t had the season that everyone expected, he’s still an important member of the team’s preparation during the week and their game plan on the fields.

And what’s more, it was raining all day last week in Buffalo, which undoubtedly impacted the number of turnovers that the Raiders committed on offense.

We think the Raiders’ loss to the Bills was a fluke, and we like them to bounce back. The Dolphins, on the other hand, don’t have nearly as much reason to bounce back.

A certain amount of adversity galvanizes a team, and makes them perform better. But once you get beyond that point, then the adversity can crush a team’s spirit and ability to play together.

The Miami Dolphins have a history going back several years of having locker room issues, of quitting on their coach, of putting in an inconsistent effort, of turning on each other, and now of putting up with downright scandalous behavior from their offensive line room. The trade of Jay Ajayi only confirms the fact that Adam Gase’s locker room is significantly fractured.

Even if the Ajayi trade galvanizes the team, there are too many holes

than can be patched in a week.

The offensive line is playing terrible right now in Miami (the only real reason why a team can average 3.2 yards per attempt over 7 games), and their quarterback situation is an absolute mess. Whether we see the injured Jay Cutler or the inept Matt Moore (or both), we don’t have any confidence in the Dolphins.

Meanwhile, in terms of mental advantage, you always take the team who believes in their head coach over the team who doesn’t. We think the ripples of the Ajayi trade will weaken the mental preparation and team unity of every single unit of this Miami team, and we think they get outplayed by Oakland.

Pick: Raiders to win

Spread

  • Raiders -3 (-115)
  • Dolphins +3 (-105)

Now that we’ve established our pick for the Oakland Raiders to beat the Miami Dolphins in Miami, primarily because we believe the surprise trade of Jay Ajayi will further disrupt the Dolphins’ already-fractured locker room, it’s now time for us to turn our attention to the question of whether we believe that the Raiders will win by more than three points.

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

In our experience, when a team is both able to stay mentally tough enough to win, and also matches up well enough on offense to score a healthy number of points, they will generally both win straight-up and win against the spread. On the other hand, if the losing team’s defense can generate stops, they will usually be able to stay in the game enough to pull off the backdoor cover.

In this game, the matchup to watch for the ATS bet is

the Raiders’ offense vs. the Dolphins’ defense.

As we prefaced in the section above, even in a season as full of surprises as the 2017/18 season has been, the offense for the Oakland Raiders has been one of the most perplexing things by far.

Coming out of a 2016/17 season where the Raiders averaged 26.0 points per game, where Derek Carr threw for nearly 4,000 yards and 28 touchdowns, and where both Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree ended up above 1,000 receiving yards, the entire league waited with baited breath to see how much higher the team could climb in 2017/18.

In addition, the offseason acquisition of hometown hero Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch, who came out of retirement to play for Oakland, seemed to make the Raiders downright unstoppable on paper.

In this context, the performance thus far in 2017/18 has been downright disappointing, particularly for the fans. Thus far through 8 games the Raiders are scoring 21.1 points per game (19th in the league), have gained the 20th-most yards, and are ranked 15th in the league in average yards per play.

Things got particularly bad during a four-game losing streak from Week 3 to Week 6, with two road games against the Redskins and Broncos followed by two home games against the Ravens and Chargers. In these four games, (partly because of the injury to Derek Carr), the Raiders averaged 13.3 points, 225.3 yards of total offense, and only 12 first downs, ending up -4 in the turnover ratio.

The lone bright spot in recent weeks for the Raiders was a game against the Kansas City Chiefs at home in Week 7, in which their offense finally came back online.

As we mentioned in the section above, this game against the Chiefs finally featured a productive passing offense that resembled what the Raiders had last season. The team had 32 first downs after combining for 33 the previous two weeks; they gained 505 yards of total offense after combining for 529 the previous two weeks; and they turned the ball over 0 times after losing 3 the previous two weeks.

Even still, it has to be noted that despite the incredible increase in offensive production against the Chiefs, with 7 seconds left in the game the team had a 23.1% chance of winning.

We won’t go into the controversy surrounding the untimed downs after the scoreboard hit triple zeroes in the Chiefs game. Instead, we’ll merely content ourselves with saying that a miraculous comeback in the final seconds of a game is not the way a team wants to win, particularly if this is the team’s only win in a span of six games.

And unfortunately for the Raiders, the Dolphins don’t provide

such an easy test as you might think.

It’s important to point out that the Miami Dolphins do not have a bad defense, despite what the statistics may say. The team has been significantly impacted by the fact that their offense is scoring the fewest points in the league, which prevents the team from playing truly complementary football and from playing a complete game.

For example:

The Dolphins have given up only the 8th most rushing yards and the 11th-most passing yards in the league, despite fielding the 10th-most rushing attempts and the 3rd-most passing attempts.

Generally speaking, when teams have played the Dolphins this season they’ve been ahead on the scoreboard for much of the game, which has enabled them to employ conservative game plans. For this reason, the Dolphins have been unable to get home as much as they would like in pass rush (giving them the 10th-fewest sacks in the league) and thus turnovers have been difficult to come by (28th in the league).

There have certainly been rough moments for the Dolphins’ defense, including getting torched for 40 points by the Ravens last week on Thursday Night Football.

But on the other hand, there have also been moments when the Dolphins’ defense has provided a stiff test. For example, while it’s true that the Atlanta Falcons have been struggling mightily on offense this season, coming off of the bye week – at home – Atlanta was stonewalled by the Dolphins’ D in the second half, giving Miami’s offense a chance to come back and win the game.

In this game, we believe that the Dolphins’ defense and

the Raiders’ offense are pretty evenly matched.

Ultimately, we like Miami to come out with a fire under its butt after getting beaten so badly on national television last week against the Baltimore Ravens. The Raiders have had plenty of opportunities to put their vulnerable areas on tape, and the Dolphins should be able to exploit these weaknesses.

Even though it will be easy for many members of the gambling public to overreact after the horrible Ravens game, we would caution gamblers to remember how vulnerable the Raiders’ offense is. We foresee a very scrappy fight between two down-on-their-luck teams, and we think the game ends up very close to the line, if not a push.

Pick: Raiders to win by less than 3

Total Score

  • Over 44 (-110)
  • Under 44 (-110)

Now that we’ve established our moneyline pick (that the Raiders win because of the fractured identity of Miami) and our pick against the spread (that the Dolphins cover because of the weak offense of Oakland), let’s now turn our attention to the question of whether the game will be generally high- or low-scoring.

When 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 the winning team’s defense is able to generate stops, they are often able to control the game enough to keep the game close, and keep the total score from going over. On the other hand, when the losing team’s offense matches up well, they will often be able to score enough points to turn the game into a shootout that pushes the total score over.

In this game, the matchup to watch for the total score bet

is Oakland’s defense vs. Miami’s offense.

Naturally, when most people think about the Jay Ajayi trade, their first response is to expect that the Dolphins’ offense will go from bad to worse, and that they will be completely unable to move the ball.

Now, on the one hand, it’s true that the Ajayi trade changes the complexion of Miami’s offense completely.

After all, during the offseason Adam Gase went on record saying that he intended to run the ball 30 times a game with Jay Ajayi – and that was before Ryan Tannehill went down. Clearly, the offensive plan has been evolving steadily throughout the course of the season.

But even though Ajayi is now a member of the Philadelphia Eagles, we don’t think this means that the Dolphins will be unable to move the ball on Sunday night.

First of all, it’s important to remember that the NFL is a “what have you done for me lately” league. With the possible exception of quarterbacks (purely because of their scarcity), if a player stops producing at a high level, they’re liable to leave town at any moment.

In the case of Ajayi, a brief look at his season stats reveals that his production was a far cry from last season:

  • Week 2: @Chargers, 28 carries for 122 yards, 4.36 yards per carry, 0 touchdowns
  • Week 3: @Jets, 11 carries for 16 yards, 1.45 yards per carry, 0 touchdowns
  • Week 4: Saints, 12 carries for 46 yards, 3.83 yards per carry, 0 touchdowns
  • Week 5: Titans, 25 carries for 77 yards, 3.08 yards per carry, 0 touchdowns
  • Week 6: @Falcons, 26 carries for 130 yards, 5.00 yards per carry, 0 touchdowns
  • Week 7: Jets, 23 carries for 51 yards, 2.22 yards per carry, 0 touchdowns
  • Week 8: @Ravens, 13 carries for 23 yards, 1.77 yards per carry, 0 touchdowns

Now, naturally, when you look at the numbers in this way, it’s abundantly clear that all of the blame can’t be place on Ajayi’s shoulders. Football is a team game, and when you’re getting 11, 12, and 13 carries (in Weeks 3, 4, and 8) and managing less than 2.5 yards per carry, there’s something very wrong with your offensive line, and your offense in general.

And we know that this is the case.

But setting aside these games where Ajayi had limited opportunities and the offense was totally dysfunctional, we still see a lack of consistency from Ajayi.

In the four games this season where Jay Ajayi had at least 20 carries (enough to get lathered up and get into a rhythm), he averaged 4.36, 3.08, 5.00, and 2.22 yards per carry.

And looking back on those games, we note that the Dolphins were in each game and competing at a high level – not coincidentally, these are also the Dolphins’ four wins. But even still, Ajayi was all over the map.

In this way, we’re not convinced that trading Ajayi is

such a bad thing for the Dolphins’ run game.

Of course, we won’t know who fills the starting role until game time on Sunday. The Dolphins have two young backs – Damien Williams and Kenyan Drake – who have both received less than 20 carries on the season. Williams joined the team as an undrafted free agent in 2014, and Drake was taken in the 3rd round of the 2016 draft.

Given the fact that Kenyan Drake received the carries once Jay Ajayi was taken out of the blowout loss last week, we’re inclined to think that Drake gets the start against the Raiders.

Ultimately, we believe that the Dolphins will try out both players over the next few weeks, mixing them both into the offense, and will wait to make a decision on who takes over as starter until they have some film on the two young backs.

But regardless of which back takes over for Jay Ajayi, we like the Dolphins’ run game to bounce back, as the trade sent a message, and we like the matchup.

The Raiders’ defensive line has been downright nonexistent so far this season, inexplicably. Despite the fact that Khalil Mack, by all rights, should be one of the best pass rushers in the game, he has only 4.5 sacks so far this season. Last week against the Bills, Tyrod Taylor had all day to throw.

Not to mention that the Dolphins get Jay Cutler back in this game,

and have a solid receiving corps.

Currently, Jarvis Landry has the second-most receptions in the National Football League, with 50. Meanwhile, the Raiders’ secondary happens to be the only one in the National Football League that has not yet picked off a pass.

We’re not confident that the Raiders’ defense will be able to stop the Miami passing offense, and we believe that their run game will have new life in the absence of Jay Ajayi.

On national television, with both teams coming off of bad losses, both teams struggling to find their identities, and both teams already in desperation mode as they look towards the postseason, we don’t see any way that these two offenses don’t throw everything they have at each other.

We like the Miami Dolphins to be able to score points even after the immediate departure of Jay Ajayi, and we like the total score to go over.

Pick: Dolphins 24, Raiders 27

Prop Bets

Now that we’ve established our overall prediction for the game – that the Dolphins lose this home game because of the shock waves caused by the Jay Ajayi trade, but that their defense keep them in it against the struggling Raiders’ offense and their offense bounce back to keep the game close – let’s now see if we can’t profit off of this view of the game by investing in some prop bets.

Specifically, we believe the following props will hold value in this game:

  • The Dolphins to go over their posted total for rushing yards. We realize that this sounds crazy, but when a team gets sent such a clear message that their run game is an issue, they tend to respond, and the 22nd-ranked rush defense is a good place to start. Also, the line will be low.
  • Amari Cooper to go over his posted total for receiving yards. Cooper came out of hiding two weeks ago against the Chiefs, and demonstrated what he is capable of when given opportunities. We like Cooper’s matchup against Miami’s cornerbacks, and see him going over.
  • Total sacks in the game to go under. Neither of these teams has been able to generate much pass rush at all this season, with Miami’s leader (Cameron Wake) having 6, and Oakland’s leader (Khalil Mack) having 4.5. We think that there will be a lot of passing in this game, and few sacks.

In addition to the prop bets above that we will be able to watch unfold live in this game, we would also direct your attention to the following future bets, which we believe will also hold value:

  • The Oakland Raiders to go under their win total. The Raiders’ win total over/under line started this offseason at 10 wins, which is 6 losses. They already have 5 losses, and still play the Pats, Broncos, Giants, Chiefs, Cowboys, Eagles, and Chargers. There’s definitely at least 1 loss in there.
  • The Miami Dolphins to go under their win total. Despite the fact that the Dolphins’ win total opened at 7.5 and they already have four wins, they finish out the year with the Panthers, Bucs, Patriots, Broncos, Patriots, Bills, Chiefs, and Bills. We’re hard-pressed to find 4 wins in there.
  • The Oakland Raiders to miss the playoffs. Hypothetically, the Raiders could go under their win total of 10 wins (which seems absurdly high) and still make the playoffs with a 9–7 Wild Card bid. But we don’t think they get up past .500, so there’s value in Oakland to miss the playoffs.

Veteran gamblers know that it’s not enough simply to watch the games and see whether your individual bets pay out.

In order to take your gambling to the next level, keep your eyes peeled while you watch this game for any future bets you might want to make down the line, and thank us later.

Summary: Best Bets

The trade deadline has come and gone, and no team made a bigger statement than the Miami Dolphins. With the surprise trade of Jay Ajayi to the Philadelphia Eagles for a fourth-round pick, the Dolphins are committing to an entirely new offensive identity, and we’ll get a front row seat on Sunday Night Football to see how it all shakes out.

We believe that Miami’s volatile locker room is not well-equipped to handle this, and that there will be a lot of mental distractions for the team, distractions that will ultimately cost them the game.

However, given that they will also be playing for pride, to bounce back from their beating last week, we think the game will be much closer than people think.

Given how vulnerable the Raiders have looked throughout this season on offense, we like Miami’s stout D to hold them in check.

Remember that even though the Raiders had a good game against the Chiefs two weeks ago, that was their only win in the last 6 games. Meanwhile, we like the Dolphins’ offense to get a boost from the trade, and to keep the game competitive against a nonexistent Raiders’ pass rush.

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

  • Raiders -160 moneyline
  • Dolphins +3 against the spread (-105)
  • The total score to go over 44 (-110)
  • The Dolphins to go over their posted total for rushing yards
  • Amari Cooper to go over his posted total for receiving yards
  • Total sacks in the game to go under

If either of these two teams hope to make a push for the postseason, they need to start turning things around immediately, and it begins in this game on Sunday Night Football. We can’t wait!

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