Some people call it riding the hot hand. Others say it’s jumping on the bandwagon. Either way, the Miami Dolphins are yesterday’s news while the Chicago Bears trend viral like Captain Trips. The two teams meet Sunday at whatever they’re calling the former Joe Robbie Stadium this week.
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Sixty per cent of the betting public back da Bears following their spectacular 48-10 route of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Soldier Field. Quarterback Mitch Trubisky, whose surname still almost rhymes with ‘who is he?’ threw for 354 yards and six touchdowns while completing 19/26 passes. He also ran for another 53 yards, accounting for 92.5% of Chicago’s offensive output. Head coach and former arena football QB Matt Nagy’s offensive scheme receives the most credit for the Monsters of the Midway’s revival. It seems apropos with Michael Myers return to the screen at month’s end in the Hallowe’en reboot.
Meanwhile, the Dolphins are experiencing Donald Trump-like support numbers after two consecutive losses. Their uninspiring trip to Foxborough, where the Patriots handed them their helmets, was unsucceeded by a stunning capitulation in Cincinnati despite leading by 14 at the half. Once again, Miami are pretenders in most fans’ eyes.
The experts aren’t so convinced. They’re leaning slightly towards Adam Gase’s squad to win this one at home, where they’re undefeated on the young season, despite the line holding steadily at +3.5 for the past two days. Nor can handicappers make up their minds regarding the total [41.5], which at least tells you they don’t expect Trubisky and his receivers to run riot on the road against the stellar Miami secondary.
That doesn’t mean the Bears won’t be a handful for the Dolphins defence. Nagy’s system is a fluid attack designed to exploit the soft spots in a defence on a play-by-play basis, using pre-snap motion to force opponents into tipping their hand. If a team is loading up against the run, they’ll go wide or over the top. If it’s spread, they’ll exploit the gaps.
Gase isn’t overmatched as a strategist. You don’t jump out to big half-time leads as the Dolphins did against Cincinnati or roar back from behind like they did against the Raiders without decent schemes. The problems are consistent execution and game management. Ryan Tannehill shouldn’t be throwing interceptions with a big lead. He should barely be throwing at all. Pound the ball; eat the clock.
Historically, the teams tend to trade wins. The Bears last won back-to-back against Miami in 1994 and ’97. The Dolphins haven’t done it since 1979 and ’85, the second game being the one where Dan Marino ended Mike Ditka’s run at a perfect season. The Dolphins came away 27-14 winners in 2014’s last meeting between the pair.
More recently, Miami are 1-4 against the spread versus winning teams while Chicago’s taken the under in their last four after winning by at least two touchdowns. The Dolphins have also gone under in their last four against winning teams. You have to pit those trends against the team’s mood after two embarrassing defeats away from home and their determination to keep their season above water.
Free Pick: Miami +3.5
2018-19 Football Betting Predictions
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Martin Palazzotto is a freelance writer and author of strange bOUnce, a collection of sport fiction.