How NFL teams react to adversity frequently tells the story of what their season will look like. Last year, the Vikings gave up first and fourth round draft picks for Sam Bradford following the loss of Teddy Bridgewater, and promptly went 8-8. Under similar circumstances, the Cowboys dealt with Tony Romo’s injury by handing the reigns to Dak Prescott, and the rookie guided Dallas to a 13-3 campaign.
The latest squad to be handed bad news is Miami with Ryan Tannehill. Interestingly, when Tannehill went down and the Fins signed Jay Cutler, their odds to win the AFC East barely moved.
Let’s take a closer look at Miami as they are currently built.
Do the Miami Dolphins Present Betting Value?
Tannehill vs. Cutler
The reason the Dolphins odds didn’t move when Tannehill went down and Cutler was signed was because Miami didn’t downgrade. Over his five year career, Tannehill has completed 62.7-percent of his throws, averaging seven yards an attempt with 106 touchdowns and 66 interceptions. During Cutler’s 11 years in the league, he’s hit on 61.9-percent of his throws for 7.23 yards per try with 208 scoring throws and 146 picks.
Both quarterbacks have played one year under the direction of current Fins head coach Adam Gase. Last year Tannehill hit on 67-percent of his passes with 19 TD’s and 12 interceptions. He also averaged 7.7 yards per attempt. Cutler connected on 64-percent of his throws in 2015 when Gase was in Chicago. He tossed 21 touchdowns but was picked off 11 times and averaged 7.6 yards an attempt. Tannehill’s quarterback rating last season was 93.5. In 2015 Cutler’s rating was 92.3.
Without losing any draft picks, or trusting a rookie or backup with a team that made the playoffs last year, the Dolphins brought in a new signal caller equivalent to the one they had. And a bonus: Cutler and Gase already have an established relationship.
Nobody has ever debated that the Patriots are stacked and deservedly huge favorites in the division. For most of the off-season the Dolphins have been the clear second choice followed by the Bills and Jets, who are regarded as one of the worst teams in the NFL.
Nothing has changed in the preseason with the Pats or Jets. However, Buffalo’s trades last week, dumping top wideout Sammy Watkins and number one corner Ronald Darby, made it very clear the Bills are looking towards 2018 and beyond. New Buffalo GM Brandon Beane has stockpiled selections in the next couple drafts. Since the Bills are not going to win the Super Bowl this year anyways, it’s probably sound strategy. That said, the Dolphins are now clearly better than two of their division rivals, and the chances of sweeping the Bills and Jets have gone up significantly.
Miami wasn’t very good at linebacker last season and that’s why they signed Lawrence Timmons and used their first two draft picks on the position. Both first rounder Charles Harris and second rounder Raekwon McMillan were slated to see a lot of action, that was until McMillan tore his ACL in the Fins first pre-season game.
The Dolphins simply don’t have depth at linebacker, and McMillan was going to start in the middle. This injury may be bigger than Tannehill because the Dolphins need to find help immediately or risk a gaping hole in the center of their defense.
If you liked the Dolphins before Tannehill’s injury, that view shouldn’t change. If you were concerned about the Fins defense prior to McMillan going down, there is now further reason for worry. There is no doubt that the AFC East is top heavy. New England is really good, but the Jets, and now Bills, feel like bottom feeders.
Miami went 8-2 in one score games last year but that is unlikely to be the case in 2017. That said, they can win four division games and have a slate early on that should put them in the playoff race. Miami was dramatically better in Gase’s first season, and betting them at even money to finish second in the division, or taking 5/4 that they win more than 7.5 games, are reasonable bets.