There is a lot of extra curricular activity circling tonight’s Monday Night Football betting matchup between the Miami Dolphins and host Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Both team shave shed themselves of dead weight in Richie Incognito and Josh Freeman. Both teams have been under the microscope for chemistry issues and leadership problems, and neither have been satisfying the betting masses lately. So with all these distractions, how exactly are they supposed to focus on the game at hand?
Simple – they’re professionals. We saw it with Tampa last week as they visited the toughest venue in the NFL against one of the best teams in the conference. The Bucs finally lived up to their potential in a heart breaking 24-27 overtime defeat against the Seahawks. People like to assume that teams will ‘give up’ on a coach, and I am less and less inclined to believe that that’s the case when the players have so much money and pride hanging in the balance.
The Bucs are 1-5 SU and ATS in their last 6 games, and have been in hell for the entire season. Greg Schiano seemed like a great choice to be a head coach, but his stern ways didn’t sit well with this specific group of players. Still, there’s a lot of talent on this group. Mike Glennon looks better every week, and running back Mike James is a tough runner who hits gaps hard and has proven to be versatile. Vincent Jackson still provides a great weapon in the passing game for Monday Night Football betting enthusiasts to rely on, while the defense is far better than their 26.0 points allowed over the last 6 games suggests. Tampa also has a handful of early performances where they allowed just 17.5 points against over the first month of football. That was good enough for a top-10 scoring defensive ranking.
Beyond that, Tampa seems ready to move forward from their problems. Schiano likely won’t survive the season, but whatever he said to the team last weekend resonated. The players fought hard in a game that they could’ve just kicked back and lost as massive underdogs with nobody expecting them to put up a fight. That’s huge in this game. I wouldn’t say that the Bucs have been galvanized by all the drama, but they’re certainly coming off a promising performance against the Seahawks and that’s something you simply can’t ignore.
It helps gamblers that Tampa is also 4-0-1 ATS in their last 5 November games. Overall the betting trends are what they are because – let’s face it – the Bucs are still the only winless team in the league. They’re also a brutal 10-38-1 ATS when playing at home and just 0-4-2 ATS in their last 6 games when playing against the Monday Night Football betting line.
As for Miami, they are running in to a brick wall of issues as this game kicks off. They’ve had one of the most bizarre weeks any football team has ever endured. I’m not going to comment on the Richie Incognito situation because there’s simply not enough space, and that’s not why you’re here. But the most pertinent fallout from that situation is that both Incognito and Martin are out for this game. The offensive lineup can barely take care of itself. There’s no chance that they can protect Ryan Tannehill.
There is, however, the idea that Miami desperately needs a win. Brent Grimes was asked about the Incognito situation and responded with, “I’m so sick of answering questions about that s—“. That’s important too. The team may be distracted by everything that’s going on, but they could also respond when their team, fans and franchise need a win. The Dolphins are 5-2 ATS following a victory, and 5-2 ATS when playing on grass but they’re also 2-6 ATS when travelling and 0-4 ATS when playing in prime time.
The weaknesses of the Dolphins have also been glaringly apparent. After a promising 3-0 SU and ATS start to the season, Miami has fallen in to their own brand of limbo with a winless 0-4 SU and ATS stretch. They snapped that streak with an unexpected victory against the Bengals two Thursdays ago, and while they do have an extended week off heading in to this Monday Night Football betting battle, those ten days have been filled with more drama than your mama can shake a stick at.
Miami not only abandons the run too quickly, they also don’t have an effective passing game. As average as stud corner Darrelle Revis has been this season, he’s still an intellectual assassin on the field and he can shut down the only real danger that the Dolphins have by neutralizing speedster Mike Wallace for the majority of the game. Tannehill, who has been atrocious during their 1-4 SU and ATS run over the past 5 games, also hasn’t done enough to take a clear step forward and he may take a few steps back playing behind an offensive line that is in shambles right now.
Look at this game in a vacuum, and Tampa is clearly the better team. Miami has a terrific defense, but Tampa’s offensive line is at least healthy and they have diversity in their offensive portfolio that they can use to keep Cameron Wake and company on their heels for the most part. The home bound Bucs also have a stronger defense than all of their metrics suggest and they can play aggressive when they need to.
Outside of the vacuum, you see all the nonsense. But Tampa is farther removed from their distractions than Miami is and that counts for me. The Bucs at home with a soft handicap are a more encouraging play here for the simple reason that Tampa has learned how to carry their stench, and they are hungry for their first win. Miami lacks any type of leadership on the field and in the clubhouse, and when you have things that detract from your focus in that type of situation, it kills your ability to prepare for a big game. Tampa is the play on Monday Night Football betting tonight simply because they’re a more talented roster that has been carrying their dead weight all season. The new burdens that Miami is facing will only make things more difficult for them with the scorching spotlight of prime time shining down on them.
Monday Night Football Betting Free Pick – Tampa +2.5 (UNDER)