The Miami Dolphins travel to Ohio to take on the Cincinnati Bengals in the pick of this week’s NFL fixtures. Looking for value in the NFL Week 5 odds? Read on to inform your NFL Week 5 predictions.
The season so far
Following week four of the 2018 NFL season, most of the teams will have played a quarter of their regular season schedule and only the Chiefs and the Rams remain undefeated, while the Cardinals are the only team still searching for their first victory.
Both the randomness inherent in a short season and the difficulty in relating previous season’s results to underlying repeatable talent can be demonstrated by the current divisional standings.
The Miami Dolphins and the Cincinnati Bengals sit atop of the AFC East and North, respectively with a 3-1 record, despite being relatively unconsidered title contenders prior to the start of the campaign.
The Dolphins travel to the Bengals on Sunday.
Cincinnati Bengals statistics
The current divisional odds rank the Bengals just behind the Ravens in the AFC North, following the Steelers slow start and finally a resurgence from last year’s winless Browns.
The bookmakers are less optimistic about the chances of the Dolphins holding off the expected challenge of perpetual post season participants and AFC East rivals, the New England Patriots, who easily overcame the Dolphins in week four.
The Miami Dolphins 6-10 season from 2017 was no more than their performance deserved. Their points record was the equivalent of just five Pythagorean wins and they won three more narrow victories than they had losses.
A turnover differential of -14 was equal third worst in the regular season and that might expect to be less extreme in 2018.
Offensively, their passing efficiency was amongst the worst in the league. They threw for just 89% of the yards per attempt given up on average by their 13 opponents, but there were mitigating circumstances.
Intended starting quarterback, Ryan Tannehill was placed on injured reserve for the season prior to week one and the Dolphins had to hand the passing duties over to the recently retired Jay Cutler for the entire year.
Tannehill had a typically difficult rookie season in 2012, but progressed enough to make the top half of starting quarterbacks by 2014.
However, his rate of improvement then stalled and even regressed and he again fell back into the pack. Although it is likely that he would have performed at least as well as Cutler did in 2017.
The running game did nothing to help the offensive cause in Tannehill’s absence, averaging three tenths of a yard per carry shorter than the average conceded by the defences they faced.
Overall they struggled to score points, scoring nearly four points fewer per game than their rivals allowed, on average.
Miami Dolphins Statistics
The Dolphins were statistically and average defence in terms of yards allowed per pass attempt or carry, but this didn’t show itself on the scoreboard and they conceded 10% more points than expected.
The start to 2018 has been more encouraging, particularly from the passing game that is returning to the peak levels of Tannehill’s career. The ground game is still a disappointment and points remain harder to come by than might be the case given their improved passing performance.
Cincinnati were a post season ever present under current quarterback, Andy Dalton from 2011 to 2015, but a fractured thumb on his throwing hand eliminated him from their 2015 post season campaign and the Bengals have not threatened a repeat since.
Tannehill had a typically difficult rookie season in 2012, but progressed enough to make the top half of starting quarterbacks by 2014
Dalton left the left the field in 2015, week 14 verses Pittsburgh as a top five quarterback, but fell just outside the top ten in 2016 and further still, outside the top 20 in 2017.
Offensively they mirrored Miami in 2017, throwing with well below average efficiency, poorly backed up by an equally inefficient ground game, resulting in below average scoring rates compared to the defences they faced.
The Bengals were slightly better defensively than Miami in 2017, primarily due to a slightly above par passing defence, but overall the two current divisional leaders were mired in the lower third of NFL sides in 2017.
Where is the value?
The two teams remain closely matched in 2018 on the defensive side of the ball.
Both have been marginally below par against the pass and both allow slightly more points per game compared to the average offensive output of the sides they have faced to date.
It is offensively in 2018 that the Bengals appear superior, although we do only have four games worth of evidence, matched with Dalton’s pre-injury history of excellence.
Dalton is throwing for eight tenths of a yard more per attempt than the opposing defences have allowed in 2018 and that’s propelled him back towards the top five slot he last occupied in 2015.
That improvement has fed through onto the scoreboard and Cincinnati is scoring over a touchdown more per game than their opponents have allowed in 2018.
If we take 2018’s statistics at face value, Cincinnati would be favoured by 13 points in a game dominated by both aerial offences with around 50 total points.
Whereas last season’s editions of the sides, with a slight uptick to replace Cutler with Tannehill, would favour the Bengals by just four points and just 42 total points.
At an early stage of the season it is sensible to weight these two conclusions and this approach suggests that Cincinnati is the home favourite by a touchdown, with the total points in the region of 46.
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