NFL 2018 Season - Week 14
 

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Learning Curve
by Dennis Ranahan

At the luncheon I was at today I did a lot more listening than talking.

This time of the year I get to sit in on meetings with people that really know football. Some of the conversation today was about the recent 6-3 Supreme Court decision, the vote that struck down a 1992 law that prevented any state to offer single game sports wagering except Nevada.

Thirty-two states will have legal gambling in ten years, a handful already have legislation in the pipeline to allow gambling in their state. But, as Bard van Pelt so brilliantly articulated on ESPN the night of the court’s decision, “Those that want to bet are already doing it with offshore accounts or through a guy they know.”

While at our gathering today what effect expanded legal gambling will have on the NFL was briefly discussed, the meat of this lunchtime conversation was focused on the prospects of the 32 National Football League teams. It is at meetings like this that people in the know are revealing the direction of the teams based on rosters and recent draft choices that have not yet been reflected in the standings.

The prospects of the Los Angeles Chargers seem bright by most accounts, and a couple of the participants cast doubts on the direction of the highly thought of Pittsburgh Steelers. It seemed unanimous at the table that the Arizona Cardinals were headed into a disappointing season.

But, one person at the end of the table got my full attention when he started talking about the four teams in the American Football Conference East Division.

This is a division that the New England Patriots have had the best or as good of a record as anyone since 2003. The only year they didn’t win the AFC East was 2008, the season Tom Brady missed with an injury and a campaign in which they had as good of a record as the Miami Dolphins, 11-5, but lost the division title and playoff berth on a tiebreaker.

No one in our conversation thinks the New York Jets are in for an up year, and the Buffalo Bills are hit and miss. But, amplified by the guy at the end of the table, this year the Miami Dolphins offer great value. "They are 80 to 1 to win the Super Bowl, and they have all the pieces that could come to fruition this year to beat those odds," he gushed before launching into more details about their team.

It begins with Head Coach Adam Gase, who has the full support of ownership and a tightening relationship with his players and staff. On the field, Miami has quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who is being paid like a franchise quarterback and might be on the verge of playing like one this year.

Tannehill missed the entire 2017 season after suffering a preseason injury, and the one year rest for his body and a season to study the game while veteran Jay Cutler ran the offense, should serve him well. Tannehill has promise as an NFL quarterback, but his learning curve has been steep given he played more wide receiver than quarterback in college. Still, Tannehill is very bright and all factors come together both physically and motivationally to boost his performance this year.

Why I like getting information on team direction based on personnel is because that is not where I focus my attention. But, if someone who knows talent sees a team like the Miami Dolphins on the cusp of something special, and I have indicators on season-to-season flowcharts and motivational factors that favor Miami in areas he’s not paying attention too, then we’ve got a partnership with promise.

I like what he said about the Dolphins on both sides of the ball, and I love the idea that Tannehill is headed into his breakout season, but how about them Patriots?

Maybe this is the year they lose their perch atop the AFC East, and the season the Miami Dolphins capture the kind of magic that carried the Philadelphia Eagles to the Super Bowl Championship last season.