This Week’s Results: 4-6
All Time Results: 36-29, +6.4 Units
Washington Redskins -3.5 @ Miami Dolphins – 1 Unit
Unsurprisingly, the Patriots and thousands of their traveling fans blew the Washington Dead Skins out of their own building yesterday. Before dawn this morning the organization had unceremoniously dismissed Jay Gruden as their Head Coach. Between those two events, the line for this game moved from Washington by 6.5 to Washington by 3.5 over Miami. I think that adjustment is misguided and I like the favorite here.
If nothing else, firing your head coach puts everyone in the building on alert. It is understood, many more changes are on afoot. Everyone from the quarterback to the equipment manager wants to acquit themselves as well as possible. Very likely, their next employer will be watching on Sunday.
The look-ahead line for this game felt fairly accurate. The talent disparity between these teams is significant. Washington has been bad but Miami has been historically awful. They set a new scoring differential record every week and have a mindblowing -3 Net Yards Per Play. Especially considering the Dolphins have a weak Home Field Advantage even during the good times, the Skins laying a touchdown in Miami made sense.
Feels to me like we’re just getting 3 free points after this move. History says Washington will likely be no worse for the wear after getting rid of Gruden. Interim coaches since 2000 have a 38% winning percentage. That’s not good, but that’s 8 points higher than 30% winning percentage of those they replaced.
Since 2002, head coaches replacing fired coaches have gone 13-8 ATS in their first week, with a +1.9 ATS margin.
The trend has gotten stronger in their era of the sideline tablet, where information can more quickly be relayed. Since 2009, coaches replacing fired coaches midseason have gone 11-5 ATS with a +3.8 ATS margin.
Usually, sports betting wisdom says beware of the winless team coming off a bye. However, that implies that those winless teams will be extra motivated. The Dolphins may be extra motivated – to remain winless!
We saw how much an extra week of preparation aided the hapless Jets against the Eagles yesterday. These teams are in a whole new stratosphere of bad, and I don’t think talent-wise this Washington team is in that boat.
Unlike Washington, these Dolphins have been constructed to lose. Since trading away some of their best players in August, this team never once for a second looked like winning a game. Conversely, these Skins had two-score leads against the Cowboys and the Eagles in weeks 1-2. They are not without talent.
The Skins ROY candidate “Scary” Terry McLaurin is back in the fold after returning from injury. He himself might have more promise then the entire Miami offense combined.
I expect Case Keenum to be back from his foot injury this week, but even if he isn’t Colt Mccoy is a serviceable option.
New Skins Head Coach has filled in successfully for a departing Gruden before, leading a Jon-Gruden-assembled Raiders team to a Super Bowl appearance in 2002.
Washington by 14+ 260 -.25 Units
Dolphins by 14+ 700 -.1 Unit
When researching this subset, the most striking aspect of replacement coaches first game was the extremely high variance of the result. If we expand our pool to include games by replacement coaches that replaced coaches that resigned – Bobby Petrino style – there have been 27 games by first-time interim head coaches since 2000. In 15 of those 27 games, the final score landed 13 points or more away from the original spread.
There are some notable anecdotal examples. When Dan Campbell took the Dolphins after Joe Philbin was fired in 2015, he won his first game by 38 points. When Wade Phillips took over for a fired Dan Reeves in 2003, he was an 11 point underdog in his first game against the NY Giants. He beat them in New York by 20. Phillips again had the opportunity as an interim when he took over for a Gary Kubiak in 2013, but this time he failed to cover the spread by 16 points.
This high variance makes sense given the unusual nature of the game. Feels like one of two things can happen: The team can rally and make a statement. Once the game gets going and they get a lead, they get pumped. “Hell yeah, I know we weren’t this bad!”
Or it can go the other way. And as soon as the team gets down, they get deflated and uninterested. “Who cares this is a clown show, anyway”.
Wouldn’t be surprised to see either team have a “shocking” blowout win. Washington has by far the higher chance to make such a statement, given the talent on their roster as well as their current institutional priorities.
Note: There may be more enticing alternative spreads out there as we get closer to game day. Dolphins -6.5 and Washington -9.5 would be my preference.
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