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September 17, 2014

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Week 3 NFL picks against the spread for the Sun’s handicapping contest

Las Vegas buying Miami Dolphins’ hot start

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

Miami Dolphins’ Brent Grimes (21) reacts after intercepting a pass intended for Indianapolis Colts’ Reggie Wayne during the second half an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013, in Indianapolis.

Seven teams remain undefeated through two weeks of play in the NFL.

Sun's NFL betting game of week 3

What side would you take in the Atlanta at Miami game?
Falcons +2.5 — 65.1%
Dolphins -2.5 — 34.9%

This poll is closed, see Full Results »

Note: This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

The list whittles down to four when adding the qualifier of also being unbeaten against the spread. And only one of those teams has prevailed against both their opponents as underdogs in consecutive weeks — the Miami Dolphins.

The Fish’s reward? A noticeable increase in respect from oddsmakers and bettors alike in Las Vegas.

Miami lays 2.5 points at home Sunday against one of two teams that tied for the best record in the NFL a season ago, the Atlanta Falcons, in a game kicking off at 1:25 local time.

The line movement in the game alone shows the changing perception of the Dolphins in coach Joe Philbin’s second year at the helm. They were a 1-point underdog against the Falcons all summer in Cantor Gaming’s full-season lines.

The LVH Superbook adjusted to a pick’em a week ago in its look-ahead lines, after Miami beat Cleveland on the road as a 2-point underdog while Atlanta failed to cover plus-3.5 at New Orleans in Week 1.

Miami money pushed the spread all the way to a field goal at some shops by Wednesday.

And that’s not the only route gamblers have taken to jump on the back of the Dolphins. Their future odds to win the Super Bowl are down to 20-to-1 at the Superbook after opening at 50-to-1.

Action has likewise slashed Miami’s price to win the AFC East by more than 50 percent. After opening at 5-to-1 to prevail in a division that’s belonged to the New England Patriots in nine of the past 10 seasons, the Dolphins are down to plus-240 (risking $1 to win $2.40).

Bettors must love the balance Miami has shown through two games. It ranks ninth in both offense and defense according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA ratings, which puts it fifth overall.

Major offseason acquisitions have paid dividends thus far. Free agent signee Dannell Ellerbe, formerly of the Baltimore Ravens, ranks in the NFL’s top 10 for tackles with 20. Fellow imported linebacker Philip Wheeler, who came over from the Oakland Raiders, is close behind with 18 tackles.

New wide receiver Mike Wallace broke out with nine catches for 115 yards and a touchdown against the Colts last week.

The Falcons' most significant signing, meanwhile, left their Week 2 game with an injury. Running back Steven Jackson, a Las Vegas native, is out for as long as a month with a thigh problem.

He joins a slew of the Falcons' key offensive players — left tackle Sam Baker and wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones — on the injury report. They also lost linebacker Sean Weatherspoon for the foreseeable future with a sprained foot.

The betting market had begun to weigh in against Atlanta even before injuries. Its trip to Miami is the third straight game where the line has shifted in the other direction.

The Falcons went from minus-7 to minus-5.5 for their home game against the St. Louis Rams, which they narrowly covered in a 31-24 victory.

The Las Vegas Sun sports staff competing in the second annual handicapping contest aren’t buying the red flags on the Birds, though. All three took plus-2.5 with Atlanta.

Before anyone interprets that uniformity as a cue to run out and bet the Dolphins, consider the contest's history in such situations. The two times when all three prognosticators took the same side last year, the teams went 2-0.

Besides, labeling Miami as the favorite is far from the gift it was described above. The Dolphins are 11-17 against the spread when giving points since 2007. They’re additionally only 15-30 at Sun Life Stadium in the span.

Atlanta is a profitable 27-22 on the road, but 23-24 as an underdog.

Check below for all of the picks from this week’s handicapping contest. Games are listed in order of kickoff time.

 

Ray Brewer

Record: 6-5-1 (4-2 last week)

Cowboys minus-4 vs. Rams

Falcons plus-2.5 at Dolphins

Chargers plus-3.5 at Titans

Jets minus-2.5 vs. Bills

Buccaneers vs. Patriots over 44.5

Steelers plus-2.5 vs. Bears

 

Case Keefer (2012 champion)

Record: 6-6 (4-2 last week)

Browns plus-6.5 at Vikings

Rams plus-4 at Cowboys

Cardinals plus-7.5 at Saints

Falcons plus-2.5 at Dolphins

Ravens plus-2.5 vs. Texans

49ers minus-10 vs. Colts

 

Taylor Bern

Record: 5-7 (2-4 last week)

Patriots minus-7 vs. Buccaneers

Cowboys minus-4 vs. Rams

Lions plus-2 at Redskins

Giants plus-1 at Panthers

Falcons plus-2.5 at Dolphins

Jaguars plus-19.5 at Seahawks

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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