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A look at NFL handicapping with the PFW editor lobbying to become Las Vegas bureau chief.

When it comes to the Dolphins, skepticism reigns

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Recent posts by Mike Wilkening

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Posted July 29, 2009 @ 11:52 p.m.
Updated Oct. 06, 2010 @ 7:27 p.m.
By Mike Wilkening

I hope our recent look at the lines the Lucky's sportsbooks in Nevada set for all 256 regular-season games opened a window into the oddsmaking process. What's more, if you haven't seen our team-by-team pointspread charts, check them out here .

Before I put this story to rest, I took one more look at the data, taking note of the number of times each club is slated to be a pointspread favorite this season.

Let's start with the AFC clubs. The number to the right of the team name indicates how often they are a favorite. "PK" denotes one or more games is rated as even on the pointspread.

New England — 16

Pittsburgh — 15

Indianapolis — 12 (1 PK)

Tennessee — 12

San Diego — 12

Baltimore — 11

Houston — 8

Jacksonville — 6

Buffalo — 5 (3 PK)

N.Y. Jets — 5 (1 PK)

Miami — 4 (1 PK)

Cincinnati — 4

Cleveland — 4

Kansas City — 3 (1 PK)

Denver — 3

Oakland — 3

The Patriots are the favorite to win the Super Bowl throughout Las Vegas, so it's no surprise Lucky's posted them as a favorite in all 16 regular-season games. The Steelers, the reigning champions, are favored in every game save a trip to Baltimore, and they are just a one-point underdog. You can also understand the respect for the Colts, Titans and Chargers. And note that Lucky's believes the betting public will have a healthy respect for the Ravens, too.

But take a closer look at the number of times the defending AFC East champions are favored in 2009. No, this isn't a trick question; the Pats didn't win the title. No, Miami, which won 11 games last season, took the East crown.

The Dolphins' reward? Not a groundswell of respect, judging from Lucky's early lines. Miami is favored just four times.

So what does this say about the Dolphins? In my view, nothing bad. It's a product of a couple of factors.

For one thing, Miami's schedule is pretty tough. The Dolphins are underdogs in the following games: at Atlanta, vs. Indianapolis, at San Diego, at the N.Y. Jets, at New England, at Carolina, at Buffalo, vs. New England, at Jacksonville, at Tennessee, vs. Pittsburgh.

Making Miami the underdog in the bulk of those games is pretty reasonable, isn't it? Perhaps there's a case for favoring the Dolphins at the Jets and Jaguars. Also, their home game vs. the Saints is rated a pick 'em; maybe Miami could be a slight favorite and no one would think much of it.

But even then, the Dolphins would be underdogs in the majority of their games.

There's another factor clearly in play in these early lines: Lucky's is anticipating the betting public to be skeptical of Miami, a most unlikely division-title winner last season, until proven otherwise. In other words, the Dolphins won't get the same benefit of the doubt from the public as a team like New England, which has a proven track record of success throughout this decade.

The lines are a function of numerous factors, and I am not going to tell you I understand everything about the process. But the way we perceive teams is built into the numbers you see posted.

The good news for Dolphins' backers? At least at this juncture, they are underdogs far, far more often than you might have expected.

I'll be back Friday with a similar look at the NFC as well as a few very interesting findings.


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