Miami Dolphins at Jacksonville Jaguars (-3): total 48
Through two weeks, both the Dolphins and Jaguars have not been pushovers for opposing teams. Coming into the year both teams were projected to finish near the bottom of their divisions. While they might end up there, these two teams are at least going to make opposing teams earn their wins, unlike the Jets who are not competitive at all.
The Dolphins are coming off a 10 point loss to a good New England Patriots team and a 3 point loss to a good Buffalo Bills team, both of which could make the playoffs. On the other side, the Jags have a 7 point win over the Colts and a 3 point loss to the Titans. Again, two playoff contenders that the Jags kept pace with. This makes for a very interesting and fun matchup on Thursday night despite these not being to major market teams.
Pace of play
In week 1, the Jags ran the ball 23 times, compared to only 20 passes by Minshew. This was a game they won by 7 points, but was still a back and forth affair. The Jags only ran 47 plays in week 1 compared to the Colts 69 plays.
On the flip side in week 2, a game in which they trailed the whole game, they ran the ball 27 times and threw 45 passes. They upped their play count in this game to 74, compared to the Titans 59. The Jags being behind throughout the game meant they needed to speed up their tempo. In one-score games so far this year, the Jags rank dead last in seconds per play. As long as the game is competitive, they are going to try to slow the game down. Even when trailing by 7+ points, they still sport the 24th slowest pace of play per Football Outsiders.
On the other hand, the Dolphins have ranked 17th in seconds per play in neutral situations and 14th when trailing by 7+ points. We can expect the Dolphins to play their same style of offense regardless of the score as they aren’t built to beat you through the ground game. Having a plethora of pass-catching weapons on offense, and Ryan Fitzpatrick who loves to sling the rock creates an offensive outlook that thrives through the air.
With the Jags being 3 point favorites and playing at home, if they get out front or the game just stays within one score, the Jags are going to do everything they can to slow the tempo of the game down. The reason this game is a 48 total is because of how inefficient these two defenses are. The pace of play concerns me for the total going over, but the defenses are bad enough that it could happen.
Jaguars offense vs Dolphins defense
James Robinson has been a bit of a revelation for the Jags’ rushing attack and was the main reason they were comfortable with letting Leonard Fournette go. As mentioned in the pace of play section, it seems the Jags will do everything they can to slow this game down as long as they are leading or within one score. They have run the ball 23 and 27 times in 2 games so far this year, and I don’t expect that trend to change on Thursday.
Per Football Outsiders, the Jags rank 10th in adjusted line yards on the offensive side of the ball while the Dolphins rank 25th on the defensive side of the ball. This is a great spot for James Robinson to get going. In week 1 the Patriots ran all over the Dolphins rushing 42 times for 217 yards and 3 TDs. Yes, most of that was Cam Newton, but run defense is still run defense when the quarterback runs are designed runs and not scrambles. In week 2 the Bills had similar success on less volume rushing for 111 yards on 23 carries. Again, I expect James Robinson to be the main focus of the offensive game plan this week.
The Dolphins are going to be without Byron Jones for this one as he has already been ruled out. This should open up the air attack some for the Jags. Jones only played four snaps in week 2, and that was part of the reason the Bills were able to move up and down the field with ease through the air. Xavien Howard was once labeled a top cornerback in the league in 2018. Since then though, Howard has actually been a cornerback to target. In only five games in 2019, he allowed 17 catches on 26 targets to go for 237 yards and 3 TDs for a 117 passer rating per Pro-Football-Reference. So far through two weeks this year, Howard has allowed 5 catches on 7 targets to go for 92 yards and a TD for a 153 passer rating. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Dolphins had Howard follow DJ Chark around the field, but with his recent performances, that isn’t an issue.
The other receiver who has had big games so far for the Jags is Keelan Cole and he gets a really juicy matchup in the slot against Nik Needham. In 2019 Needham allowed 43 receptions on 74 targets to go for 646 yards, 8 TDs and a 112 passer rating. Things have not started any better for him this year as he has allowed 6 catches on 7 targets to go for 93 yards and a 119 passer rating. Keelan Cole actually is 2nd on the team in air yard market share and leads the team in target share per Line Movement’s NFL Data Table Even though the Jags are going to try to slow the pace down, their offense should be able to be extremely efficient here leaning on Robinson, Chark and Cole.
Dolphins offense vs Jaguars defense
With the Dolphins defense being without Byron Jones, and already struggling in all facets of the game to begin the year, the Dolphins offense is likely going to have to put up a good chunk of points to keep up. Luckily for them, the Jags defense has been torched through the air after two weeks, and the Dolphins most skilled weapons are their pass catchers.
In week 2, the Bills used their top corner to shadow Preston Williams. If the Jags take this same approach, this means they will put their top cover corner CJ Henderson on Williams on Thursday night. Henderson, a rookie who was the 9th overall pick in this year’s draft, has been stellar in his first two games in the league. He has allowed 9 of 16 targets to be caught for 106 yards, a TD, and a 71 passer rating. PFF also has him graded as an 80 through two games, which is high praise for the rookie.
The other corners on the Jags have not been as promising and should allow DeVante Parker and Isaiah Ford to get loose, as well as tight end Mike Gesicki. Tre Herndon who starts at the outside corner opposite of Henderson was good in 2019 when he allowed a 69 passer rating when targeted, but has not been as good through 2 games this year allowing a 116 passer rating when targeted. This is the corner Parker should be matched up with for most of the game if Henderson follows Preston Williams around like other teams have done with their top corner.
Meanwhile, in the slot is another great matchup the Dolphins can exploit and that is Isaiah Ford against slot corner DJ Hayden. Hayden has a miserable defensive grade of 29 per PFF. His stats warrant the grade so far this year as he has allowed 10 completions on 11 targets for 105 yards, a TD and a 137 passer rating. Meanwhile, Ford has become a bit of a main target for Fitzpatrick as he ranks 2nd on the team in targets, behind only Gesicki with 12. Ford mainly has been used as a short distance option though, as his adot is only 7.
Mike Gesicki who has been playing a ton of snaps in the slot as well should also benefit from the lowly numbers the Jags have allowed to opposing slot receivers. Per PFF, of his 86 snaps played this year, 64 of them have been from the slot. Even if you look at tight ends, Gesicki fits the mold for a monster game here as the Jags have allowed a 4-84-2 line to Jonnu Smith and 5-69-0 to the multiple tight ends of the Indianapolis Colts. I am treating Gesicki more like a big slot receiver as he has lined up much more there than he has as an inline tight end. He is in a matchup good enough to have another big game as he did in week 2 where he caught 8 passes for 130 yards and a TD against a very good Buffalo Bills defense. Perper Line Movement’s NFL Data Table Mike Gesicki leads the team in air yard % on the Dolphins at 30%. He is followed by Williams at 29%, Parker at 20%, and Ford at 15%.
Despite Miami ranking 11th in adjusted line yards on offense, the Jags actually rank a respectable 7th in adjusted line yards on defense. We just saw the Jags bottle up Derrick Henry as well, so this should be a full pass attack for the Dolphins if they want to score as that is how their team is built to score, and the matchup warrants it.
As mentioned in the pace of play section, the defenses here are bad enough that the over could definitely hit in this game despite the . The Dolphins games so far have combined for 32 and 59 points. The Jags games so far have combined for 47 and 63 points. The four teams the Dolphins and Jags have played as well have been playoff caliber defenses. With a lack of defensive play here, I like the OVER 48 points scored.
As for the spread, I could see the Jags winning by a TD or more, as well as this game coming down to the final possession. I think I would stay away from the spread here as +3 feels spot on. My score prediction is 27-24 Jags.
Player prop bets
If the Dolphins are going to move the ball, it is going to be on the arm of Ryan Fitzpatrick. He has a good shot at clearing 300 yards here after throwing for 328 last week against a much better Bills defense. Sign me up for the OVER 267.5 passing yards by Fitzpatrick.
James Robinson has had two rough matchups so far and has rushed for 62 and 102 yards. With the adjusted line yards advantage skewed heavily in favor of the Jags offense when compared to the Miami defense, I think Robinson goes OVER his rushing yard prop of 67.5 yards.
I think Keelan Cole and Mike Gesicki end up leading each team in receiving when this game is all said and done based on individual matchups (and Chark dealing with some nagging injuries). I like for Cole to go OVER his receiving yard prop of 47.5. I also think Gesicki will go OVER his receiving yard prop of 49.5. His target and air yard market shares combined with the matchup are too juicy to pass up on. I also think the value of +150 for Mike Gesicki to score is too generous by the sportsbooks. He is the Dolphins’ red zone target leader with 4 through 2 games and the Jags just gave up 2 TDs to Jonnu Smith last week.
This is also a get right spot for DeVante Parker. I like the OVER 4.5 receptions for Parker here, and for the guy who caught 9 TDs last year, he is due to catch another one in a great matchup. The books are again being generous with him, letting you bet +190 for Parker to score.