Miami Dolphins @ Houston Texans (-7.5, 44.5)
Line: The spread and the total feel too high. Even with Osweiler, I don’t think this current Texans team should lay 7.5 points in this spot. Not sold on either side here, but if I had to bet, I would take Texans in a teaser and Dolphins on the spread from a value perspective. We played the under on 45.5 because the total was set too high for this game. I don’t know where 45 points should come from.
Analysis: Let’s break this one down to the simplest form of handicapping. The Dolphins have Brock Osweiler at quarterback which decreases their scoring expectation per se. They scored 28 points in regulation against a Bears defense that couldn’t prepare for Osweiler and publicly admitted that they were gassed by the heat (100°F) and the sun. Chicago gave up two long touchdowns off short passes by not tackling the ball carrier. If that game was played on a neutral field, Chicago probably holds the Dolphins to around 14 points. Against a below average Lions defense, Miami scored 22 points at home last week – another game with a good home-field advantage. Since Adam Gase took over as the head coach of the Dolphins in 2016, this team has been averaging 16.4 PPG in road games. This includes a variety of QBs like Ryan Tannehill, Matt Moore, Jay Cutler, and David Fales.
The Texans defense has been below average in pass efficiency, but after the two most recent games, they have climbed to #14 in pass DVOA. Their big strength is their pass rush which gets to the quarterback. This is a great matchup against a putrid Dolphins offensive line. I don’t know how RT Ja’Wuan James is going to block JJ Watt, or how that interior line is going to block Jadeveon Clowney, who moved around and rushed through A- and B-gaps against the Jaguars. Like I mentioned, the Texans secondary can be exploited through the air, but we are talking about Brock Osweiler who is going to miss WRs Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson who have a combined 64 targets this year. Wilson is great on screen and short passes which can negative arriving pressure whereas Kenny Stills is an underrated deep threat.
Considering the Texans is strong against the run (#1 in rush DVOA), Osweiler will be forced to move the ball through the air while relying on Danny Amendola, DeVante Parker, Kenyan Drake, and Kenny Stills. It also doesn’t help that Osweiler will play against his old DC who might know his tendencies. However, after Dean Pees wasn’t able to blitz Flacco I don’t know how much impact those kinds of things have. Overall, I think the Fins have a tough matchup in this one and I don’t really see how they will touch 17 points in this one.
The Houston Texans have won four straight, but their issues are still obvious: the offensive line is the worst in the league and Deshaun Watson had to travel to Jacksonville by bus because the air pressure on the airplane could have been too much for his bruised lunge. The Dolphins defense didn’t look good the last two weeks, but they faced decent offenses with much better offensive lines – against the Texans, they will have a better matchup. Rookie WR Keke Coutee joined the team in week four and is already the third-most targeted receiver on the season with 7.5 targets per game. He would be a good counter attack against Miami’s rookie Minkah Fitzpatrick who has been excellent at defending the slot where he plays the majority of his snaps. Tyler Boyd (4-44-0), Anthony Miller (1-29-1) and Golden Tate (4-36-0) are slot receivers who got shut down by the Fins over the past three games. It’s going to be difficult for the Texans to find matchups in the slot.
The biggest strength of the Dolphins is the secondary – they have decent coverage across the field. The way to beat them is with a good offensive line because their lack of pass rush will let guys run open at some point. The Texans don’t have the offensive line to get enough time and their tight ends should get shut down by the Fins. Watson’s only chance to move the ball is going to be on the perimeter with passes to DeAndre Hopkins who will be covered by young stud Xavien Howard and Will Fuller who has a good matchup against Bobby McCain. I doubt this will be enough to put up a ton of points.
I see both offenses going to struggle to move the ball for various reasons and I can see both quarterbacks throwing one or two interceptions that will kill drives. The Texans should have more firepower at home but I don’t see a blowout. A score like 23-14 or 20-16 seems likely to me – definitely below the posted total.
The Pick: Dolphins / Texans Under 45.5 -110 (Bookmaker, 10/22 04.00 PM EST)