Week 8: Miami Dolphins @ Houston Texans

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.

Situation: –

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)

Week 2: Miami Dolphins @ New York Jets

Miami Dolphins @ New York Jets (-3, 44)

Line: This is an early sell high spot on the Jets. They demolished the Lions on Monday Night Football, in front of national TV. They scored in every possible way and Sam Darnold looked like the real deal. However, it was a Lions team which didn’t look like an NFL team with an atrocious defense that lost their best two players (Ziggy Ansah & Darius Slay) during the game. The long touchdown pass to Robby Anderson should have been intercepted. The key reception by Quincy Enunwa on third down that set up a touchdown shouldn’t have been ruled a catch. After the game, Jets players admitted they knew which plays and routes the Lions were gonna run based on formations and Stafford’s hand signals. The Dolphins impressed me in their game against the Titans and they will be a different opponent than the Lions. My line for this game is Dolphins -2. Some shops opened this game at Miami PK/-1, before re-opening it at +3 after the Jets MNF game. Three points of value just because of one single score.

Situation: The Jets are flying high after a prime-time domination and will face the Dolphins on a short week. Slight advantage for Miami.

Matchup: We were expecting the Jets to orchestrate a couple scoring drives against a bad Lions defense. Detroit wasn’t able to challenge New York’s weak offensive line and after Ansah went out in the second quarter, OC Jeremy Bates and Sam Darnold had a field day. The Dolphins have a deeper pass rush and they also have a deeper secondary. They just need to get the pass rush on the field. They weren’t able to generate a consistent rush against a good Titans line, but they should have more success against the Jets. Bates will seek for mismatches in the horizontal passing game against a weak Dolphins linebacking corps and try to get Quincy Enunwa going out of the slot, who had the most snaps on MNF. Enunwa has shown incredible chemistry with Darnold. But the Dolphins actually have a very good matchup for slot receivers with rookie cornerback/safety hybrid Minkah Fitzpatrick. Minkah has already played decently against TEN and made some plays. Darnold – as good as he looked – is still a rookie who had turnover issues coming out of college. He showed that with the pick-six which was reckless. Against a potentially stronger pass rush combined with Minkah sitting on Quincy Enunwa and Xavien Howard on either Jermaine Kearse or Robby Anderson, I expect the Jets to struggle to move the ball consistently in this matchup. They won’t get blanketed and will get scoring opportunities, but it will be different from Monday.

The Dolphins actually impressed me. I expected Ryan Tannehill to show some rust in his first game back and he had two picks that can be applied to a lack of routine. Other than that, he looked sharp throughout the game, distributing the ball accurately across the field. The Fins scored 20 offensive points, but they should have scored 26 at least. They turned the ball over on downs inside the Titans’ red zone when Kenyon Drake didn’t catch a pass inbounds. Malcolm Butler picked rookie TE Mike Gesicki on a goal-line fade that Tannehill underthrew. Against the Fins, the Jets defense won’t recognize plays and routes based on formations and hand signals. Free safety Marcus Maye is still out which hurts the secondary. The challenging part on the Jets side will be getting enough pressure on Ryan Tannehill behind an offensive line without guard Josh Sitton and I doubt they will without a real outside rush. I see the Dolphins with a higher scoring ability and with less turnover risk. At +3, this is a great value after an overreaction.

The Pick: Miami Dolphins +3 +100 (LowVig, 09/11 10.10 AM EST)