Game Overview ::
By hilow >>
- Tua Tagovailoa has been ruled out while Teddy Bridgewater is still dealing with discomfort from a dislocated pinky on his throwing hand. The Dolphins are preparing Skyler Thompson for the start this weekend.
- Raheem Mostert picked up a broken thumb in Week 18 and has yet to practice this week (as of Thursday).
- The Dolphins currently have four members of the offensive line that have yet to practice this week (as of Thursday), including both starting tackles (Terron Armstead and Brandon Shell), backup tackle Kendall Lamm, and left guard Liam Eichenberg.
- Isaiah McKenzie popped on the injury report on Wednesday with a hamstring injury (limited) and was downgraded to DNP on Thursday, placing his availability in question for Sunday.
- Skylar Thompson has targeted running backs and tight ends at a 51.92% rate and held a low 4.96 yards per attempt value over the final two games.
How Miami Will Try To Win ::
The Dolphins have been at or above league average in pass rate over expectation (PROE) in every game in which quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has played the majority of the offensive snaps, and below average in PROE in every game in which he has missed this season. The question then becomes “how do we think Mike McDaniel approaches this game with 1) the Dolphins listed as 13.5-point underdogs with Skyler Thompson starting at quarterback, 2) the team likely without three of their starting offensive linemen (and a backup tackle), and 3) likely without one of their primary running backs?” It is also worth noting that the majority of Skyler Thompson’s offensive snaps and pass attempts have come against the stingy defenses of the Jets (two games) and Patriots (one game), against whom he has averaged a shockingly low 4.96 yards per pass attempt. Finally, Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle have combined for a 53.2% team target market share this season but Skyler Thompson targeted running backs and tight ends at a whopping 51.92% rate over the final two weeks of the regular season (27 targets on 52 attempts went to running backs Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson, and Salvon Ahmed, tight ends Mike Gesicki and Durham Smythe, and fullback Alec Ingold). Based on how we’ve seen Mike McDaniel manage games with “quarterbacks not named Tua Tagovailoa,” and more specifically, Skyler Thompson, we should see an offense built around the short-area passing game and dynamic run game in an attempt to shorten both the field and the game against the Bills.
Since Jeff Wilson was added to the team prior to Week 9, Miami’s lead back has played snap rates of (starting in Week 9 and moving forward) 49%, 61%, 61%, 61%, 73%, 76%, 60%, 65%, and 65%. The two games in the 70s were Raheem Mostert in games Jeff Wilson was hurt or missed. Jeff Wilson saw a 61% snap rate in the one game Raheem Mostert missed during that span. With Myles Gaskin on injured reserve, the change of pace role should land with Salvon Ahmed, should Mostert be unable to play through his broken thumb, with eventual volume likely dependent on game flow. Considering the high positional target rate with Skyler Thompson at quarterback, and the fact that Ahmed has but one target all season, it is fair to expect Jeff Wilson to see one of his higher target totals of the season (the previous season-high came in Week 17 against New England with seven). Bring it all together and Jeff Wilson should see a snap rate in the 60-75% range with 16-18 carries, and the opportunity for six to eight targets should Raheem Mostert miss. If Mostert plays, I wouldn’t expect those projections to decrease dramatically due to the nature of Mostert’s injury (broken thumb), which would likely affect his ability to secure the football on handoffs and through the air. The pure rushing matchup yields a below average 4.20 net-adjusted line yards metric against a Bills defense underperforming to 4.36 yards allowed per running back carry this season, but that is before considering the injuries along the Miami offensive line.
As covered above, Skyler Thompson has relied on his running backs and tight ends through the air at a whopping 51.92% rate over his final two games this season, which came against the stout defenses of the Patriots and Jets. In the three games in which Thompson played the majority of the offensive snaps, Tyreek Hill has target totals of seven, seven, and five, while Jaylen Waddle has target totals of five, five, and four. Now consider the low 4.96 yards per attempt value in Skyler Thompson’s three-ish game sample size under center. To say the fantasy value of both Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle takes a significant hit with Skyler Thompson under center is likely a vast understatement. With a borderline inability to attack downfield, paired with a high running back and tight end target rate, and injuries along the offensive line, expect the Miami offense to be largely confined to short area passing as they attempt to keep pace with the dangerous Bills offense.