JAGUARS // DOLPHINS OVERVIEW
Even on a Main Slate that boasts only six teams with a Vegas-implied team total above 25.0, this is one of the uglier games available, with a 4-10 Jags team that ranks 30th in points per game traveling down to Miami to take on a 7-7 Dolphins team that ranks 31st in pace of play, 32nd in plays per game, and 23rd in points per game. Only three teams have piled up fewer yards this year than the Dolphins, while only six teams have gained fewer yards than the Jags. This game has opened with an unattractive Over/Under of 38.5, with the Dolphins installed as four point favorites.
JAGUARS PASS OFFENSE
In spite of the presence of 2018 Pro Bowler Xavien Howard on the perimeter for the Dolphins, this team has been one of the more attackable units through the air this year, ranking 31st in yards allowed per pass attempt and allowing the fourth most passing touchdowns in the league. The Dolphins rank a middling 13th in yards allowed to wide receivers, but they have allowed a solid 63.4% completion rate to the position, and their 16 touchdowns allowed to wideouts is the 11th most in the league.
Working against Jacksonville, of course, is a dink-and-dunk attack that has topped 156 passing yards only once in four Cody Kessler starts, with two passing touchdowns and two interceptions across their last four games. The Jaguars’ players, more than any other team in football, look like they are just waiting for the season to end, and the Jaguars’ coaches are calling games accordingly — shortening each contest as much as possible in an apparent effort to reach the end of the season as quickly as they can.
If you feel compelled to roster a piece from the Jaguars’ passing attack, your best bet is Dede Westbrook, who has target counts with Kessler of 4 // 5 // 10 // 5, and who continues to show genuine effort on the field. Dede will see the least of Xavien Howard in his slot/underneath role. He’s a low-floor play who will likely need volume in this passing attack to rise in order to go for ceiling (his 10 target game came in Kessler’s 43-attempt game in a 21 point loss to the Titans), though he is at least the likeliest player to hit through the air on this side of the ball.
Behind Dede, Donte Moncrief has recent target counts of 4 // 4 // 10 // 2, while Keelan Cole continues to operate as an afterthought, going 2 // 2 // 7 // 0 with Kessler under center. Moncrief is the better bet for upside, if for some reason you want to chase. On the off chance D.J. Chark finally returns this week, he should cut into Cole’s playing time while being fed a few looks of his own. Of course, if you have ignored this passing attack completely all season, you haven’t been missing much.
JAGUARS RUN OFFENSE
The clearest way for Jacksonville to move the ball this week will be on the ground, with the Dolphins facing the second highest opponent rush play rate in the NFL and ranking 26th in yards allowed per carry. Only two teams have allowed more rushing yards to running backs than the Dolphins this year.
Less clear is what the Jaguars’ coaches are doing with this offense on their way out the door, as this team (in their home loss to a fourth string quarterback) somehow gave the ball to Leonard Fournette only once in the second half last week — holding him to only 14 touches in a game that was close from start to finish. While Fournette was listed with a foot injury heading into this week, Doug Marrone has said that the injury had nothing to do with Fournette’s limited workload last week — instead saying the team wanted to get a closer look at David Williams, who saw five carries of his own. This offense as a whole was hurt by low volume (49 total plays), so there is clear opportunity for Fournette to spike back up to 20+ touches — though the 25 to 30 touches that appeared to be a foregone conclusion a month ago now appear to be something to hope for rather than something to bank on. If Fournette does see his workload return this week, the matchup could not be much better, making him a strong tourney play even if his floor is lower than lovely.
DOLPHINS PASS OFFENSE
In spite of all their flaws as a team this year, the Jaguars continue to play stout pass defense, with the second lowest catch rate allowed this year, and with a number four ranking in yards allowed per pass attempt. The Jags have been especially tough on wide receivers, with the second fewest catches, the fourth fewest yards, and the fewest touchdowns allowed to the position. This is a tough setup for a quarterback in Ryan Tannehill whose game manager role has kept him under 29 pass attempts in all but one game this year (with only two games all year north of 25 pass attempts), and whose inability to attack downfield has left this offense with 204 or fewer passing yards in five of his last six starts. From both a floor and ceiling perspective, there have been much better passing attacks to chase this year.
If you feel compelled to go here, the most reliable weapon with Tannehill has been Kenny Stills, who saw only three targets last week, but who entered that game with recent target counts of 4 // 6 // 9. Stills has topped 40 yards only once in his last 10 games, keeping his floor extremely low.
DeVante Parker has eight catches for 71 yards across his last four games combined, while Danny Amendola has gone 5-53-0 on 10 targets across his last three contests. This offense is also trying to get Brice Butler involved, with a 6-60-1 line on nine targets across his last three games. All of these plays are nothing more than cross-your-fingers-and-hope options.
DOLPHINS RUN OFFENSE
The Jaguars’ usually-tough, sometimes-awful run defense showed up to play last week against the run-leaning Redskins, with this squad holding Adrian Peterson and Chris Thompson to a combined 24 rushes for 60 yards (2.5 yards per carry). Of course, Jacksonville also got punched in the mouth by Derrick Henry in Week 14, allowing 238 rushing yards and four touchdowns on only 17 carries. Consider this a difficult matchup for the Dolphins’ rushing attack, with some chance for the low-effort version of this defense to show up again this week and to make this matchup softer than it ought to be.
The Dolphins’ backfield will belong to rookie Kalen Ballage this week with Frank Gore done for the season. Ballage has only 20 carries all season, and he was working on a line of eight carries for 11 yards before popping off for a 12-123-1 line last week on the strength of a 75-yard scamper. Ballage is a decent athlete with good size who should be more than capable of filling the Gore role for this team, which has yielded 11.1 carries per game so far, with 16 targets on the season. Ballage will probably need a volume spike in order to truly produce value this week, but absent a volume spike, he’ll have an outside shot at production on another long run or a touchdown.
Working behind Ballage is Kenyan Drake, who continues to see limited usage in spite of a top-end skill set. He will need a spike in workload or a massively efficient day in order to matter in this spot.
As is the case most weeks, the Jaguars’ offense is tough to get excited about, with this low-volume passing attack producing almost no upside right now, and with this backfield now unpredictable from a usage standpoint. I won’t be trying to guess on any of the pass catchers on this team myself, but I do have some tourney interest in Fournette as a guy who may go overlooked by the masses, and who still has potential to pop for a big game if he returns to his 25+ touch role. Obviously, nothing on this offense is guaranteed at the moment, making even Fournette a high-risk play.
I see nothing to like on the Dolphins’ side of the ball myself, with slate-winning scores almost never emerging from this offense, and with the Jaguars’ defense still talented enough to make life tough on this low-upside attack. If you feel compelled to target the Dolphins’ offense yourself, your best bet is on Ballage or on some outlier scenario that leads to big plays for one of the other weapons on this team.
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