I hope you all have been following along, because #STPrimeTimePicks is 4-0 through the first two weeks of the season! For Week 3, the first game I will focus on is the Thursday night game between the Dolphins (0-2) and the Jaguars (1-1).
Week 3 Prime Time Picks: Dolphins (+138) vs Jaguars (-3) O/U 48 – All lines via DraftKings
In a sunshine state battle, the Jaguars will host the Dolphins at TIAA Bank Field for Thursday Night Football. This quarterback matchup will feature ageless wonder Ryan Fitzpatrick for the Dolphins, and Jaguars second-year man Gardner Minshew II. FitzMagic vs. MinshewMania. Beard vs Stache. Let’s see who has the edge.
In a surprising rookie season last year, Gardner Minshew played very well, as he threw for 21 TD’s against just six interceptions and posted a rating of 91.2. Not bad for the rookie. This season, he is off to a strong start as he has 6 TD’s, 2 INT’s, and a rating of 115.7. In Week 1 against a solid Colts defense, Minshew was nearly perfect. He was 19/20 with 3 TD’s and no picks, and led the Jaguars to a surprising upset win at home. He threw a lot of short passes, as he only had a total of 173 yards. However, things opened up more in Week 2 against the Titans, as Minshew threw for 339 yards, completing 30 of his 45 attempts. He had 3 TD’s and 2 INT’s. Minshew will look to continue his strong start to the 2020 season on Thursday.
Ryan Fitzpatrick is 37 years old and has been in the NFL since 2005, but he is still a formidable QB. With the Dolphins selecting Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa with the 5th overall pick in last year’s NFL Draft, it appears that Fitzpatrick will hold down the QB position until Tua is ready—or until the wheels really fall off for the Dolphins offense. Fitzpatrick has not looked particularly good through the first two games, as he has 2 TD’s and 3 INT’s with a rating of 77.8. Granted, he has faced two strong defenses in the Patriots and the Bills, and the Jaguars defense is not as intimidating. But Fitzpatrick will need to play better if the Dolphins want to go into Jacksonville and win.
Both Teams Have Weak Passing Defenses
Expect a lot of passing yards in this game. The Dolphins defense has given up 276.5 passing yards per game (26th in the league) through the first two weeks. To make things more troubling, cornerback Byron Jones, the league’s highest-paid corner, is listed as questionable for the game on Thursday. If he does not play, that really hurts a defense that is already susceptible to giving up a lot of yards through the air. Josh Allen went absolutely bonkers against them last Sunday, throwing for 417 yards and 4 TD’s with zero picks. The good news for the Dolphins is that the Jaguars passing defense is even worse. The Jags are 30th in passing defense and giving up 294 yards per game thus far. Ryan Tannehill threw for 239 yards and 4 TD’s against them on Sunday. Expect a lot of air-raid style plays in this one.
Receivers Need to Take Advantage
With both teams possessing weak passing defenses, the receivers in this game have to be ready to take advantage. For Jacksonville, DJ Chark is Minshew’s top target, and has 7 catches for 109 yards and a touchdown through two games. Keelan Cole is another go-to, having caught 11 passes for 105 yards and two TD’s. Add in tight end Tyler Eifert, and Minshew has some solid targets to throw to. For Miami, Tight end Mike Gesicki has team highs of 11 catches and 160 yards, while DeVante Parker and Isaiah Ford are not far behind. Parker is WR1 and has 9 catches for 100 yards a touchdown, while Ford has 9 catches for 89 yards. They will both look to have bigger games against a weaker Jacksonville secondary.
Run Game Comparisons
The Dolphins have not been able to run the ball successfully much so far this season. They have rushed for just 186 yards in two games, which is 27th in the league. The Jags currently rank 10th in rushing defense, and they were able to stymie one of the best backs in the league last week, holding Derrick Henry to 84 yards on 25 carries. On the offensive side of the ball, Jacksonville’s run game has been surprising, running for 256 yards in two games, good for 12th in the league. After Leonard Fournette was released by the Jaguars and signed by the Buccaneers this offseason, there were a lot of questions about the Jacksonville running game going into this season. However, they are off to a surprising start this season, as new RB1 James Robinson is averaging 5.1 YPC. In last week’s loss to the Titans, he ran for 102 yards on just 16 carries. Rookie receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. also got in on the action, running five times for 37 yards. The two rookies combined for 192 total yards, averaging 7.1 yards per play, in Sunday’s game. They will look to keep this up against a Dolphins defense that is giving up 164 rushing yards per game (29th in the league) so far this season.
FitzMagic and MinshewMania in Prime Time
In his only primetime game last season, Minshew led the Jags to a win against the Titans by completing 20 of his 30 passes and throwing for 2 TD’s and no interceptions. I know it is only one game and an extremely small sample size, but that is a good sign for Minshew. That game was also at home on a Thursday night in Week 3, and that’s exactly the scenario he finds himself in this week. On the other hand, Ryan Fitzpatrick has played in 16 career primetime games. In those games, Fitzpatrick has a record of 5-11. Seven of those 16 primetime games have come on Thursday nights, and he is 2-5 with 16 TD’s and 15 picks on Thursday games.
The way I see it, Jacksonville has looked better through two weeks than Miami has. Gardner Minshew can really sling it, and has looked solid through two games with a rating of 115.7. I expect him to put up some good numbers against a weak Miami passing defense. Fitzpatrick has not looked very good so far, with a rating of just 77.8. While I think he will be better against a poor passing defense in Jacksonville, the Dolphins’ lack of a running game could really hurt them against a stingy Jags rushing defense. In a game with two passing defenses near the bottom of the league, it could come down to how well each team can run the ball. The Jaguars have the upper hand in that category.
Title Photo: @AroundTheNFL on Twitter