Game Preview

Thursday Night Football Preview: Dolphins at Texans

Week 8 TNF

Thursday Night Football Preview

Last Week Recap

Welcome back to the Gridiron Experts Thursday Night Football Preview! Last week, I had the Broncos beating the Cardinals, covering the spread (-2) in the process. In the end, the Broncos took the game and covered the spread with plenty of breathing room, 45-10. I was correct in taking the Broncos -2, and with my score prediction, suggested the over on total points, which also hit. Another successful week in the books for the Gridiron Experts Thursday Night Preview! Let’s move on to Week 8.

  • Brad’s TNF Picks Season Record: 6-1
  • Brad’s TNF Picks Season Record: 5-1-1 (ATS)
  • Staff Week 8 Picks

 

Dolphins at Texans

Texans Favored by 7.5

This Thursday Night, the Miami Dolphins (4-3) will visit the Houston Texans (4-3). The host Texans are currently (-7.5). Last week, Houston took on the Jacksonville Jaguars in Duval County and knocked off the reigning AFC South champs by a score of 20-7. On the other hand, the Dolphins dropped their home game to the Lions, 32-21.

These two teams have had very opposite seasons. While the Texans started out 0-3, they’ve surged to win 4 in a row, moving their season record to 4-3. Miami, on the other hand, came out of the gates fast, going 3-0. Since then, they’ve gone 1-3, landing on their current record of 4-3.

The Miami Offense i is quite ravaged by injury at the moment. Yesterday, it was announced that WR Albert Wilson is expected to go on Injured Reserve. Needless to say, he won’t be playing this week, and his season could be in jeopardy. Kenny Stills has also already been ruled out for Thursday Night, as he nurses, a groin injury; Coach Adam Gase announced Stills’ status on Monday.

Perhaps most relevant, though, is the absence of QB Ryan Tannehill, who will miss his third straight game with a shoulder injury. He’d been average before the injury, tossing 8 TD and almost 1,000 yards over 5 starts. Instead, Brock Osweiler will make his 3rd start of the season for the Dolphins. Osweiler has gone 1-1 in relief of Tannehill, including a win over the surging Chicago Bears. In that game, Osweiler threw for 380 yards and 3 TD before Miami took the game in OT. Osweiler’s career performance has ranged from average to horrid, as he enters his 7th season as a professional. Most recently, he started 15 games for Houston in 2016… so maybe the Brock Lobster is out for some revenge.

Osweiler will be working with a depleted WR corps in this contest, as Stills and Wilson won’t be suiting up. Danny Amendola and DeVante Parker will get the starting nod for Miami. Parker has only caught 2 balls this year in 2 games of action. He was inactive last week and has been the subject of controversy recently, with his agent calling out Miami Head Coach Adam Gase. Parker will clearly need to step up to bring this Miami offense back to a respectable level.

 

 

Danny Amendola should play on Thursday Night, after being limited on Monday and Tuesday at practice with a shoulder injury. Amendola has picked things up the past few games. In Week 7 against a tough Bears defense, he logged 8 catches for 59 yards. To follow things up, he posted 6 catches for 84 yards and a TD last week against Detroit. Miami will obviously need the 9th year veteran to lead their offense in this game.

The Dolphins also have a duo of Tight Ends they’ve leaned on this season. Rookie Mike Gesicki and Nick O’Leary have split a minimal workload through 7 weeks. Many also believe AJ Derby is nearing a return. Miami hopes that Gesicki, their 2nd round draft choice, will flash the potential he showed at Penn State. Standing 6’6 and a stout 245 lbs, look for Gesicki to get more involved in the Red Zone, especially with the WR corps being so bare at this point.

Kenyan DrakeOn the ground, RBs Kenyan Drake and Frank Gore have split work pretty evenly this year. Drake, the youngster, has taken 58 carries for 282 yards and 2 TD. Many thought this would be a breakout year for Drake after he was quite productive when Miami traded Jay Ajayi last year. However, with Miami’s signing of Gore this offseason, those breakout expectations were dampened a bit.

Gore, on the other hand, has carried 72 times for 332 yards and a TD. Gore has long been a stalwart on the fantasy landscape, and each year begins with experts saying he’d no longer be relevant. Amazingly, in his 13th season, he’s still putting up numbers, and breaking records. Earlier this season, the ageless wonder passed Curtis Martin to land in 4th on the NFL’s all-time rushing yardage list. He’s also been incredibly reliable. Fun Fact: Gore hasn’t missed a game since he fractured his hip in 2010. That’s 8 seasons ago. With Osweiler’s inconsistent track record, look for this tandem of RBs to be the core of the Miami offense here in Week 8.

On the defensive side of the ball, Miami has struggled early on. Through 7 games, they rank 27th in the NFL, giving up an average of 405 yards per game. They’ve also allowed the 10th most points in the league, which they’ll need to improve to become more competitive.
LB Kiko Alonso has been one of the league’s best this year. His 66 tackles rank 3rd in the NFL, and he’s been filling up the stat sheet as well. Alonso has 6 pass deflections, 2 interceptions, and has forced 3 fumbles already this year. Along with Jerome Baker & Raekwon McMillan, Miami’s LB corps hopes to continue its surge towards the league elite.

DB Xavien Howard is quickly becoming one of the league’s best, and the Dolphins have been relying on him to lock down opposing teams’ #1 options. Howard is a piece of an elite Miami secondary, which also features All-Pro safety Reshad Jones, Bobby McCain, and rookie standout Minkah Fitzpatrick. The Texans have some burners at the WR position, so it will be a big game for this secondary. Up front, the line is quite stout, featuring veterans Cameron Wake and Robert Quinn. On Thursday night, they’ll have to keep contain on the outside and limit Deshaun Watson’s impact outside of the pocket.

Houston seems to be a bit more healthy than Miami; although their nicks and bruises come in their secondary. After sustaining a major ankle injury at the beginning of the month, Aaron Colvin hasn’t played. Although, Johnathan Joseph, who began the week limited, logged a full practice on Tuesday and should be good to go on Thursday.

 

 

QB Deshaun Watson took a bus to last weekend’s game in Jacksonville due to concern over his bruised lung and injured ribs. However, he’s practiced fully all week and shouldn’t be in danger of missing Thursday’s game. Watson hasn’t been his best the last two weeks, throwing for less than 200 yards in each game, and only scoring 2 TD compared to two INT. To be fair, the games were against the Jaguars and Bills, both stout defenses.

Deshaun Watson TexansIn any event, Watson has been far less effective than he was during last season’s magical run where he scored 21 TD in 7 games. This year, he’s failed to eclipse 2 passing TD in a single game. While his 10:7 TD/INT ratio is far less sexy than last year’s numbers, he is completing more of his passes, with a 63.1% completion rate. Watson will need to find his play from last year if the Texans hope to hold onto 1st Place in a crowded AFC South division.

DeAndre Hopkins continues to solidify himself as one of the league’s great WRs. So far this season, he’s reeled in 47 balls for 707 yards and 4 TDs. Among offensive players, Hopkins ranks 3rd in the NFL in receiving yards and 8th in receptions. Watson has targeted Hopkins 71 times, which is 32 times more than the team’s next highest volume receiver, Will Fuller. Should Hopkins match up with Xavien Howard, we could have a solid battle on our hands.

Young WR Will Fuller profiles differently than Hopkins. A speedster, Fuller has been known to be historically efficient when Watson is tossing him the ball. The concern though is Fuller’s health. While he’s practicing fully this week, he’s been oft-injured in his short career. In the last few weeks, hamstring injuries, coupled with the flash of Keke Coutee have slowed down Fuller’s production. However, when he’s at 100% (which he seems to be), he can be a menace for opposing defenses. In Weeks 2 through 4 of this season, Fuller averaged 88 yards and 1 TD per game. Last year, he couldn’t have been better with Watson under center. In the 4 games Fuller and Watson played together in 2017, Fuller had 279 yards and an astounding 7 TDs. Needless to say, a healthy Watson/Fuller combination is a terrifying sight.

Rookie WR Keke Coutee has flashed glimpses of excellence so far this year, highlighted by his 11 catch, 109-yard outing in Week 5 at Indianapolis. However, Coutee has been slowed down by a hamstring injury and is unlikely to play this week. This should open things up more for Hopkins and Fuller to see more collective targets.

Rookie TE Jordan Akins will start again on Thursday with usual starter Ryan Griffin sidelined with an illness. We should see some of Jordan Thomas as well… but neither has been productive so far this year. Clearly, the Texans’ depth is of concern at the pass-catching positions and will have to rely on Hopkins and Fuller to make it through Thursday Night unscathed.

On the ground, veteran Lamar Miller has been moderately effective when healthy. Despite a hiatus in week 5, Miller has regained his form and rushed for 100 yards last week in Jacksonville. Miller has been spelled by Alfred Blue at times, but Blue has not been effective, averaging only 4.3 YPC in the young season. When Houston is at their best, Miller & Blue are not focal points of the offense, but rather changes of pace. It’s possible Miller’s best years are past him, as he averaged a career-low 3.7 YPC last year, and is only posting 3.9 YPC so far this season. The rushing attack is uninspiring but will be necessary to keep Miami on their toes so that they don’t just drop 7 players into coverage each play. If Coach Bill O’Brien sticks to this balanced attack, it will open up the play action pass for Watson, who excels in that regard. If Houston can succeed with the run early, look for Fuller to break off one of his signature long TDs in this contest.

On the defensive end, the Texans have back the face of their franchise in JJ Watt. After playing a combined 8 games between the 2016 and 2017 seasons, Watt is back and dominating the line of scrimmage. In 7 games, Watt has amassed 7.0 sacks, good for 4th in the league. He’s also forced 3 fumbles and brings a ton of raw emotion to the Houston crowd. If he continues at this rate of success, it’s possible Watt could be in line for his 4th Defensive Player of the Year award.

Other than Watt, the Texans have been pleased with the output of the young Jadeveon Clowney. Clowney has had a productive season thus far, including earning Defensive Player of the Week honors in Week 4. His 4.5 sacks are second on the team, and he’s truly complementing Watt well in the pass rush.

Linebackers Zach Cunningham and Benadrick McKinney have been strong in the early going as well, totaling a 61 and 51 tackles respectively. Both LBs rank within the top 20 in the league for total tackles, while Cunningham’s 61 are good for 5th in the NFL. After a 90-tackle campaign in his Rookie year, Cunningham aims to become one of the league’s great interior players.

The secondary will certainly have the edge in this showdown, as Miami’s WR corps is decimated at the moment. Kareem Jackson and Johnathan Joseph will lead the charge, while Tyrann Mathieu has added 2 interceptions already this season. Mathieu has been all over the field, as he’s 3rd on the team in tackles, tied for the lead in interceptions, and can change the game whenever he touches the ball. Look for the Houston defense to have the edge in this game, and to challenge Osweiler with pressure and man coverage throughout.

The Pick
In this contest, I believe that injuries will play a huge factor. No disrespect to Brock Osweiler and Danny Amendola, but the Miami passing attack isn’t one to be feared at this time. Look for the Texans’ stud pass rushers to put pressure on Osweiler all night, and for the journeyman to fold under pressure. I expect that he’ll be sacked a few times, and toss multiple interceptions. It’s never easy to prepare on a short week, especially when the opposing defense is one of the league’s best.

For Houston, I think that Watson will rebound this week, and will be given the opportunity to sling the ball around quite a bit. Hopkins will be his usual self and should beat Xavien Howard if they’re lined up across from each other. Additionally, I think that Will Fuller will have a signature game, adding a long touchdown for good measure and that Houston will take this game at home comfortably.

Give me the Texans 28-17 to cover the spread at home.

 

 

Good Luck Week 8!

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