The Miami Dolphins will try to keep their slim playoff hopes alive when they play host to the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 16. The two Florida rivals will kick off at 1:00 EST on Sunday, December 23, at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. Fans throughout the Sunshine State can watch the game on CBS.
After checking the Week 16 betting odds, the Dolphins are 4-point favorites at home. The over/under for the game is set at 39 points.
Miami’s playoff hopes took a serious hit last week when they got throttled by the Vikings 41-17. After back-to-back wins to gain late-season momentum, losing in lopsided fashion was a huge setback for the Dolphins. The loss dropped the Dolphins to 7-7 on the season, putting them a game behind the Ravens, Titans, and Colts, who are all tied for the final wild-card spot at 8-6.
Needless to say, the Dolphins are going to need to beat the Jaguars at home and then beat Buffalo on the road next week. Miami is also going to need a lot of help over the final two weeks. Of course, it all starts with the Dolphins beating the Jags on Sunday.
Jacksonville, of course, has long since been eliminated from the playoff picture. The Jaguars have lost nine of their last 10 games, making them 4-10 one year after reaching the AFC Championship Game. They may have actually reached a new low last week, losing 16-13 at home to the Redskins, a team starting their fourth different quarterback of the season due to injuries.
Despite their profound offensive struggles the past few weeks, the Jaguars plan to stick with Cody Kessler at quarterback rather than going back to Blake Bortles. Jacksonville has managed a total of 28 points in the three games Kessler has started. However, it looks like the Jags will stick with Kessler as they finish the season with road games against the Dolphins and Texans.
To be frank, I don’t trust either one of these teams. The Jaguars were heavy favorites last week against a Washington team playing a fourth-string quarterback and still lost. The Dolphins were somehow worse in their lopsided loss to Minnesota. To be fair, the Dolphins are 6-1 at home this season. But all of those wins have come by one possession. That makes me feel a little more comfortable taking the underdogs and the points.
Admittedly, taking the Jags with Kessler starting at quarterback is a big risk. Jacksonville’s only touchdown last week came on a punt return, which means Kessler has led the Jags to just one touchdown drive in his three starts. Obviously, that’s problematic for a number of reasons, especially after he turned the ball over twice last week.
That being said, I like Jacksonville to get back to running the ball this week. The Jags gained 172 yards on 26 rush attempts, with Kessler chipping in plenty of yards on his own. Meanwhile, the Dolphins are one of the worst teams in the NFL at defending the run. Last week, Miami gave up 220 yards on 40 carries against the Vikings, a team that hasn’t run the ball that well all season. The more Minnesota ran the ball, the more success they had. If Jacksonville stays committed to running the ball this week, they should have similar success and limit Kessler’s pass attempts as much as possible.
On the other side of the ball, I still believe the Jacksonville defense is a solid unit. Obviously, they haven’t received a ton of support from the offense this season. But they have plenty of talent on that side of the ball. After all, the Jags shut out Andrew Luck and the Colts just a few weeks ago, so they’re capable of playing at a high level.
Meanwhile, the Dolphins have a slew of problems on the offensive side of the ball. For starters, Ryan Tannehill was sacked nine times last week. Part of the credit goes to Minnesota’s defense, which has a top-notch pass rush. But giving up nine sacks in a game signals a huge problem with the offensive line. On the season, the Dolphins are conceding more than three sacks per game, so last week wasn’t an isolated incident. Despite their troubles this year, the Jags still have enough talent to take advantage of such a weak offensive line.
On top of that, Miami’s leading rusher Frank Gore will miss this week’s game after picking up a foot injury against Minnesota. The 35-year old has been an important part of the Miami offense this season, so I expect his absence to be notable. It’s not a complete coincidence that Tannehill had his worst start of the season in a game that Gore left after only five carries. Again, I think the Jacksonville defense is still good enough to take advantage of an offense with these kinds of limitations.
In the end, I’m expecting this to be a low-scoring, defensive slugfest. We know the Jacksonville offense will probably struggle and I don’t have high hopes for the Dolphins being much better. My guess is the Dolphins will find a way to pull out the win at home. But it won’t be pretty, and they won’t cover the 4-point spread.