Miami Dolphins @ Houston Texans: Texans to beat injury hit Miami side
Two teams locked at 4-3 in the season standings meet on Thursday Night in the NFL and Kieran O'Connor thinks that the hosts will come out better...
"In truth, it is a tough time for Miami. They are playing with a backup QB, they have recently lost WR's Albert Wilson, Kenny Stills and possibly Danny Amendola and their ground game is just not where it needs to be. Until they have a healthier roster, they are impossible to tip."
A tale of two forms
Miami opened the season 3-0 and then lost three in a row, while Houston started out the year 0-3 before going on a four-game winning streak. These are two teams that appear to be going in opposite directions.
Let's start off with the Dolphins. From the off, I have not been massively impressed with them. Brock Osweiler is a back-up quarterback and not a great one. Osweiler has made a career out of being Peyton Manning's backup for years but he doesn't play like somebody who was able to learn anything from one of the greats.
Yes, they opened the season with wins against the Titans, Jets and Raiders but Ryan Tannehill was QB for those games and two of them were at home where they are solid enough. They recently beat the Bears in overtime at home too and the Bears are a decent set-up.
Not many teams are ready for the heat in Miami at this time of year as they will have come from colder climates. The fact that if you goggle the stadium you can clearer see that the home team side is in the shade while the away team side has none.
The Dolphins enjoy compounding their homefield advantage by putting the home team on the shady side of the stadium while the visitors will not be able to find any escape from the glaring sun. Google "Hard Rock Stadium" and see for yourself; I find this both funny and clever.
As we see, Miami at home against teams: decent enough. Miami on the road: different story. Thus far on the road, they have lost 38-7 to the Patriots and 27-17 to the Bengals.
Miami lost their last two Thursday Night games, most recently against the Bengals. They have decided to change up the way they travel for this one and have arrived a day early. In truth, it is a tough time for Miami. They are playing with a backup QB, they have recently lost WR's Albert Wilson, Kenny Stills and possibly Danny Amendola and their ground game is just not where it needs to be. Until they have a healthier roster, they are impossible to tip.
Get your Texan groove on
The Texans, on the other hand, seem to have found their groove. Most of their season depends on QB Deshaun Watson and his health. As a rookie last year, Watson set an NFL record with 19 touchdown passes through his first seven games (six starts) before going down with a season-ending knee injury. This year, he started off slow but his chemistry with DeAndre Hopkins has made them as potent a 1-2 in the league as you can get.
But they do have issues. How healthy is Watson? Some of the news leaking out does not sound good. Watson rode 12 hours on a bus from Houston to Jacksonville, because his rib and lung injuries are bad enough that the team's training staff was concerned with how the cabin pressure on an airplane might affect the injury.
While Houston continues to downplay it, the warning signs are there. Considering Watson has been sacked 26 times already this season, he is in danger of further injury. Last Sunday against Jacksonville, Watson completed 12 of his 24 passes for one touchdown with a quarterback rating of 43.3. These are not great numbers but if Hopkins is in the game and Watson keeps running the ball when out of the pocket, Houston have a great shout.
Don't expect a running game
One note for this game is that both sides seem to be incapable of running the ball well. Houston is averaging 3.9 yards per carry this season with three different players sharing the majority of the work. Lamar Miller should be the one banging in the big numbers for the Texans but he has only found the end zone once.
On the flipside, for the Dolphins, Frank Gore and Kenyan Drake would not fill me with confidence. Miami are currently allowing 140 yards rushing per game, if Houston can get the ground game going early, this could be a blow out.
Much like last week's Denver @ Cardinals game, a little spice has been added by players speaking out. Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins, asked by Houston media about Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard's claim that Hopkins "likes to push off a lot" to get separation from defenders, responded: "Who's Xavien Howard?"
Texans defensive end Jadeveon Clowney was asked about former teammate and current Dolphins starting quarterback Osweiler. "He's not here anymore. So I don't really care for him. We didn't win a lot with him...Try to get after him this week upfront, make him rattled in the pocket."
For the record, Osweiler was 8-6 in his one season as Houston's starter in 2016.
Proceed with caution on the handicap
The handicap in this one is 7.5 and that is a dangerous one. I have a real dislike for handicaps of 3.5 and 7.5 for obvious reasons. Looking at both teams though, it's clear they are going in different directions.
Miami are in a bit of a slump and until Tannehill is back from injury, they will continue to lose games. The Texans are nowhere near a complete outfit but will be full of confidence after winning the last four and should be able to beat Miami at home. I fancy them to just about cover the spread, too.
In the touchdown markets, with Miami being poor at defending the run and Lamar Miller returning at the team where he made his name, he is a very decent shout at getting the first touchdown of the game despite only registering one so far, this season.