They say honesty is the best policy. Well, honestly, I despise the Jacksonville Jaguars. Not because they’re the superior Sunshine state football team, nor because their logo looks tougher than the Miami Dolphins’. I’m pretty sure it stems from one game in particular.
January 15, 2000.
That was Miami and Jacksonville’s Divisional playoff game. It was also Dan Marino’s final game in the NFL. I remember leaving work early and having my coworker, a Dallas Cowboys fan, come in and fill in for me — he had no dog in the fight that season. Needless to say, I came back to work early as soon as Fred Taylor set the tone with a 90-yard touchdown run with 3:46 in the first quarter vs Miami.
The final score: 62-7, Jaguars win.
Jacksonville (15-2) somehow racked up 520 total yards and forced seven turnovers against a good Dolphins squad (10-8) who had just squeaked past the Seattle Seahawks in a 20-17 Wildcard win. The Jaguars, by quarter, scored 24, 17, 14 and 7 points in Marino’s farewell game. To say the least, it still stings to this very day.
This go-around marks the 10th meeting between the two clubs. I believe it might be a little different.
Miami, who sits at an 0-2 record, deserving of 4th in the AFC East, has continued to play hard under second-year head coach Brian Flores, keeping both their first two games close against good divisional opponents with top 10 defenses.
Jacksonville, 1-1, 2nd in the AFC South, meanwhile has harbored similar results. Also playing against tough divisional opponents, the Jaguars lost and won each game within one score, respectively. In the top five offensive categories, other than points scored and rushing, both teams are pretty even in passing, receiving and first downs.
I expect the game to continue the trend of both teams keeping it close until the end. With a few key injuries on both teams, Miami’s secondary is the hot-topic this Thursday. Dealing with a groin injury, Byron Jones seems unlikely to suit up for his third game as a Dolphin.
Still, I give Miami the edge in covering low output receivers so far this season. With Jags quarterback Gardner Minshew II already having been sacked six times through the first two weeks of the season, Miami’s defensive line may be able to get things going, a struggle they’ve dealt with early on.
As for the receiving end, I give Miami an edge, simply because of the productivity of DeVante Parker and Mike Geciski.
Parker and Geciski have combined for 260 yards and two touchdowns, a slight advantage over Jacksonville’s duo of DJ Chark Jr. and Keelan Cole Jr., who’ve have garnered 214 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns.
In rushing, I give Jacksonville the edge.
Miami’s running back trio of Myles Gaskin, Matt Breida and Matt Breida has only gained 156 yards total in the first two games, an unwanted trend they’ve carried over from the 2019 season. Compared to Jacksonville’s lead back, James Robinson, who has 164 yards rushing alone, it’s an issue that the Dolphins will have to correct on Thursday. For now, they’ll be the underdogs in that spot.
As I stated in my prediction article versus the Buffalo Bills, Dolphins offensive coordinator Chan Gailey needed to get his tight ends more involved in the passing game. To the tune of 130 yards receiving and a score, Gesicki did just that. Averaging 16.3 yards per reception versus Buffalo, Miami will need more of that to hold up against the Jags defense.
It’s unclear if or when Miami will ease in Tua Tagovailoa if the poor play continues. Currently led by Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Dolphins may just need a shot in the arm to spark these close games into wins before the Dolphins’ 0-2 start gets out of hand.
The hype around the game:
350 miles north of Miami, Minshew Mania remains the theme for Jacksonville’s front office and fans. However, could a loss to Miami pick up steam for a “Lose for Lawrence” campaign?
I can’t say this Thursday’s matchup is an exciting one for all NFL fans, even though we all know Miami has a habit of making prime time contests interesting.