The Jacksonville Jaguars (4-10) are a four-point road underdog in Sunday’s Battle of the Sunshine State against the Miami Dolphins (7-7) at Hard Rock Stadium at 1:00pm EST.
BROADCAST: For those not attending the game, we’ll have good luck charms James Lofton and Andrew Catalon on the CBS call. Here is the TV viewing map for Sunday’s game.
#Jaguars (4-10) at Dolphins (7-7).— Phillip Heilman (@phillip_heilman) December 19, 2018
CBS broadcast will be handled by Andrew Catalon (play-by-play) and James Lofton (analysis).
REFEREE: Clay Martin on the whistle for Sunday
Referee for Jaguars at Dolphins — Clay Martin— Fᴏᴏᴛʙᴀʟʟ Zᴇʙʀᴀs (@footballzebras) December 18, 2018
UNIFORM WATCH: White tops, black trousers.
Back in white on black this Sunday.@PPG | #DUUUVAL pic.twitter.com/9ZyGXeuftC— #DUUUVAL (@Jaguars) December 19, 2018
The Dolphins are still right in the thick of things when it comes to the final wild card playoff spot in the AFC despite coming off a bad 41-17 loss on the road against the Minnesota Vikings. Rest assured, they will be looking for blood this week as they return home and try to earn a postseason birth and re-gain some momentum. There is a slight chance they can still win the AFC East if the New England Patriots lose both remaining games, but a loss eliminates them from playoff contention, so there is everything to play for on Sunday.
I can't believe I'm actually looking this up, but...— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) December 17, 2018
If Patriots lose out and Dolphins win out and both finish at 9-7, the Dolphins would win the AFC East due to a 5-1 division record vs. 3-3 for the Patriots.
But Patriots have Bills and Jets at home, so good luck. https://t.co/fU7qYYPEXs
Offensively, the Dolphins have faced injury adversity along the offensive line (sound familiar?) and will be starting Ted Larsen, Travis Swanson, and Jesse Davis on the interior. Hopefully, Taven Bryan can continue to build off last week’s performance to get his first sack (unless the NFL does a stat correction for the sack he should have had last week). Left tackle and former first round pick Laremy Tunsil has had his best season to date, but he is fighting through a knee injury that Yannick Ngakoue should work to take advantage of.
Future Hall of Famer Frank Gore was placed on injured reserve this week, so expect a heavy dose of rookie Kalen Ballage, who notched his first career 100-yard rushing game last week, to compliment Kenyan Drake. Who could have predicted that Kalen Ballage would have a 100-yard rushing game before Leonard Fournette would? Ryan Tannehill has been steady for the most part managing games, but if you ask most Dolphins fans, they can’t wait for a new quarterback in 2019. If Tannehill can play well these next two games and get his team into the playoffs, he may earn another year as the incumbent starter heading into next season. The Dolphins aren’t known as a heavy play action team, but don’t be surprised if they dial that up this week to move the pocket for Tannehill.
Offenses running the most/least PLAY ACTION this year in the NFL.#LARams #FlyEaglesFly #GoPats #ChiefsKingdom #InBrotherhood #RavensFlock #KeepPounding #SeizeTheDEY #DallasCowboys pic.twitter.com/VXQJPLCxfl— NFL Matchup on ESPN (@NFLMatchup) December 19, 2018
Defensively, the Dolphins are fairly underrated against the pass and should give this inept Jaguars air attack fits. Cam Wake and Robert Quinn have had stellar seasons applying pressure from the edges and should have their way with Ereck Flowers and Josh Wells. Honestly, Cody Kessler may die this week. Pro Bowl cornerback Xavien Howard, who had some very nasty things to say about the Jaguars this week, is trending towards playing this week despite a knee injury and should comfortably blanket Donte Moncrief. The Dolphins’ biggest weakness is their interior defensive line, and their 145.2 rushing yards per game allowed is second worst in the league after the Oakland Raiders.
The Dolphins as a whole are extremely banged up heading into this game and their Wednesday injury report was more than double the size of the Jaguars’ — luckily for the Dolphins, they have an exceptional record at home and are facing a Jaguars team that feels like has waved the white flag on the 2018 season.
Wednesday injury report for #Jaguars and Dolphins pic.twitter.com/jxyrFm76WO— Daniel Popper (@danielrpopper) December 19, 2018
For more information about the Dolphins, check out Ryan O’Bleness’ all-time series history and his crossover piece with Kevin Nogle of The Phinsider.
Same theme, different week. The biggest things for Jaguars fans to look forward to is roster evaluation and see which young players can step up and build some momentum to be a contributor in 2019. While this is important for guys like Quenton Meeks, Nick DeLuca, David Williams, C.J. Reavis, etc., it’s equally important for a guy like Malik Jackson. Jackson isn’t likely to be back in 2019 due to financial implications, but he is less than a year removed from a Pro Bowl season and needs to show some good production and tape these final two weeks to audition for his next employer. The Jaguars could just release Jackson, but with lots of teams forecasted to have a treasure trove of cap space in 2019, the ideal move would be to trade him for a day three pick and perhaps recoup the draft pick wasted on Carlos Hyde before the deadline. The better he plays these next two games and finishes with a spark, perhaps the more he can yield in a potential trade scenario.
And then there’s the draft. Jags fans are in full tank mode at this point and studying draft order scenarios and mock drafts in great detail as the franchise looks for its first elite quarterback in its history. It is very possible that the Raiders can upset the damaged Broncos in what looks to be the team’s final home game in Oakland at the Coliseum on Monday Night Football, and the Jets have looked a little more dangerous as of late and could steal a win at home against a Packers team that is reeling. If both of those results should happen, the Jaguars are sitting at third overall heading into Week 17 and in pole position to land the quarterback of their choosing.
Lastly, who is coming back next year from the coaching staff? It’s likely that Doug Marrone gets another shot in 2019 regardless of the results of these final two games, but how they lose can still change the mind of decision-makers. With lack of discipline and preparation being an enormous concern for this football team, if any player(s) lose their mind in the middle of a game with a bad personal foul penalty or if players throw a fit or get pouty on the sideline, that could be a mitigating factor to push the envelope out of Marrone’s favor. As long as the Jaguars behave themselves and show no signs of blatant quitting, he should be fine in my opinion.
Jalen Ramsey vs. Devante Parker
Parker should be a go for Sunday despite a shoulder injury, and he’s not a dominant enough receiver that Ramsey will have to follow him around the field. Expect Pro Bowl cornerback Ramsey to stay on his preferred left side and lock down whoever lines up across from him, whether that’s Parker or vertical threat Kenny Stills.
Yannick Ngakoue vs. Laremy Tunsil
Ngakoue has back-to-back difficult match ups after battling exceptional left tackle Trent Williams last week. Tunsil has had an outstanding season and frankly was deserving of Pro Bowl honors, so this should be a tough challenge. Ngakoue still needs three sacks to get to double-digits on the season – will he get there? Luckily for him, even if he doesn’t snag one this Sunday, he gets human turnstile Julien Davenport with the Texans next week.
Dede Westbrook vs. Minkah Fitzpatrick/Bobby McCain
Dede is a star. He’s been this team’s offensive player of the year in my personal opinion, and if he ever gets the semblance of a legitimate quarterback behind center, he will take this league by storm. Westbrook was a deep threat Z receiver at Oklahoma where he earned Biletnikoff honors and quite frankly he’s been relegated to the slot this season due to the ineptitude around him and has still shown consistently. If Westbrook is in the slot this week, he’ll likely see nickel cornerback Bobby McCain and if he moves outside for some quick screens or crossers, he will likely see impressive first round rookie Minkah Fitzpatrick.
Ereck Flowers vs. Robert Quinn
The audition for Ereck Flowers returning as the team’s utility swing tackle in 2019 continues this week. Flowers has been surprisingly fine since taking the starting left tackle and his durability and versatility to play both spots makes him a good candidate to return. With that said, Robert Quinn is exactly the type of speed rusher that Flowers has traditionally struggled with and needs to string together another solid performance on Sunday.
David Williams vs. Kiko Alonso
It was sad last week when a created player came in off the bench and looked better running the ball on four carries than Leonard Fournette had in twelve. Williams showed really nice patience and burst in his limited reps and earned the opportunity to play even more this upcoming week. I mentioned above that the Dolphins have the second worst run defense in the league, so hopefully Williams can show some good production.
Williams' patience and balance in the backfield on Sunday very well may be better than what Fournette has shown the past two weeks... I'd be comfortable carrying Williams into the 2019 season as the 3rd/4th back and cutting Hyde. pic.twitter.com/kc6nKUKiis— Zach Goodall (@zach_goodall) December 18, 2018
Abry Jones vs. Kenyan Drake/Kalen Ballage
With Frank Gore on IR, the dynamic duo of Kenyan Drake and Kalen Ballage will need to be kept in check this week. Jones had one of his best games as a Jaguar last week against the Redskins and is another candidate to be moved in the offseason to trim some salary cap fat ($4 million hit in 2019) for a team in need of a stout nose tackle. I’m not a huge proponent of moving players who are good contributors like Jones, but if the Jaguars are looking for some more wiggle room and financial flexibility, I wouldn’t say no to a late day three pick for him.
The Dolphins are the much better team and it’s going to be extremely difficult for this makeshift Jaguars offense to score more than 10, maybe 13 points this week on the road. Let’s just hope for no long-term injuries that can linger into the 2019 season (dodged a bullet with Ronnie Harrison last week) and some promising flashes from the young developmental players.
Dolphins win 24-10.