Miami Dolphins (0-0) at Houston Texans (0-0)
If you’ve been following all of my picks, you’d know I love betting against rookie quarterbacks week 1. They tend to, predictably, struggle in their first NFL action. Since 1994, rookie quarterbacks have completed 55% of their passes, averaged 6 yards YPA, and thrown twice as many picks as touchdowns during weeks 1-4. I get 5 chances to do that this week, as Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin, Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden, and Russell Wilson will all get the week 1 start for their respective teams. The competition Tannehill faced in the Big 12 is nothing like the 4th ranked scoring defense of the Texans’ he’ll face this week.
That will be especially true for Tannehill because he’s incredibly raw and because he doesn’t have much to work with in the receiving corps at all. Legedu Naanee, Brian Hartline, and Davone Bess will be his top 3 wide receivers, with Anthony Fasano and Charles Clay at tight end. Things aren’t much better on the offensive line. At right tackle is a 2nd round rookie Jonathan Martin, who might take a little bit to adjust to the NFL, while left tackle Jake Long has a bad knee. He’ll probably play, but he might not be quite his normal self. Center Mike Pouncey was decent last year and could take another step forward in his 2nd season, while left guard Richie Incognito is also decent.
Right guard is the biggest problem. John Jerry was supposed to be the solution at right guard for them, but, already a poor fit for their zone blocking scheme, Jerry showed up out of shape this offseason and lost his starting job to Artis Hicks, a 34 year old who struggled in limited action as a backup in Cleveland last season. Hicks is now on IR, meaning Jerry will start by default, but the Dolphins might sign Jake Scott, who is still unsigned this close to the start of the season, and he could end up starting for them. That’s how bad things are. They’ll be able to run the ball alright as long as Reggie Bush is healthy, with two young backs Daniel Thomas and Lamar Miller behind him on the depth chart, but the Dolphins will still have trouble moving the ball against a Houston defense that allowed the 4th fewest points in the league last year. Tannehill completed 52.6% of his passes for an average of 5.3 YPA in the preseason. That’s the kind of game he’s probably going to have here.
Miami’s defense was pretty good last year, but they probably won’t be as good this year. They’ll be transitioning from a 3-4 scheme to a 4-3 scheme, which several key players, including Paul Soliai, Jared Odrick, and possibly even Cameron Wake don’t fit as well. It might have been a case of “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” defensively for the Dolphins. They also lost Vontae Davis and he was one of the top cornerbacks in the league last year. Free agent acquisition Richard Marshall is one of the league’s most underrated cornerbacks and Sean Smith could have a bounce back year, so maybe they won’t miss Davis, but I expect a worse defensive performance by the Dolphins this year. Houston, meanwhile, has Arian Foster, Andre Johnson, and Matt Schaub all healthy in the same game, something that just didn’t happen much last year. Before Schaub got hurt last year, they averaged 27.3 points per game and that was with Andre Johnson and Arian Foster missing significant time during that stretch.
Basically, the Dolphins aren’t going to be very good, especially in the debut of the raw Tannehill. The Texans, meanwhile, are one of the league’s best teams and should blow the Dolphins out in Houston. This isn’t a very big bet because it’s such a big line, as it should be, but I would be surprised if this was even a close game. Houston is also my survivor pick of the week, for anyone who does those things.
Houston Texans 27 Miami Dolphins 9 Survivor Pick
Pick against spread: Houston -12 (-110) 1 unit