Miami Dolphins (0-2) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1)
The rule of thumb on Thursday nights has always been to take a non-divisional home favorite, as teams cover at about a 70% rate in that spot historically. It makes sense. Road teams are at a bigger disadvantage on a short week because they have to travel and, while some of that can be mitigated if the road team is a better team and/or if the road team is more familiar with the home team because they are a divisional opponent, non-divisional home favorites are especially at an advantage.
I’m a little bit more skeptical about that this week because the Jaguars won’t have a full crowd and because the Dolphins won’t have to travel that far for this in-state game, but the Jaguars should still be at an advantage because they’ll have some crowd noise and get to sleep in their own beds on a short week. Also, it may be early, but home teams have not been disadvantaged as much by their lack of fans so far as you’d think, as they’ve outscored opponents by 2.7 points per game (more or less in line with recent history) and have covered in 18 of 32 games. There is sleep science that suggests athletes perform at a higher level when they are able to get a good night’s sleep in a familiar bed and it’s possible that’s a bigger factor in homefield advantage than previously realized.
We’re also getting some line value with the Jaguars as 3-point home favorites, as I have them 2.5 points higher than the Dolphins in my rankings. Even if we don’t use the traditional 3 points for homefield advantage, the Jaguars still should be favored by at least 4-4.5 points here at home over the Dolphins. The Dolphins were expected to be better this season, particularly on defense, but so far their defense has the highest first down rate allowed in the league through 2 games at 48.36% and will be without their biggest off-season addition, cornerback Byron Jones, in this one.
The Jaguars, meanwhile, have been better than expected on offense, in large part due to their offensive line and running game, which will both take a hit this week without center Brandon Linder, but they should still be able to move the ball relatively easily against this Dolphins defense. The Jaguars 44.63% first down rate on offense is almost definitely unsustainable long-term even with Linder and the Jaguars’ defense is also a problem as they are minimally talented on that side of the ball and have allowed a 43.75% first down rate on the season, but they should still have the advantage in this matchup. DJ Chark is a question mark for the Jaguars, but if he plays I will probably be betting on Jacksonville. They are the pick for pick ‘em purposes regardless.
Update: Chark is out, so I’m keeping this where it is.
Jacksonville Jaguars 30 Miami Dolphins 24
Pick against the spread: Jacksonville -3