Photo by Richard C. Lewis/Icon Sportswire
Each week, our writers will take a look at the fantasy-relevant things to watch for in every upcoming game. Today, it’s the Thursday night Week 8 matchup between the Miami Dolphins and the Houston Texans.
Coming off their third loss, where the Dolphins defense was incapable of handling the Lions rushing attack (which would have been a more damning statement before they drafted Kerryon Johnson), Miami must gather themselves in a short week (with mounting injuries) to face an equally hobbled Houston team. Thursday night games have anecdotally been uneven or low-scoring over their history, which won’t really change with either of these two teams.
Expecting Brock Lobster Again
Ryan Tannehill remains shelved for the third straight game, meaning that Brock Osweiler will take the helm for the Dolphins yet again. Osweiler hasn’t been good, but he also hasn’t been bad in his two starts (plus one quarter against the Patriots). The surprising thing about Brock’s play this year is that he has done a decent job of protecting the ball, which should manage to carry over to Thursday’s game. Aside from two interceptions against the Bears (easily the best defense Brock has faced this year), Osweiler has managed to complete 67% of his passes in the Dolphins horizontal passing game. Against the Texans, you could almost see yourself using Osweiler in a 2-QB or Super-Flex league, but not safely in any other format.
Have a Few Hours to Spare Thursday Night? Come be a Dolphins WR
Two of the most-targeted weapons in the Dolphins aerial attack are going to miss Thursday nights game. With both Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson missing Thursday, the Dolphins are going to be very short-handed during the short week. After being a reportedly healthy scratch (depending on if you believe the team or his agent), DeVante Parker is expected to suit up Thursday. Parker will be the de facto field stretcher for the team, which doesn’t mean a lot for the Dolphins. The beneficiaries of the Stills and Wilson injuries will be Danny Amendola and Jakeem Grant, who will both see targets within 10-yards of the line. Amendola is the traditional slot guy who catches short targets over the middle to extend drives, which in this offense is likely only good for about 5 to 7 catches for less than 80 yards. Grant, on the other hand, should see several short screens and reverses with the hope that he can elude several tackles for long gains. To start the season, Grant and Wilson were seeing about equal target share of that variety, with Wilson taking on more of the load when Parker was in the lineup. It wouldn’t be a shock to see about 5 or more designed plays to see if Grant can make something out of nothing. Unlike when Tannehill is on the field, Osweiler has been utilizing TE’s Nick O’Leary and Mike Gesicki. The play calling with Osweiler under center has been good for over thirty pass attempts, so it isn’t a stretch to expect about 10 of those to go in the direction of a TE, though picking the right one is an exercise better left to someone else in your fantasy league.
“Running” the Ball
Consistently throughout the season, Kenyan Drake is on the field for more snaps than Frank Gore. Drake is still seeing 64% of the snaps on the field, even with Gore seeing more of the actual carries. However, Drake is still out touching Gore because the Dolphins now seem to actually be getting him involved in the passing game. Over the last three weeks (roughly corresponding to the offense under Osweiler), Drake has seen 25 targets, which is leading the team. Don’t expect that to change against the Texans, who have done a decent job of being a bend-don’t-break defense this season. Gore may still end up with 8 to 12 carries, but Drake should exceed that number with targets alone, making him a deep-RB2 or flex play this week.
BOOM: Kenyan Drake
BUST: DeVante Parker
SLEEPER: Brock Osweiler
Can they make it five?
Houston enters week eight on a four-game winning streak and alone atop the AFC South at 4-3. They will play host to the Miami Dolphins who are coming off a loss to the Lions at home. Now, they must face a hot defense in NRG Stadium. The biggest thing in Houston’s favor is the limited ability of QB Brock Osweiler. Yes, he’s played well in Adam Gase’s system, but I think he’ll find it much different playing on a short week and against a defensive front playing as well as the Texans’ are. DEs Jadeveon Clowney and JJ Watt have been trading off weeks featuring multi-sack games and the secondary is playing more aggressively, as a result. The Dolphins also just placed WR Albert Wilson on Injured Reserve with a severe leg injury, leaving them with WRs Danny Amendola, Devante Parker, and Jakeem Grant. Houston must both keep RB Kenyan Drake in check as much as possible and end more drives with six to turn the game into a one-dimensional attack, forcing Osweiler to make poor decisions.
Deshaun to uncork at home?
I wish I could say QB Deshaun Watson has been much better at home, but it’s basically been an even split. The Dolphins only surrendered 217 yards to QB Matt Stafford last Sunday, but that’s because they got sliced up by the Detroit running game. Houston doesn’t boast quite the same dynamic rushing attack that Detroit possesses, so Watson will have to really step up. He will have to do so without up and coming WR Keke Coutee, who re-aggravated his hamstring injury. He will also be without his TE Ryan Griffin. Hopefully, for Houston’s sake, WRs Sammie Coates and Vyncint Smith will be up to the task of filling in. I have a feeling this game will be a tight contest due to the injuries on both sides and thus, we will see Watson utilize his running ability.
Can Lamar Miller hit 100 yards again?
The game of football itself has shifted to more of a throwing game, but it’s still amazing to look at a team like Houston and seriously doubt they will accumulate 100 yards rushing in a game. As I mentioned in our WWS article for week seven, RB Lamar Miller reached 100 yards for the first time since 2016! Last week he did it against the Jaguars defense that, although has taken a huge step backward, is still nothing to take lightly. Miller should be able to do some damage against Miami if the offensive line can replicate what they were able to do against Jacksonville.
What can Vyncint Smith do?
Your guess is as good as mine, but at 6’3” he should be able to at least help take some attention away from either WRs DeAndre Hopkins, who will probably garner double coverage, or Will Fuller V. The rookie out of Limestone doesn’t have too much film on him, but based off of pure length and reports of him being the “Next Man Up” for HC Bill O’Brien, we should see Deshaun Watson targeting him to some capacity. He’s not a fantasy option, but if you own Nuk or Fuller, hopefully, this aids their stock.