Miami Dolphins (7-7, 7-6-1 ATS) at New Orleans Saints (7-7, 6-8), 8:15 p.m., MNF
Brolley’s Dolphins Stats and Trends
The Dolphins are 5-1-1 ATS in their last seven games overall and in their last seven games as a road underdog.
Miami is 5-2 toward unders in its last seven games.
Tua Tagovailoa has thrown for multiple TD passes in three of his last four games, but he did throw two INTs, including a pick-six, and he completed just 59.3% of his passes against the Jets last week. He’s still averaging 7.6 YPA and completing 74.5% of his passes since he stepped back onto the field five games ago in Week 10. The Saints produced the defensive performance of the season to date by shutting out Tampa Bay’s potent offense, which was just the third time a Tom Brady-led offense failed to score and the first since 2006.
Jaylen Waddle is hoping to return to the lineup after sitting out last week while on the COVID list. He had posted 15+ FP in six of his last eight games, and he reached 4+ in every game in that span. He posted 9/90 receiving on 11 targets in Week 13 even with DeVante Parker back in the lineup. Chris Godwin posted 6/49 receiving on seven targets in this matchup last week before leaving with a torn ACL in the second quarter.
DeVante Parker stepped up as the #1 WR last week with 4/68/1 receiving on eight targets, which gives him 9/130/1 receiving on 13 targets (20% share) in his first two games back in the lineup. He has a tough assignment against Marshon Lattimore and company this week, who just limited Mike Evans to a 14-yard catch before he left in the second half with a hamstring injury.
Mike Gesicki has seen 19 targets and a 30% target share in Miami’s last two games, but he’s posted a disappointing 12/89 receiving for 20.9 FP with his great usage. He’s scored just two touchdowns this season and he hasn’t scored in seven straight games, and he owns just two double-digit FP performances in that span. The Saints frustrated Rob Gronkowski last week, limiting him to a miserable 2/29 receiving on 11 targets.
Duke Johnson posted one of the best performances we’ve seen in this backfield this season in Week 15, albeit against the league’s worst defense against RBs. After seeing just four carries all season long, Johnson hung 22/107/2 rushing and 1/20 receiving for 25.7 FP on a 58% snap share against the Jets. Dookie got elevated to the top spot because Myles Gaskin saw just one practice after a week’s layoff on the COVID list. HC Brian Flores will be choosing between Johnson, Gaskin, Salvon Ahmed, Phillip Lindsay, and Malcolm Brown moving forward. OC Eric Studesville said early in the week that the team would continue to have competition for playing time in this backfield. Johnson has staked a claim to get the first crack at touches moving forward, but this backfield could still be a mess and they get a brutal matchup against a Saints’ defense that’s giving up the second-fewest FPG (18.9) to RBs this season.
Brolley’s Saints Stats and Trends
New Orleans has played under the total in four straight games.
The Saints are 1-4 ATS in their last five home games.
For as well as New Orleans’ defense played last week against the Buccaneers, their offense was equally as bad, averaging a miserable 3.5 yards per play while failing to score a touchdown. Alvin Kamara finished with a miserable 11/18 rushing and 2/13 receiving on six targets and a 61% snap share in the victory. He has just 6/38 receiving on 11 targets in his first two games with Taysom. He gets a slightly easier matchup this week against a Dolphins’ defense that’s giving up 4.3 YPC to RBs, and maybe one of these weeks his starting OTs Ryan Ramczyk (knee) and Terron Armstead (knee) will return to the lineup.
Taysom Hill needed some late-game luck to get to 24+ FP in his first two starts, but he was straight up bad against a good Buccaneers’ defense in Week 15. He completed 13/27 passes for 154 scoreless yards (5.7 YPA) and he managed just 11/33 rushing for 9.5 FP. He’s now seen exactly 11 carries in each of his first three starts, which is appealing for our game, but he hasn’t thrown for a TD in two straight games and he’s averaging 6.7 YPA. The Dolphins haven’t allowed a QB to reach 20+ FP since Josh Allen did it in Week 8, and they limited Lamar Jackson to 5.5 YPA and 39 rushing yards back in Week 10. Both Taysom and Trevor Siemian landed on the COVID list this week, which puts rookie Ian Book in line to start on Monday Night Football if neither player can play.
Marquez Callaway snapped his four-game drought without double-digit FP with his first 100-yard game of his career against the Buccaneers last week. He now has 9/159 receiving on 17 targets since Taysom took over as the starter three weeks ago while Tre’Quan Smith has petered out with just 7/65 on 13 targets in that same span. The Dolphins are giving up a solid 12.6 YPR to WRs this season.
Adam Trautman somewhat surprisingly returned to the lineup in Week 15 after his initial timeline called for him to be out for 4-6 weeks after being placed on the injured reserve before Week 12. He landed on the COVID list this week so he could be sidelined again, but he had a run with 4+ catches in three straight games before his knee injury in Week 11. The Dolphins have given up just one touchdown to a TE since Week 4.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Pace (seconds in between plays): 27.6 (13th)
Plays per game: 67.9 (2nd)
Pass: 57.7% (23rd) | Run: 42.3% (10th)
Pace: 27.5 (12th)
Plays per game: 64.8 (12th)
Pass: 57.9% (23rd) | Run: 42.1% (11th)
All pace / play data is from the last eight weeks.
I’m sure the NFL is thrilled to have this game capping off Week 16. The Saints are going to be forced to turn to Ian Book here and have Duval legend Blake Bortles backing him up. Book was a three-year starter at Notre Dame and can move well – he averaged 41.2 rushing yards per start over his last two seasons in college. At the very least, the Saints won’t have to change their Taysom Playbook much.
With the Saints QB change, the Dolphins have gone from 3-point dogs to 3-point favorites but they may struggle to put up points here too. Miami hasn’t been able to run the ball effectively all year and their sledding won’t get any easier against this New Orleans front-seven. For as bad as their secondary was in the middle of the year, the Saints’ pass defense has been much better as of late. Over the last six weeks, they’ve allowed just 212.3 pass yards per game and only one QB (Josh Allen) has topped 240 yards against them. In fact, Allen also threw for 4 TDs (and 2 INTs) against them on Thanksgiving and the Saints have given up a 2:4 TD-to-INT ratio to the other five QBs they’ve faced.
Miami is much more balanced in their play-calling now over their win-streak, but they may have no other option but to try and throw it here. New Orleans is still allowing a league-low 3.4 YPC.
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
What appeared to be an outstanding matchup of surging teams instantly turned into a game where Miami should be able to run away with the victory. Ian Book looked okay during the preseason. But he is at least another year away from being ready to face a defense like Miami’s. Either way, Jaylen Waddle is a guy to watch this week. If he stays on the field over the next three weeks, he will elevate himself into rarified air among rookie wideouts. He’s already only four receptions short of joining only four other rookie WRs to ever post at least 90 receptions.
But P.J Williams has been one of the most elite slot corners this season. He’s only allowing 0.60 YPCS (second-fewest), 0.14 FP/CS (second-fewest), 0.05 AY/CS (fifth-fewest), and a 50.3 TPR (the fewest). We are going to have an unstoppable force colliding with an immovable object with these two phenoms butt heads. However, Waddle will run plenty of routes outside of Williams’ net, which makes this both a fun battle to watch and not necessarily one to be scared of.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
With the Saints now down to their fourth different starting QB of the year, rookie Ian Book, I’m not sure how season-long fantasy players can trust anyone but RB Alvin Kamara, who might touch the ball 30 times. Just don’t suggest Kamara will be running the wildcat.
Update: Kamara ain’t running the Wildcat https://t.co/Ez64wAHZ8V— Daniel Oyefusi (@DanielOyefusi) December 23, 2021
Kamara’s usage against the Buccaneers was bizarre as he played on a season-low 61% of the snaps despite all of their issues at WR. Kamara even split the passing down work with Mark Ingram (17 routes to 16). Hopefully, Sean Payton being back would clean this crap up.
I thought it would be worthwhile to see what our Greg Cosell said about Book in our 2021 NFL Draft Guide. To sum it up, he wasn’t terribly impressed (he didn’t have a draftable grade on him, while the Saints took him in the fourth round).
If you’re dying, Book’s running ability could make him a viable QB2 in superflex leagues. But the Dolphin defense is a nasty one to try to execute against.
With Book unlikely to put a bunch of points on the board for the Saints, could the Dolphins focus on the run game that was so successful for them last week?
Last week, Myles Gaskin returned from the COVID list just in time for a pristine matchup against the Jets, and indeed, a Dolphins RB did have a career-best game. It just wasn’t Gaskin. While Gaskin carried 10 times for 54 yards, the most YPC he’s averaged this season when toting the ball 10 or more times, he was outshined by Duke Johnson.
Yes, that Duke Johnson, who had his first career game with at least 20 carries, 100 rushing yards, and/or 2 rushing TD. Unbelievable. Gaskin may have been held down a bit because his conditioning wasn’t where it needed to be, as he admitted that he did have COVID symptoms while on the list, but Johnson has certainly earned himself a bigger role here — he’s already signed to the active roster for the remainder of the season. It was the best game by a Miami RB in years (Gaskin has never run for 100 yards in a game). Unfortunately for Dookie, the Saints have given up the second-fewest FPG to opposing RBs this year. He’s a FLEX option.
“Through seven games, Parker averages 8.6 targets, 106.4 air yards, 14.4 XFP, and 12.9 FPG. Across the full season, those numbers rank: 18th, 12th, 24th, and 30th.
And, well, that’s great. Certainly a lot better than he seems to be getting credit for.
Though, granted, Jaylen Waddle missed last week’s game, and the bulk of his production and volume came early in this season, which we can argue came before Waddle’s breakout as the team’s alpha WR1. And Waddle will play this week, activated from the COVID-19 list on Monday.
But the real problem, at least this week, is this: he’s likely to draw shadow coverage from Marshon Lattimore.
Over the prior two seasons, a Lattimore shadow was typically worth a 19.3% reduction to a WR’s FPG average. And this year, Lattimore has shadowed five times, against Davante Adams, Terry McLaurin, D.K. Metcalf, and Mike Evans (2X). If we ignore just one play (a non-called OPI where Lattimore fell down on the play), he’s held them all to a combined 7.4 FPG on 5.3 targets per game.”
The better play will be Jaylen Waddle, who is coming off the COVID list and will likely operate out of the slot.