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Behind Enemy Lines: Houston Texans vs. Miami Dolphins

We go behind the scenes with Phinsider.

Houston Texans v Miami Dolphins Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Houston Texans are adding some intrigue to this week’s game against the Dolphins by changing quarterbacks for the first time this season.

However, they still enter the game double-digit underdogs against the Miami Dolphins. We joined Kevin Nogle at The Phinsider to get some insight into what has been going on with the Dolphins so far this season and entering Week 12 in the NFL.

1) The Dolphins currently sit on top of the AFC East standings. Are your surprised at their success and do you see them being able to fend off the Bills to win the division crown?

Am I surprised the Dolphins are competing for a playoff spot and look like a solid team? No. Am I surprised they are true contenders for the AFC East title and have an explosive offense that has Tua Tagovailoa as the top passer in the league (based on passer rating) and has Tyreek Hill on pace to break the single-season receiving record? Absolutely. I thought Miami was a playoff team who would probably try to make a run at the Buffalo Bills for the division title, but would be settling for a wild card spot this season. Instead, they look like they are a contending team in the AFC and a team opponents may not want to see in the playoffs. There is a lot of football left to play, but right now, it does not appear Miami’s going to slow down any time soon.

It feels so odd to have national media complimenting the team, people discussing realistic MVP-candidates from the Dolphins, and have comparisons to offenses like the Greatest Show on Turf, but that is what is happening right now. I think they have a shot to hold off the Bills, especially since they have already beaten Buffalo in the first meeting this year. Having to go into Buffalo in mid-December is concerning, but knowing they have at least the split for this season and have been able to hang with them through the first 11 weeks of the year leads to some thought that they could still be on top of the division come the end of the season.

2) Tua has had an up and down career to date, but he is leading the most potent passing attack in the NFL. Do you think he has cemented himself as the franchise quarterback for the Dolphins or is there more you’d like to see from him?

He is absolutely the franchise quarterback for this team. I think that is a big part of why Mike McDaniel is the head coach now, with Brian Flores fired after the 2021 season. Flores, almost as soon as Miami drafted Tagovailoa, seemed to be looking for ways to get rid of him. That is not a problem with McDaniel, who is putting the third-year quarterback in positions to succeed. The offense is designed to play to Tagovailoa’s strengths, building off run-pass options and play-action looks, with a ton of pre-snap movement and motions.

For all the discussions about Tagovailoa’s arm strength and criticism of him over the past two years, he has answered all of the questions about him this year. He looks like the quarterback he was at Alabama, and he looks like a player who knows he is able to play at the NFL level and his confidence is absolutely a big part of why he is having this success.

Adding a receiver like Tyreek Hill and changing the offensive system are clearly factors in Tagovailoa’s growth this year, but there is also something to be said about simply giving a player three years to adjust to the NFL and grow into his role. That used to be the standard, and now it is show us something immediately or it is time to move on. Tagovailoa should be the reminder to maybe give players a little time to find themselves.

3) Outside of studs like Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, are there any other players Texans fans should be on the lookout for on offense and defense?

On offense, the Dolphins have found something in running back Jeff Wilson, Jr., who joined the team at the trade deadline. In two games with the team, he has 170 rushing yards, or 50 yards more than Chase Edmonds, who Miami signed this offseason then traded away at the deadline, had over his eight games with the Dolphins. He is averaging 6.5 yards per carry with Miami and is working perfectly as part of the team’s rushing attack, paired with Raheem Mostert who is averaging 4.6 yards per attempt this year. The Dolphins have been such a pass-heavy team this year, but the last couple of weeks, the rushing attack is finally finding its footing, and it is in large part because of the addition of Wilson.

Also on offense, watch wide receiver Trent Sherfield. He has established himself as the third receiver behind Hill and Waddle and he is playing well. He has not had more than four receptions in a game this year, totalling just 22 receptions, but he has 12 first downs and is averaging 11.2 yards per reception. He is someone who will not jump off the box score, but he can and will make an impact play at some point.

I still feel like tight end Mike Gesicki is going to have a break-out game at some point this year, but as each week goes by, it seems less likely. Gesicki is really the only player who just does not seem to fit this offensive system.

On defense, it could be several players, not because Miami has a ton of talent they are going to shut down everything the Texans try to do, but because the defense has been crushed by injuries this year and it seems like a new player has to step up and make a play each week. Someone like undrafted free agent cornerback Kader Kohou, who made the roster out of Texas A&M-Commerce this year, and has not only had to play, but has started the last six games, is a great candidate to be someone who makes a play out of seemingly nowhere. Cornerback Keion Crossen is another player who could make a play and defensive lineman Zach Sieler, who seems to always have good things happen when he rotates into the game, could see more playing time now as Emmanuel Ogbah has been lost for the year.

4) The Dolphins are obviously a part of a larger playoff picture in the AFC. How do you see the AFC playing out down the stretch and is there a team that worries you in particular once January comes?

The obvious answers are the Bills and the Kansas City Chiefs. They are both Super Bowl contenders and, if Miami has to travel to either location in the playoffs, it is going to be rough. And, talking about the Dolphins in the playoffs like it is a foregone conclusion, is unsettling.

Outside of those two, the Baltimore Ravens and the New England Patriots are concerns as well. The Ravens always seem to have Miami’s number - despite the comeback win the Dolphins had earlier this year. The Dolphins struggle against running quarterbacks (see the Chicago Bears game during which Justin Fields ran for 178 yards and every game against the Bills where it feels like Josh Allen runs for 450 yards), so seeing Lamar Jackson is a scary proposition. And, after 20 years of the Patriots dominance, there is just something about facing Bill Belichick that will always be worrying.

5) DraftKings has the Dolphins opening up as 12 point favorites. Do you feel comfortable giving that many points or are there other prop bets that you feel comfortable recommending for this game?

I do not, but that is because the last time the Dolphins were favored by this much was back in 2003. Funny enough, that game was the Week 1 game against the Texans, and Houston won 20-19. So there is a lot of history that Miami has to overcome to make me feel better about this kind of line.

The Dolphins defense, in part because of all the injuries, has struggled to stop teams, especially in the first half of games. Miami’s offense can put up a ton of points, but if the defense is also allowing opponents to score, Miami struggles against the spread.

All that said, I feel like Miami is capable of winning by two touchdowns this weekend, especially with it looking like Kyle Allen will make the start this weekend.

As for a prop, I would take the +350 bet that both Hill and Waddle surpass 100 yards receiving. Every time Hill has been held below 100 yards this year, he has surpassed 160 yards the next game, and he was held to 44 yards against the Cleveland Browns in Week 10. Waddle has four 100 yard games this year and is due for another big game. I think they both see plenty of targets this weekend.

We want to thank Kevin for coming in and answering our questions about the Dolphins. We want to wish the Dolphins the best of luck throughout the regular season and God willing the playoffs. That’s after this Sunday of course. If you want to see Kevin’s work and the fine work going on at our sister site The Phinsider please go by and give them a look.