Two AFC playoff hopefuls face off this week, as the Miami Dolphins travel to Nashville to take on the Tennessee Titans. The 10-5 Titans currently hold the No. 2 seed in the AFC, and can clinch their division with a win. The Dolphins on the other hand moved into the last wild card spot earlier this week with a win over the New Orleans Saints. But, they will likely have to win out to earn an official berth.
Ryan Tannehill faces off against his former team for the first time since they dealt him to Tennessee. The quarterback spent his first seven seasons in the NFL with the Dolphins, and ranks third in franchise history in passing yards and passing touchdowns. You know Tannehill wants to outperform Miami’s new signal-caller in Tua Tagovailoa this week.
Before we get into the ins and outs of this matchup, here’s how you can watch on Sunday.
All NFL odds are via Caesars Sportsbook.
How to watch
What to watch for
Ryan Tannehill vs. Dolphins defense
The Dolphins statistically have the No. 15 defense in the NFL when it comes to yards allowed per game, but this unit is one of the best in the league when they are playing with juice. Miami blitzes on 38.2 percent of opponent dropbacks, which is the highest rate in the NFL. The Dolphins also lead the NFL in pressures per dropback. This could be a fun matchup for them, as Tannehill has been sacked 45 times this season, which ranks second-most in the NFL.
If the Dolphins effectively blitz Tannehill, he won’t have sufficient time to find A.J. Brown downfield. Brown caught a career-high 11 passes for 145 yards last week against the San Francisco 49ers, and took over the game by himself. Wreaking havoc on defense is a key to victory for Miami.
Tua Tagovailoa & Jaylen Waddle
If the Dolphins want to make the playoffs, they need to continue to work through the rookie Waddle. The Alabama product has caught 96 passes, which is tied for the sixth-most in the NFL this season. Waddle is also six catches away from breaking the rookie receptions record set by Anquan Boldin in 2003. Tagovailoa leads the NFL with a 70.1 percent completion rate, and his connection with Waddle is all about timing on short routes. Waddle averages 9.8 yards per reception — the fewest of any player this season with 90 or more receptions. Approximately 76 of Waddle’s 96 receptions have come on throws that are fewer than 10 air yards. Only Cooper Kupp (95) has more this season.
Tennessee’s defensive backs will have to account for Waddle on every play. It’s all about alignment, open-field tackling and who Mike Vrabel decides to use to cover him. Remember, Tennessee did an exceptional job at taking away George Kittle last week. He caught just two passes for 21 yards.
Latest Odds: Tennessee Titans -3.5
Both teams are coming off of important wins, but the Titans are the better squad. The Dolphins have the more impressive win streak, but throw in the fact that this is Tannehill’s revenge game and the lean is to the Titans. I imagine this will be a close, fun affair.
Pick: Titans 28-23 over Dolphins