FanPost

Game Preview & Prediction: Jacksonville (in London)

I'll just go ahead and date myself right out of the gate with this extended metaphor:

In the classic Nintendo game "Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!", you steadily worked your way up through the ranks of boxers to try and ultimately square off against the titular Iron Mike himself. You started off against laughably weak opponents, just to learn the game mechanics and get the timing down. By beating these paperweights, you proved that you were worthy of facing ever-tougher adversaries. If you lost along the way, the game would boot you back down to a lower level to meet one of those same bottom-tier digital pugilists.

Anyone who's played the game knows the first opponent: one "Glass" Joe, a skinny, sad-sack bum who looks like an alcoholic boxing for booze money. Glass Joe has clearly made many horrible mistakes in life, and getting into the ring is his last option, short of getting fatally shot in a failed liquor store holdup. It's almost impossible not to beat Glass Joe in this, your first fight. You can screw up multiple times, and you can still pummel the daylights out of him. He's the perfect opponent against whom you can either warm up, or get yourself right after taking a defeat or two.

You can see where I'm going with this. The Jacksonville Jaguars are currently the Glass Joe of the NFL. They're bad. So bad, in fact, that they and the ever-depressing Detroit Lions are the only teams in the league without a win. And like Glass Joe, they're exactly who you want to go against if you're a team desperately looking for a win to get yourself back on track.

The problem here is that the Miami Dolphins are the Punch-Out!! equivalent of Von Kaiser, the second-lamest boxer in the entire game. Glass Joe's record was 1-99, begging the question: "Who was the one?" This is far, far from a sure victory for our Fins, given the last month that they've put on tape.

The Jacksonville Jaguars

For these breakdowns, I try to watch the opponent's previous two games. I didn't quite do that, but I have some info to go on.

Two games ago, on a Thursday Night Football matchup, the Jags played what was actually a solid, entertaining game against the Cincinnati Bengals. The Jags jumped out to a 14-0 lead and were looking like a proper NFL club before the Bengals found their footing and tied the game towards the end of the 3rd quarter. The Jags retook the lead early in the 4th, but the Bengals tied it halfway through the final quarter, then won the game on a field goal as time expired. It was a tough but gritty and somewhat encouraging performance for a young team looking to prove that it should be taken seriously. I actually watch a few good chunks of this game, and Jacksonville looked sort of like a team heading in the right direction.

Then Urban Myer decided, "Why make horrible personal decisions and professional decisions separately, when you can combine the two?" You probably heard, so I won't get into too much detail. The short version is that Meyer, contrary to eons of sports tradition and wisdom, elected not to ride the plane back to Florida with his team while they licked their collective wounds. No, ol' Urban decided to hit a bar and get photographed with a young women doing some low-level grinding around his bathing suit area. Public apologies followed, of course, but the damage was done. As evidenced by...

Last Sunday, the Jags hosted the Tennessee Titans, who themselves were trying to rediscover their form from a couple of years ago. The game was actually competitive until about halfway through the second quarter, with the score 14-13, Titans. But then it all went the way you thought it would. Tennessee clamped down, the Jaguars seemed to lose whatever spirit they had mustered while having to spend nearly ten days answering endless questions about their sleaze of a coach. Tennessee went on to outscore Jacksonville 23-6 the rest of the game, coming away with a fairly easy 37-19 road victory.

The Actual Matchups

This one is really tough. Usually I have a decent enough sense of both team's strengths and weaknesses after five games to feel who has an edge. This game, though, between these two teams? It's like trying to guess who's going to win between a drunken chipmunk and a stoned sloth fighting over a half-eaten hotdog. You have no idea how it's going to go, but it's likely to be kind of sad and make you wonder why you're watching. Anyway, the "tale of the tape":

Offensively, the Jags are a below average 21st in yards per game and an even worse 28th in points scored. Certainly bad, but how can they fare against our defense? Well, if this were the defense of late 2019 and nearly all of 2020, or even the one we saw in the opening win against the Pats, then I wouldn't have any worries. But after what we've seen the past four weeks? I have no idea. The Jags actually run the ball fairly well (6th in the NFL in rushing yards per game) now that Urban Meyer noticed that James Robinson is a really good running back, and wunderkind #1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence does occasionally show why he's been touted as the surest QB prospect since Andrew Luck. If our defense plays uninspired, mistake-riddled football like it did last week, then our guys could find themselves in a hole.

Remember those lame overall offensive numbers for the Jags? Well, those would normally make me confident. That is, if the Dolphins didn't rank 31st in those same categories. We've all seen it. With Jacoby Brissett spelling an injured Tua, behind a non-existent offensive line, and with no discernible offensive strategy, the Dolphins offense has been awful. In the few moments where one or two things worked correctly, something else would go wrong. There would be a good play call, but the O line would give up a sack in 0.8 seconds. The line would block OK, but Brissett would throw a ball into the dirt, wildly overthrow a receiver, or just not see a massively open receiver streaking down the field. Or they would gain good yardage, only to fumble or have it called back on a penalty. Or all those other things would go right, only to have a receiver drop the pass. It's been an absolute manure exhibition. The one reason for hope is that the Jaguars are ranked 28th in total yards allowed per game and 29th in points allowed, and it hasn't been against the likes of the Bills and Buccaneers. If there's ever a defense that can help your offense get back on track, short of the Chiefs, this is it.

Prediction

I would never have thought this as recently as four weeks ago, but I have no idea what's going to happen in this game. Based on talent and 2020 resume, the Dolphins should win running away. But the previous four weeks speak of a Dolphins team on the brink of total collapse. They're not quite there yet, but it's imminent. I refuse to use the term "must win" when it's not a mathematical elimination, but this is as close as a 6th game of the season can get. What we saw in the final quarter-plus of the loss to the Bucs looked like a team that may have given up on its coach. Flores' Fins have shown resiliency in the past, but this is their biggest test yet.

Not knowing what to expect, I'm going to err on the side of optimism. I know that the team will be without Xavien Howard and DeVante Parker, but fortunately the Jags are weak enough that I don't see it making all that much difference. Given the Jags' lack of talent and the fiasco surrounding their head coach, I'm going to give our guys the nod. I think they get it together, take their frustrations out on a bad Jaguars team, and come back to the U.S. with a desperately-needed win.

Dolphins 27, Jaguars 13

I'm settling on this score as my prediction, but honestly, no result would surprise me. A 30-point loss. A 30-point win. Anything in between. It's all on the table right now for this bizarre team.

Let me know what you all think we're going to witness early this Sunday. Hopeful? Fearful? Ambivalent? Let's talk it up!

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Phinsider's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of The Phinsider writers or editors.