This Texans game feels like it should be a walk in the park for the Miami Dolphins. The team is well rested from the bye week and they’re welcoming a reeling 1-8-1 Houston Texans squad to Miami that just benched their starting quarterback. This is undoubtedly a game the Miami Dolphins should win.
But just like every contest in the NFL, this is never guaranteed. While football is undoubtedly the ultimate team sport, each contest is decided by the outcome of various key matchups. This game against the Houston Texans will be no different.
Lovie Smith vs Mike McDaniel
Mike McDaniel might be the new darling of the NFL, but don’t sleep on Lovie Smith. Smith has a wealth of experience with coaching in the NFL and punched his postseason ticket with the Bears on three separate occasions-reaching the Super Bowl in 2006.
This matchup is most intriguing because Smith has a background as a defensive coordinator/coach and McDaniel’s own background is of course on the offensive side of the ball. This Texans team may be the most talent-deficient squad in the league, but it will be interesting to see how Smith plans to deploy them against this high-flying Dolphin offense.
Dolphin Defensive Line vs Houston Offensive Line
Surprisingly enough, the Texans have the makings of a decent offensive line. The GOAT Laremy Tunsil is one of the better left tackles in the league and Tytus Howard is developing nicely into a solid right tackle. Where they could be vulnerable is on the interior.
Rookie Kenyon Green (left guard) and veteran Scott Quessenbery (center) have struggled mightily this season. This means we could see more pressure coming from the interior, either from Christian Wilkins and Zach Sieler or Jaelan Phillips (who they love to rush from the interior).
Jerry Hughes vs Miami Tackles
It’s impressive that Jerry Hughes is still playing at the level he is after turning 34 years old. Hughes is by far their most dangerous pass rusher and it will be interesting to see where the Texans decide to line him up.
They’ve deployed him fairly evenly this season between the right and left defensive end positions, but you would have to think they’ll line him up away from Terron Armstead as much as possible in this game. If they have an advantage, it will be Hughes vs Brandon Shell or Austin Jackson.
Dolphins Corners vs Nico Collins and Brandon Cooks
This is another underrated aspect of this Houston Texans team. Cooks is leading the team in receiving and has been the least talked about top-15/20 wide receiver in the NFL over the last decade. Collins is a big-bodied receiver and has actually come on quite nicely in his sophomore season.
This matchup is interesting to me because I don’t know how Miami will treat Cooks. Will he get the Xavien Howard treatment or are they comfortable with any corner matching up against him? My guess is they aren’t going to have X trail him, which means he could have some advantageous situations going against Miami’s depleted secondary.
Dameon Pierce vs Dolphin Run Defense
This is going to be the most critical matchup of the afternoon. The Miami Dolphins have had a surprisingly stout run defense this year... as long as they aren’t facing a running quarterback. They surrender 116.9 rushing yards per contest which ranks 17th in the NFL. If you remove Lamar Jackson’s 119 yards and Justin Fields’ 178 yards, they’ve only given up about 87 yards per game (which would rank 4th in the NFL).
They haven’t allowed a running back to go over 100 yards against them, and they’ve faced some of the best in the NFL (Dalvin Cook, Nick Chubb, Joe Mixon). If they can force Houston to throw the ball, they should be in for a good afternoon.
What to Expect from Kyle Allen?
This was a very surprising decision from the Houston Texans. Is it especially likely that Houston has a franchise quarterback in Davis Mills? No, but he’s done an ok (sort of ok?) job piloting one of the worst rosters in the NFL. He’s played better than a number of other quarterbacks that still have their job and is only in his second NFL season.
But either way, the Miami Dolphins will see Kyle Allen in his place this Sunday. Allen actually had a stint as Carolina’s starting quarterback in 2019. He had middling results on a bad team and was traded to Washington following that season. He’s played ok when called upon but has now been shipped out of two poor quarterback rooms and is getting a chance in a third.
Throughout his career, Allen has shown a propensity for putting the ball in harm’s way. If the Dolphins can shut down Houston’s running game and pressure Allen, they should get the chance to take the ball away on several occasions this Sunday.