The Miami Dolphins host the Houston Texans on Sunday as part of the NFL’s Week 12 schedule. The Dolphins come into this weekend’s game with a four-game winning streak, the ability to reclaim the AFC East divisional lead after the Buffalo Bills took a half-game lead with a Thursday victory, and fully rested after their Week 11 bye. The Texans are struggling this season having started the year with a draw followed by three losses before scoring their first win in Week 5. They have followed that victory with five-straight losses ahead of this weekend’s game.
Houston is making a change this weekend, benching starting quarterback Davis Mills and replacing him with Kyle Allen. Over Houston’s ten games this season, Mills has thrown for 2,144 yards on a 61.9 percent completion rate with 11 touchdowns and a league-high 11 interceptions. He has a passer rating of 78.1 and a quarterback rating of just 29.4. Allen, meanwhile, last made an appearance in two games with the Washington Commanders in 2021, throwing for 120 yards on 12-for-19 passing (63.2 percent) with a touchdown. His only season with regular playing time came in 2019, when he started 12 games for the Carolina Panthers and threw for 3,322 yards on a 62.0 percent completion rate. Sunday will mark Allen’s 18th career start.
Texans head coach Lovie Smith is in his first year as the team’s head coach after spending 2021 as their associate head coach and defensive coordinator. With the team sitting at 1-8-1 and struggling this season, there are some rumblings that Smith could be one-and-done in Houston. What has been going wrong for the Texans this year and are there positives that can carry the fans into the 2023 season? To get a better idea of who the Texans are and what Miami will be facing this weekend, I spoke with VBallRetired at Battle Red Blog. He gave us his thoughts on the quarterback change, an update on how former Dolphins offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil and the offensive line are playing, and the positives that are coming out of a bad year for Houston.
Please note that we spoke prior to the change from Mills to Allen was made official and before the final injury report for Houston ruled out cornerback Derek Stingley.
It appears the Texans are making the move to Kyle Allen at quarterback, replacing Davis Mills. What does Allen bring to the offense and what went wrong with Mills?
Kyle Allen hasn’t thrown a meaningful pass in over a calendar year, so it will be interesting to see what he really brings to the table this week. Athletically, Allen and Mills are very similar, so it really shouldn’t be much of an adjustment for the Dolphins defense. The hope is that he is more poised in the pocket and when pressured. Mills had his moments, but there were large parts of the game when the offense disappeared. The hope is that the veteran Allen will bring more consistency to the offense.
From the perspective of a Texans fan, it will be interesting to see how the offense changes under Allen. Pep Hamilton has been extremely conservative through the first ten games. That was either because they did not trust Mills or because that is just his nature. In spite of the conservative game plans, Mills still led the league in interceptions. So, hopefully Hamilton will take a few more risks because they will have to score more than their customary 17-20 points to have a chance to win this game.
After the 2019 trade that continues to pay dividends for the Dolphins, Laremy Tunsil has become somewhat of a legend in Miami. How is he playing? How about the offensive line as a whole?
Thank you for opening that wound again. That trade maybe did more to set the Texans franchise back than any individual move they made. As for Tunsil, he has largely been as advertised. He missed most of the 2021 season with a mysterious thumb injury, but he has returned to form this season. PFF has him rated as the fifth-best tackle in the NFL. That should be enough to get him to another Pro Bowl. Their other tackle (Tytus Howard) has also graded well above average, so the news isn’t completely bad on the line. The interior of the line has been the issue. Scott Quessenberry subbed in for Justin Britt when he decided to pull a soft retirement of sorts. The big story on the line is rookie Kenyon Green. He looked good early on in the season, but has regressed in recent weeks. He looks lost which is either an indictment on him or the coaching staff. Either is equally plausible.
Houston’s defense has struggled this year, especially against the run. They are ranking 31st in total yards (389.6 per game allowed) and 32nd in rushing yards (178.9 per game allowed). They are 14th against the pass, however, allowing just 210.7 yards per game. As a fan of a team that is as pass-heavy as Miami has been this year, is this dichotomy a factor of teams being able to run so effectively against Houston, or is the pass defense shutting down teams and forcing them to run?
The Texans have gotten their doors blown off in three of the last four games. Teams have run very vanilla offenses against us as they treat us like a preseason opponent. Why show your very best film against this team? I see Miami doing whatever it wants to do because that is what the past several teams have been able to do. Derek Stingley has been limited in practice and may be held out again. If he is out I just don’t see how we cover all of those wideouts effectively. If Stingley were healthy the best course would be to put him on Tyreek Hill and hope for the best, but that isn’t what Lovie has been doing with his defense. His strategy seems to be to make teams take longer drives without the benefit of a big play. I’d expect the same on Sunday. It cannot be understated how bad this run defense is. If they continue at this pace, they will surrender the most rushing yards since 1972. I was born in 1973. That’s a really long time.
Things have clearly not gone well for the Texans this year, but it does not mean there are not high points for the team. What has worked well this year? Besides potentially landing the first-overall draft pick, what can give fans hope for the future of the team?
Thank you for pushing me to the positives. I’ll just say that other fan bases have found our pessimism jarring but we understand what we are and we have embraced it fully. Dameon Pierce is an absolute beast at running back and should be the Offensive Rookie of the Year if there is any justice. He got held to eight yards last week but otherwise has been a revelation this season. They added Eno Benjamin from the Cardinals, so hopefully, he gets to see some action and we get to see if they can be a good one-two punch in the future. Pierce is one of six rookies that are a part of the regular rotation. Add in their second-year players and you are talking about a third of the regulars being in their first or second season. Yes, they are losing, and yes they are looking bad doing it, but we look forward to the flashes every week. All of those kids make plays and many of them will be regular rotation players on the next good Houston Texans team. The only way young players get better is to keep playing and to keep learning from their mistakes.
I do not remember the last time I saw a Dolphins' point spread that had Miami as a double-digit favorite. According to DraftKings Sportsbook, Miami is currently favored by 14 points with a total of 47 points in the game. A spread that big makes me nervous. Do you think that is an accurate line, or would you expect this game to be closer?
Lovie Smith’s gameplans are designed to keep them close going into the fourth quarter. However, the Texans haven’t played a team as explosive as the Dolphins this season. We’ve covered more often than not this season in spite of our 1-8-1 record. I honestly don’t feel confident either way. I expect the Dolphins to get up early and then coast for the remainder of the game. When that happens, it is always possible a team could backdoor cover in that situation. I think the over is a fairly safe bet given those circumstances. I also would bet the over on Jeff Wilson rushing yards. If it’s set at 100 I would still bet the over. Opposing running backs surpass that total with regularity and I don’t see this week being any different. I oddly wouldn’t bet much on Tua or their receivers. Mind you, it’s not because of what our defense will do, but because the Texans defense is so weak against the run that they really won’t need to rely on those guys to win.