A pair of 4-3 NFL teams will take the field Thursday night in Houston as the Texans host the Dolphins. The Texans have dominated this series, winning seven of the eight all-time meetings, although Miami did take the last one in 2015.
The Dolphins are a hard team to figure out. They started out the season 3-0 with wins over the Titans, Jets and Raiders. After that, Miami lost three of their next four as the schedule got tougher and they started to play more road games. The team is coming off a 32-21 loss at home to Detroit as Brock Osweiler started once again. Osweiler couldn't build off his really good game against the Bears two weeks ago. The defense has been up and down this season as well. They've held four teams under 300 passing yards while the other three times teams have found success through the air.
Houston has been quite the opposite as they started out the year 0-3 before going on their current four-game win streak. Deshaun Watson has cooled off a bit after a hot stretch toward the end of September. The offense has been underwhelming the last three weeks, but it hasn't mattered with the defense doing its job. J.J. Watt's been healthy and making an impact despite the lack of a ton of statistics. Four teams have thrown for less than 200 yards against the Texans secondary, and the squad is finally playing like the team many thought they would be before the year began.
This one feels like a bit of a mismatch despite both squads having the same record. As illustrated above, they got there in two completely different ways.
Miami at Houston
Kickoff: Thursday, Oct. 25 at 8:20 p.m. ET
TV: FOX/NFL Network
Spread: Texans -7.5
Three Things to Watch
Both teams are coming into this one on short rest. Miami has lost three of its last four, but the schedule has been relatively kind as of late. The Dolphins are coming off two straight at home and have a tilt in Miami against the Jets up next. I don't see any sort of weariness or look-ahead factor involved with this one. Houston is coming off two of its last three at home as well. They are coming off a bit of an emotional division win over the Jaguars and have a road game at Denver coming up next before a bye week. It seems like both teams are coming into this one on even footing on the short week. The road team has won the last two Thursday night games after the home team took the first five.
2. Who is healthy and who is getting the ball?
Both teams have their various nicks and bruises entering this one as you'd expect on a short week although the Dolphins have it much worse. They will be without wide receivers Albert Wilson and Kenny Stills while Danny Amendola was limited in practice on Monday. DeVante Parker will probably play after being inactive. Parker has just two catches this season and has to deal with a team that may or may not like him. His agent certainly thinks the wideout is healthy and can help out at that position. Ryan Tannehill also will miss another game, but he is expected to start throwing (a Nerf ball at least) this week. This means more Brock Osweiler who has one good game and one bad one so far.
Houston is a lot healthier in some respects. Granted they are without cornerbacks Aaron Colvin and Kevin Johnson, but both have been out already. The Texans were without OL Zach Fulton, LB Brian Peters and TE Ryan Griffin in practice on Monday. They had a ton of players limited, but Watson was a full participant despite the chest injury. The signal-caller reportedly took the bus to Jacksonville because of concerns about his injury. That sounds disconcerting, but it looks like that won't be an issue anymore. Still, he's not 100 percent, although no one is by this time in the season.
3. Who is running the ball?
Both of these teams are mediocre when it comes to running the ball. Houston is averaging 3.9 yards per carry this season with three different players getting the majority of the work. Lamar Miller has just one run of 20 yards or more and that's just not going to cut it. Alfred Blue is the change-of-pace back and he's nothing special either. Blue has 216 yards on the ground on 64 carries. They could find some room against the Dolphins, who allow almost 140 rushing yards per contest.
Houston is very stingy against the run as they allow 92.1 yards per game. Frank Gore and Kenyan Drake do most of the heavy lifting, and the group is averaging nearly five yards per carry. Gore is the solid veteran who is still looking for his first rushing TD, while Drake is the flashy guy with three runs of 20-plus yards and two touchdowns. Osweiler isn't as mobile as Tannehill, so that's one aspect opponents don't have to worry about. Miami has got to run the ball to take the pressure off Osweiler who will be down a few targets.
If you've followed my ATS picks articles, you'll know that I've been a big fan of the Dolphins this season. I've bet on them multiple times as a favorite or underdog, and they've come through for me. On this Thursday though, I think they could get absolutely blasted by the Texans. Houston is on fire right now and they are the home team for this one. I think it's a lower-scoring game and one that goes to the team out of Texas.
Prediction: Texans 24, Dolphins 6
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.