Thursday Night Football
Miami @ New England
Coming off back-to-back blowout wins since replacing milquetoast Joe Philbin with fiery Dan Campbell, the Dolphins trek to Foxboro as eight-point road underdogs. Thursday night's divisional showdown has a lofty 51-point Vegas total -- highest of Week 8 -- but Miami's team total is only 21.5. ... Up to 5.99 yards per carry on the season and 5.50 over his last 16 games, Lamar Miller is averaging 19 touches for 177 yards in two weeks under Campbell, compared to an 11.8-touch, 54.5-yard average with Philbin. The best way to attack New England is on the ground, where Bill Belichick's team ranks 21st in Football Outsiders' run-defense DVOA. Whereas the Dolphins were able to limit Miller's second-half usage in Weeks 6-7 due to lopsided scores, this contest is extremely unlikely to be another blowout in Miami's favor, as those games were. An every-week RB1 again, Miller should see a voluminous workload against the Pats. ... Ryan Tannehill has largely struggled in six career meetings with Belichick's defense, managing an 8:6 TD-to-INT ratio, 57.2% completion rate, and 6.53 yards-per-attempt average. Tannehill has demonstrated a high weekly floor with multiple touchdown passes in five consecutive games, however, while this matchup offers some shootout potential, raising Tannehill's ceiling. Tannehill is a quality if low-end fantasy QB1 start against New England.
Tannehill's target distribution since Miami's Week 5 bye: Jordan Cameron 10; Jarvis Landry and Rishard Matthews 9; Miller and Dion Sims 6; Greg Jennings 3; Kenny Stills 2. ... A top-15 fantasy wideout in per-game PPR scoring, Dolphins slot man Landry is a high-floor WR2 play in Week 8. Landry touched up New England for 99 yards on eight catches in Week 15 last season. Eric Decker, who is primarily aligning in the slot for the Jets, posted a 6-94 stat line against the Patriots last week. ... Top Miami perimeter receiver Matthews figures to square off with Malcolm Butler on Thursday night. Although Butler has played solid coverage for most of the year, Pro Football Focus has charged him with four touchdown passes allowed, tied for fourth most among NFL cornerbacks. Matthews has topped 80 yards and/or scored a touchdown in five of the Dolphins' first six games, earning every-week WR3 treatment in fantasy leagues. ... The Patriots have not faced many big-time tight ends so far this season, but they have held Jason Witten (5-33-0), Dwayne Allen/Coby Fleener (6-43-0), and Charles Clay (3-19-1) in check in recent weeks. Safeties Pat Chung and Devin McCourty, and WLB Jamie Collins have all played stingy pass coverage. This is a sub-par matchup for Cameron, who is on pace for just 46 catches, 595 yards, and three touchdowns through six games as a Dolphin.
After facing injured rookie Marcus Mariota in Week 6 and backup-caliber Brian Hoyer last week, interim DC Lou Anarumo's Dolphins defense gets its first difficult test on Thursday night. The high-octane Patriots rank first in the NFL in points per game and second in yards. New England's Week 8 team total is mouth watering at 29.5 points. ... In an attempt to minimize the impact of Miami's talented front four, expect the Pats to continue to attack with the pass and emphasize getting the ball out of Tom Brady's hands quickly. Completing a career-best 68.9% of his throws this season, Brady's weekly fantasy quarterback finishes through six games are QB1, QB1, QB5, QB5, QB7, and QB2. As noted by Adam Schefter, Brady is 8-0 lifetime in Thursday night games with a 20:2 TD-to-INT ratio. In a matchup where the passing game is likely to remain the Pats' offensive foundation, I like Brady's chances of posting another top-five scoring week. ... Dion Lewis was held out of last week's win over the Jets due to an abdominal injury. This game sets up for New England's passing-down back to dominate snaps, whether it be Lewis or Week 7 fill-in James White. Lewis will be a high-end RB2 play if he is active against the Dolphins. White logged a 67% snap rate with Lewis out against the Jets, but only handled five touches. White would be a low-ceiling flex if Lewis can't play. ... The Jets were able to keep last week's game close against the Patriots, preventing closer back LeGarrette Blount from seeing much usage. In season-long leagues, I still firmly believe in Blount as an every-week RB2/flex regardless of matchups. You don't want to leave his multi-touchdown performances on your bench. With the Pats at home and favored by more than a touchdown, there is reason to believe Blount can pay fantasy dividends.
Brady's target distribution since the Pats' Week 4 bye: Rob Gronkowski 26; Julian Edelman 24; Danny Amendola 21; Lewis 17; Brandon LaFell 8; White and Scott Chandler 5. ... Running most of his routes at left corners, Edelman can be expected to draw LCB Brent Grimes in coverage. Grimes played a major role in holding DeAndre Hopkins to 50 scoreless yards on 12 targets in Miami's Week 7 win. Edelman still posted stat lines of 6-95 and 7-88-1 with Grimes on the field in last year's two Pats-Fins meetings, and is at worst a high-end WR2 play. ... Gronk stands to benefit if Grimes holds Edelman in check. Jordan Reed hung 7-63-1 on Miami in Week 2, Charles Clay stung the Fins for 5-82-1 in Week 3, and Delanie Walker went 8-97 against them in Week 6. The Dolphins have faced Marcedes Lewis, Jeff Cumberland, and C.J. Fiedorowicz in their other three games. Gronk saw a whopping seven red-zone targets in last week's win over the Jets. ... LaFell drew eight targets in his return from PUP, but dropped five passes against the Jets and appeared to be benched late in the game for Aaron Dobson. On paper, LaFell does have a good-looking Thursday night matchup with Dolphins RCB Jamar Taylor, whom Nate Washington (9-127-2) flamed in garbage time last week. LaFell is a boom-bust WR3. ... Amendola's snap rate jumped to a season-high 85% against New York, and he's earned WR3 discussion with back-to-back receiving lines of 7-105 and 8-86-1 against the Colts and Jets. Running almost all of his routes inside this season, Amendola will take on Dolphins slot CB Brice McCain, who missed last week with a knee injury and has negative pass-coverage grades from Pro Football Focus.
Score Prediction: Patriots 28, Dolphins 21