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Thursday Night Football preview: What to expect fantasy-wise from Dolphins at Jaguars

Fantasy preview of Thursday Night Football.

Jacksonville Jaguars v Tennessee Titans Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Miami heads to Jacksonville for a cross-state showdown on Thursday Night Football in what looks like a low-key shootout. Both teams are lacking on defense but have above average pass catchers and quarterbacks who can accurately be described as fearless. It might be ugly, but TNF has a bevy of usable fantasy options.

Miami Dolphins

Ryan Fitzpatrick may be on a short leash with Tua Tagovailoa waiting in the wings, but he isn’t playing like it. The devilish gunslinger won’t be afraid to test the shell of a defense that Jacksonville is working with in 2020. Fitz carries one of the lowest floors in the league as his interception-embers can ignite at any moment and there’s a non-zero chance that he gets benched whenever he takes the field. Still though, in such a good matchup, QB-needy teams can fire him up as a streaming option capable of producing a Top 15 fantasy finish.

The Dolphins’ perimeter wide receiver duo of Preston Williams and DeVante Parker can be confidently FLEXed this week as both are good bets to rack up gaudy reception totals. Although their surface-level usage has been equivalent with 12 targets apiece. Williams owns a higher share of the team’s air yards, per Next Gen Stats. The air yards total tells us Preston Williams is getting more downfield looks than DeVante Parker is, making Williams the better bet for a long score.

Slot receiver Isaiah Ford is only an option in deep, multi-flex full-point PPR leagues.

The team’s real No. 1 pass catcher though is tight end Mike Gesicki whose highlight reel catch last week put the league on notice. His undeniable athleticism has always been evident but what he showed on Sunday was a next-level maneuver. It took Gesicki the requisite two developmental years before breaking out — as is the trend of today’s great tight ends. Not only does Gesicki lead the team in targets (16), he owns the team’s highest share of air yards, per Next Gen Stats. That kind of usage is tough to find and Gesicki’s got it locked up. He’s a high-end TE1 with multi-TD potential in this one.

Dolphins’ offensive coordinator Chan Gailey tried to explain away Myles Gaskin’s high usage as a product of him being their “de facto runner from the spread offense” but his snap count is too consistent over the first two weeks (63% and 65%, respectively) for us to believe him believe that the other backs will see meaningful work. It’s clear Gaskin is the team’s only true dual-threat back and they’re treating him as such. North/South plodder Jordan Howard may steal goal line work from time to time but Gaskin’s going to get his looks inside the 5-yard line as well. Rush-only scat back Matt Breida is just a change of pace runner who, as we pointed out in the Miami Dolphins Team Preview piece, has never had a prominent passing game role during his four-year NFL career. 2019 pass catcher extraordinaire Patrick Laird just isn’t seeing the field. His highest snap count through two games is a paltry four. Meanwhile, Gaskin offers acute change-of-direction ability and soft hands, evidenced him racking up the 4th-highest target total of all NFL running backs in 2020. Trust him as a rock solid flex option with serious RB2 upside, especially in full-point PPR leagues.

Miami Kicker, Jason Sanders, finds himself in one of the friendlier spots of his 2020 season. We typically target kickers on great offenses, whose teams we know will frequently end up in field goal range. Although Miami wouldn’t normally fit the bill, the matchup allows Sanders streaming consideration for fantasy managers in need.

Normally, a D/ST expected to see a shootout would be a suggested streaming option, given their increased opportunities for sacks and turnovers. Miami’s defense is the rare defense that is just so bad that we can’t even use them in this kind of situation though.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The one area of the Dolphins’ defense that might caused problems for Jacksonville’s passing attack was Miami’s cornerback duo of Byron Jones and Xavien Howard. The ‘fins will be short-staffed there this week though as Jones is out with both groin and Achilles injuries.

Quarterback Gardner Minshew has been white hot through Weeks 1 and 2, posting the league’s third-highest Completion Percentage Above Expectation; The second-year signal caller’s completed a thunderous 9.3% of his passes that were expected to result in some form of incompletion, besting the arms of Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, and Kyler Murray. Minshew is this week’s premier QB2 with easy QB1 upside.

Fantasy managers need to monitor wide receiver D.J. Chark’s availability. He was listed on the injury report with a chest injury and did not practice on Wednesday after managing limited participation on Monday and Tuesday but it’s possible it was just a R’n’R maintenance day. After dominating in 2019, Chark has not been the target hog we’d expected when drafting in August — Chark’s surprisingly tied for just third on the team in targets. That said, he’s talented enough to have turned in FLEX-worthy production despite the meager workload. If Chark is good to go for Thursday Night Football against the Byron Jones-less Dolphins’ secondary, bet on a WR2-esque bounce-back from the third-year pro. **UPDATE** D.J. Chark is out for tonight’s game.

Keelan Cole has operated as the team’s No. 1 pass catcher thus far, but his talent is not on par with Chark. Of course, with such a good matchup and the evident chemistry developing between the receiver and and his quarterback, Cole is a FLEX-worthy fantasy asset.

Perhaps the most exciting passing game option for the fantasy nerds is rookie receiver/rusher, Laviska Shenault. Fears of Shenault being relegated to a seldom-used NFL gadget role have been quelled as the multipurpose player has tallied the team’s second-highest target total. Adding to his potential, Shenault has the third-most carries on the squad. The rookie dynamo needs to be owned across all formats with such prominent usage to start his career. He’s a flex option this week with an outside shot at scoring on a redzone carry.

Tight ends Tyler Eifert and James O’Shaughnessy are roughly splitting reps in a 60/40 manner, siding in Eifert’s favor. It’s possible Eifert builds on his touchdown from last week but the split reps and heavy usage of the remaining pass catchers makes Eifert just a boom/bust TE2 option.

James Robinson quietly locked up the Jaguars’ lead back job in training camp and much of the drafting public was none the wiser. Through two weeks, Robinson is overall RB15 in .5PPR and a date with Miami should do nothing to change that. Expect Robinson to be featured for much of the contest as neither team is likely to run away with the game. Pass catching back Chris Thompson could produce in full-point PPR formats as the two teams duke it out but his floor is largely a zero. Bank on Robinson as an RB2 but fade Thompson outside of deep PPR leagues.

The Jaguars had to place long time kicker Josh Lambo on Injured Reserve with a hip injury last week. Fortunately for them, the team auditioned mediocre college kicker/punter Brandon Wright during training camp and the rookie will be making his NFL debut on TNF tonight. Given Wright’s lack of pro experience, he certainly carries risk but a COVID-related plus is that he’ll be playing at home against a fraction of the typical crowd size. The Jags’ offense will have no trouble moving him into scoring position on a regular basis, making Wright a streamable option.

Like its counterpart, Jacksonville’s D/ST is just to bloody awful to take advantage of a stellar matchup. Leave them treading water in your league’s free agent pool.