The idea has merit: Take teams you don’t expect to be in the playoff chase and stick them in prime time early in the schedule.
That’s what the NFL has done by placing Cincinnati at Cleveland last week, and this Thursday night it’s Jacksonville hosting Miami. Denver and the Jets get the honour next week before some of the big boys take the stage.
That doesn’t mean Dolphins-Jaguars will be a total dud. Miami has been somewhat competitive in division losses to New England and Buffalo. Jacksonville, led by the dynamic play of quarterback Gardner Minshew, has been a whole lot more than that, stunning Indianapolis and falling at Tennessee late in the game.
Jacksonville, ranked 19th in the AP Pro32, has a sieve of a defence. So does No. 27 Miami.
“I think there’s been some opportunities for us to make plays and we haven’t made them — a couple of dropped interceptions, lost edges, a couple of missed tackles,” Dolphins coach Brian Flores said. “There’s never just one thing, but I think we’ve had some opportunities. We need to take advantage of them.
“We try to stress how important every play is because you never know which one is going to be the one that changes momentum or makes a shift in the game.”
North Florida is a 2 1/2-point favourite over South Beach.
Pick: Jaguars, 30-27
No. 32 N.Y. Jets (+10 1/2) at No. 18 Indianapolis
The Indiana Hoosiers probably would be favoured over the inept and banged-up Jets.
Best bet: Colts, 31-13
No. 7 L.A. Rams (+3) at No. 5 Buffalo
By far the toughest opponent the Bills have faced in September.
Upset special: Rams, 26-20
No. 14 Dallas (+5) at No. 3 Seattle
Both defences took punishment last week. More of the same …
Pick: Seahawks, 36-34
No. 4 Green Bay (+3) at No. 10 New Orleans
The Pack has been dynamic in wins over division rivals. Not so easy in the Big Easy.
Pick: Saints, 30-29
No. 12 Las Vegas (+6) at No. 8 New England
No way the Raiders can be as stoked as they were for a home-opening win over the Saints.
Pick: Patriots, 24-14
No. 30 Detroit (+5 1/2) at No. 9 Arizona
This line should be much higher, which scares us away from Best Bet.
Pick: Cardinals, 28-18
No. 21 Houston (+3 1/2) at No. 6 Pittsburgh
Another strangely low line, but this one doesn’t scare us.
Pick: Steelers, 23-16
No. 13 San Francisco (-4) at No. 31 N.Y. Giants
The Niners were bothered by the turf at the Meadowlands in a win over Jets. The turf might be their biggest nuisance again.
Pick: 49ers, 20-17
No. 15 Tampa Bay (-6) at No. 26 Denver
Denver has been struck by a bunch of injuries.
Pick: Buccaneers, 23-14
No. 20 Washington (+7) at No. 22 Cleveland
Cleveland made a nice turnaround vs. Cincinnati. Washington made the opposite turnaround.
Pick: Browns, 27-14
No. 28 Cincinnati (+6) at No. 23 Philadelphia
It’s already getting ugly in the City of Brotherly Blame, uh, Love.
Pick: Eagles, 20-17
No. 16 Chicago (+3 1/2) at No. 24 Atlanta
How many onside kicks should the Bears try in the ATL?
Pick: Falcons, 33-30
No. 29 Carolina (+7) at No. 17 L.A. Chargers
The Panthers have been far more competitive than predicted. It’s early.
Pick: Chargers, 28-13
No. 11 Tennessee (-2 1/2) at No. 25 Minnesota
Are the Vikings really this bad? We need more convincing.
Pick: Titans, 20-19
No. 1 K.C. (+3 1/2) at No. 2 Baltimore
The Ravens are the more complete team right now. January might be different.
Pick: Ravens, 34-28
Straight up: 22-10
Against spread: 20-11-1