Take note before locking in your NFL picks that although Tampa Bay doesn’t need to win this preseason game against the Dolphins, the Bucs do need to show signs of improvement from last weeks disaster against Cleveland.
What We Know About The Coaches
Lovie Smith of the Buccaneers is 23-24 in the preseason, 1-2 this year, after his team lost to Cleveland, 31-7. Joe Philbin of the Dolphins is 6-10 in the preseason, 1-2 this year, after his club beat Atlanta last week, 13-9. There is no meaningful point of separation between these coaches. It is certainly best to call this an even matchup, but the NFL Odds are favoring the Dolphins by 3.5 points.
Jameis Winston is going to be the opening day starter for the Buccaneers, so he was given most of the responsibility for the Bucs’ offense in the third game of the season last weekend. It did not go well. Winston completed under 50 percent of his passes and looked very bit the rookie he is.
What should also concern the Buccaneers is that Mike Glennon didn’t play well, either. He also struggled on a night when Tampa Bay’s offense simply fell flat. The Buccaneers need to go into this final preseason game intent on fixing what went wrong with their offense in their third preseason game. This fourth contest needs to be a lot better.
For Miami, the situation is different. Ryan Tannehill was extremely crisp, completing 15 of 19 passes and looking fully ready for opening day. He should sit in this game while backups Matt Moore and Josh Freeman get a lot more work. Moore was just 5 of 10 in the narrow win over the Falcons, while Freeman threw only five passes all night long. They’ll both get a longer look from the coaching staff.
What you have is a situation in which Tampa’s starter is likely to struggle, but Miami’s backups – thrust into action – are not likely to be better. What’s more is that Miami’s backups are rusty, with Tannehill getting most preseason snaps up to now. Give the edge to Tampa Bay.
Team Depth & Rotations
The Buccaneers will be without receiver and new draftee Kaelin Clay, who sustained a rib injury last week against Cleveland. The Dolphins watched kick returner LaMike James absorb a chest injury and reserve cornerback Zack Bowman pick up a thigh injury.
In terms of concerns for both teams as far as performance, the Buccaneers’ offensive linemen, rotating into and out of last week’s game against Cleveland, allowed six sacks. That’s a huge point of concern. Miami’s offensive line, on the other hand, protected Tannehill well despite some odd and mismatched combinations of players who will not start on opening day. Give the edge to Miami in this category – not as a product of injuries, but the player rotations. The Dolphins are getting more production from more spots.
Outlook & Pick
It’s going to be more of a steep learning curve for Jameis Winston and the rest of the Buccaneers’ offense. However, the Bucs have more to play for here, which is why I am shading them with my NFL Picks. Look for Winston to get some time as they try to develop him and then they’ll move to Mike Glennon, who has made NFL starts before. Meanwhile, the Dolphins will be playing conservative.
NFL Free Pick: Bucs +3.5 at The Greek