JACKSONVILLE – Each week during the 2020 season, nine Jaguars experts – Rick Ballou, Tony Boselli, Frank Frangie, Jeff Lageman, Brent Martineau, John Oehser, Brian Sexton, J.P. Shadrick and Ashlyn Sullivan – will break down the upcoming Jaguars matchup.
Up this week:
The Miami Dolphins at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville.
Rick Ballou, Jaguars sideline reporter
The Jaguars will win if: They get things going in the first quarter. My biggest concern so far with this young team is it has struggled in both games out of the gate. The defense has been scored upon on both opening drives. Offensively, the Jaguars have been a little bit better, but are always playing from behind. Thursday would be the perfect time for Jacksonville to take a lead early. The Jaguars should be able to feast on the Dolphins both on the ground and in the air.
The Dolphins will win if: Ryan Fitzpatrick plays as he did last week against the Buffalo Bills. When Fitzpatrick is on, he is a really good quarterback. The Dolphins' offensive line has done a nice job this season in pass protection. The Jaguars have had no success with their pass rush. If Miami can get a couple of turnovers and Fitzpatrick has success against Jacksonville's young secondary, the Dolphins' will win the game.
As Ballou sees it: This is a game the Jaguars must win. So far this season they have proved experts wrong. They won one game and could have easily won the other if not for poor calls by the officials. The Jaguars on Thursday will be picked by many to win for the first time this season. Will this team feel pressure? Or are they even too young to realize it? The Jaguars will put up more than 400 yards offensively and scored 28 points in a victory over Miami.
Tony Boselli, Jaguars analyst and former Jaguars left tackle
The Jaguars will win if: The offensive line continues to play at a high level, protecting quarterback Gardner Minshew II and opening holes for running back James Robinson; the Jaguars should have another productive game against an average Dolphins defense. Defensively, they must pressure the quarterback. Don't be fooled by the cool-beard touting of Fitzpatrick; if you give him time, he will shred you. But when pressured, he does tend to throw interceptions in bunches. It's a great opportunity for Jaguars defensive end Josh Allen to get his first sack of the season against a Dolphins offensive line that has struggled.
The Dolphins will win if: They can turn the game into a shootout. I'm not sure they have enough to slow a Jaguars offense that has been really good each of the first two games – after slow starts. The Dolphins have the ability to score in bunches, especially if Fitzpatrick has a clean pocket all night.
As Boselli sees it: Unlike the first two games, the Jaguars will start fast and play with the lead. This will allow the defense to be aggressive and get after Fitzpatrick. Look for Allen to have a two-sack game and lead the Jaguars to a comfortable win: 31-17.
Frank Frangie, Radio Voice of the Jaguars
The Jaguars will win if: They keep playing with the same energy, physicality, intensity. This is a confident team – even in defeat last week. They must continue to have balance on offense and stop the run on defense – which they have done so far this season. Minshew must keep making so many right decisions. In essence, they must keep doing what they have been doing.
The Dolphins will win if: They harass Minshew and make him scramble more than he wants, which he hasn't had to do yet this season. They must make the Jaguars punt, particularly in the second half. And they must stay close early against a confident Jaguars team playing on national television.
As Frangie sees it: The Jaguars have the better team and should be in good shape here. They must keep playing as they have been playing. This one shouldn't come down to the closing moments.
Jeff Lageman, Jaguars analyst and former Jaguars defensive end
The Jaguars will win if: They continue playing good offensive football and prevent costly turnovers. The Jaguars' offense is a joy to watch as Minshew is doing a heck of a job getting all players involved in the passing game and all players are doing a really good job blocking for Robinson. The Dolphins' defense currently is struggling to play winning football and has been giving up a ton of yardage.
The Dolphins will win if: Fitzpatrick can create a little "Fitzmagic." He has been around a long time and has seen just about anything a defense can throw at him. The Jaguars' pass rush has yet to have an impact; if Fitzpatrick is comfortable in the pocket, he is capable of being as good as there is in the game. The Jaguars must continue to do a good job stopping the run to allow for better pass rush opportunities.
As Lageman sees it: This is a great test for a young football team – a test of handling the primetime lights, of being in the national spotlight and of being the only game on with all your fellow NFL brethren watching. The home teams that play in the short week have a significant advantage and the Jaguars should have a great opportunity to beat another young football team and move to 2-1.
Brent Martineau, Action Sports Jax Sports Director
The Jaguars will win if: They lead at halftime. The Jaguars must play from in front and can't rely on another double-digit comeback. If they can do this, it will help the defense make some plays and make Miami make some mistakes.
The Dolphins will win if: They hold Robinson under 50 yards. The running game isn't as much of a focal point as it used to be for the Jaguars, but everything is working because Robinson and the running game are staying on schedule. The Jaguars have not had many negative plays. If the Dolphins force third and longs, they will have an excellent chance to win.
As Martineau sees it: The Jaguars feel like a hot team despite being 1-1. It's probably some perception over reality in that sense, but they certainly are playing better than the Dolphins. I always favor the home team on Thursday nights and think the Jaguars will impress on national television with a 31-23 victory.
John Oehser, jaguars.com senior writer
The Jaguars will win if: They start fast – and do everything they have been doing. The Jaguars have allowed long drives on the opponents' first two possessions in their first two games. Aside from those early stretches, they were the better team in both games. If the defense can get stops early, the Jaguars can control momentum and get this victory.
The Dolphins will win if: They harass Minshew and force mistakes. The Jaguars won the opener largely because they won the turnover statistic 2-0. They lost in Week 2 largely because they lost the statistic 2-0. Minshew has looked vastly improved from last season. If he plays turnover-free and keeps decision-making errors to a minimum, the Jaguars should win Thursday.
As Oehser sees it: This is a big game for the Jaguars. They have fought from behind and played scrappy in the first two games. It's time to play well early and stop having to come from behind to win. The guess here is the Jaguars will do that and win a fifth consecutive prime-time home game.
Brian Sexton, jaguars.com senior correspondent
The Jaguars will win if: Minshew keeps playing the way he's playing. He's completing 75 percent of his passes and has a rating of 115.7, which tells you how good he has been on third down and in the red zone. But forget the numbers and look at what he's done, battling back from early deficits to beat the Colts and give the Jaguars a chance to win in Nashville. He is playing like a first-round pick – not a sixth-round pick – and is rapidly gaining ground on winning the job long term.
The Dolphins will win if: They can protect Fitzpatrick. The Dolphins don't have a feature back the equal of Titans running back Derrick Henry, so defensive coordinator Todd Wash can mix things up a bit Thursday more than he could in Tennessee. The Jaguars have two exciting young pass rushers in Josh Allen and K'Lavon Chaisson, so the tools are there. But if Fitzpatrick can sit back and play as comfortably as Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill did last Sunday, the Dolphins will be dangerous.
As Sexton sees it: The Jaguars are the surprise of the NFL through the first two weeks of the season. Minshew and new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden look like a winning combination – and the emergence of the tight ends last week in Tennessee give them even more flexibility. They're averaging 28.5 points per game. With all the young talent surrounding the quarterback, they don't look like they're going to slow down. The Jaguars will win this one.
J.P. Shadrick, jaguars.com reporter/editor
The Jaguars will win if: They get a faster collective start and get an early lead. The Jaguars' defense must stop the trend of allowing early quick-strike scores; both Titans first-quarter touchdown drives last week took less than two minutes. If the Jaguars can get the early lead, then things could get real fun with this offense. Will they pound it with Robinson or will Minshew continue to deal the cards to outside playmakers? The choice is Gruden's.
The Dolphins will win if: They get an off-balance offense into early rhythm, including tight end Mike Gesicki. The Jaguars had issues with the Titans' tight ends last week. Give Fitzpatrick the lead and things will feel different for the Dolphins than they have all season. Keep Fitzpatrick on the field, though; I'd rather Tua make his debut throwing dimes elsewhere, thank you.
As Shadrick sees it: The Jaguars feel like a team that should not let being favored go to their heads. Most of the team is too young to know the difference; with Head Coach Doug Marrone's messaging, that's just not the way this team is wired. This is the get-right week for the defense, and the offense will continue to put up points. This one feels good going in, and it will feel better relaxing over the mini-bye this weekend with a record above .500.
Ashlyn Sullivan, Digital reporter and host
The Jaguars will win if: They start fast. The Jaguars have barely played with a lead this season. Wash wants to utilize the pass rush more this week; for Allen and Chaisson to get to Fitzpatrick, the Jaguars must get a lead. I foresee Jacksonville's offense taking shots downfield early and scoring quicker than in the past two weeks.
The Dolphins will win if: Fitzpatrick has one of those crazy games he has had before. He is inconsistent, but we all remember games from his career that make you go, "Wow." Allen told us they must keep their eyes open for Fitzpatrick on run-pass options; if the Jaguars can handle those plays, they should be able to contain the bearded man.
As Sullivan sees it: The Jaguars will win Thursday – in a big way. I think we will see this offense score more than 30 points. This is the game that will show the nation the Jaguars are much better than people thought this season.