Miami Dolphins (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. Seattle Seahawks (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS)
NFL Week 1
Date/Time: Sunday, September 11, 2016 at 4:05 PM EST
Where: CenturyLink Field
TV: CBS, DTV 714
by Chad Holloway, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: MIA +10.5/SEA -10.5
Over/Under Total: 44
Both the Miami Dolphins and Seattle Seahawks experienced a great deal of change in the offseason. The former has a whole new coaching staff led by Adam Gase, the youngest head coach in the league, while the latter lost star running back Marshawn Lynch to retirement. Those developments will lead to new identities for both teams, though admittedly, the Seahawks will go through less change.
The Seahawks will simply see Thomas Rawls, who showed flashes of brilliance last season, step into the lead back role while rookie C.J. Prosise will fill in when needed. What else can you expect from the Seahawks this season? Look for quarterback Russell Wilson to pick up where he left off, which was an amazing season with 4,024 yards, 34 touchdowns, and just eight INTs. Receiver Doug Baldwin is primed for another 1,000+ yard season, while Tyler Lockett has established himself as the clear No. 2. With the departure of Lynch, you can also expect a bit more production from tight end Jimmy Graham, though don’t expect him to return to the output level he enjoyed in New Orleans.
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Interestingly, chances are the Seahawks will flip their passing and rushing rankings. Last year they were the third-ranked rushing offense averaging 141.8 YPG, while they came in 20th passing averaging 236.9 YPG. In 2015, the Seahawks ran the ball 53.3% of the time and passed 46.7%. With Lynch gone, expect those numbers to eek closer to 50/50. You can also expect the Seahawks to once again be amongst the best defenses in the league. Last year they were the top-rated defense in both scoring (17.3 PPG) and rushing (81.5 YPG), and came in second against the pass (210.2 YPG).
As for the Dolphins, it was another disappointing year for the franchise after finishing 6-10. However, some offseason moves offer hope. Bringing on Gase as head coach ought to open up the playbook a bit more (let’s face it, former head coach Joe Philbin and OC Bill Lazor were just way too conservative with the talent on the team), and we’ll finally see what quarterback Ryan Tannehill can do. It’s certainly a make-or-break year for Tannehill, who has proved adequate but not outstanding in his first three years in the league. Fortunately for him, the Dolphins went out and got him some protection by drafting 6’5”, 310 lbs. offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil in the first round.
Tannehill will also have some weapons to work with. Running back Lamar Miller departed for the Texans, but the Fins took a flier on veteran RB Arian Roster, who has wrested the starting role from Jay Ajayi. Foster is prone to injury, but if he can stay healthy the 1-year $1.5 million deal the Dolphins gave him could really pay off. Either way, the team really needs to improve their run game, which ranked 23rd last season with an average of 93.5 YPG. The same can be said of their passing game, which ranked 19th at 238.2 YPG. With Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, Jordan Cameron, and Kenny Stills comprising the receiving corps, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be doing better. Landry certainly does his part – he had 110 receptions for 1,157 yards and four touchdowns last year – but the rest need to step up.
The Dolphins also need to get better on the defensive side of things, and new defensive coordinator Vance Joseph has some strong pieces to work with. The D-line, anchored by Ndamukong Suh, looks primed for improvement, which they need after allowing an average of 126.2 rushing YPG last year (28th in the league). On the flipside, Reshard Jones leads the secondary, which allowed an average of 250 passing YPG last year (21st in the league). There’s talent on the Dolphins’ defense, but there are also a lot of questions including whether or not LB Kiko Alonso and CB Byron Maxwell can stay healthy.
There’s no doubt in my mind the Dolphins are going to be a lot more competitive this season. Gase and the rest of his coaching staff won’t be afraid to take chances, something that’s been sorely missed in Miami for the last decade. Whether or not those risks pay off remains to be seen. Meanwhile, the Seahawks seem to be a well-oiled machine. The only question for them is whether or not someone can fill the shoes of Lynch, and early indications are that between Rawls and Prosise the job will get done.
Chad Holloway's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: There’s no doubt in my mind the Seahawks will win this game outright. I’m a little less confident they’ll do by covering such a big spread – you never know what sort of Dolphins team will show up – but my money is the Seahawks will cover. The Dolphins must go through some growing pains, and there’s really no worse place to do it than up in Seattle against one of the best defenses in the leagues. The Seahawks will wear the Fins down, rack up the points, and kick off the new season with a win.
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