Dolphins vs. Cardinals Odds & Picks: The Young QB To Back On Sunday
Norm Hall/Getty Images. Pictured: Kyler Murray.
Dolphins vs. Cardinals Odds
The Dolphins visit the Cardinals for a matchup that features two quarterbacks who last faced one another in the 2018 Orange Bowl.
While current Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray and Oklahoma took the loss in that meeting, he performed well enough throughout the season to be selected first overall in the 2019 NFL Draft. Former Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa followed Murray into the NFL a year later as the Dolphins selected him with the fifth overall pick in 2020.
Tagovailoa made his first NFL start last week in a 28-17 home win over the Rams. However, a closer look at the box score reveals that despite the 28 points scored by the Dolphins, Tagovailoa resembled more of a passenger onboard as opposed to the driving force behind Miami’s victory.
With 23 games under his belt as an NFL starter, Murray has a great chance to outperform Tagovailoa in this matchup — particularly in the passing game.
The Dolphins made the quarterback switch to Tagovailoa before their Week 7 bye. Such a move going into the bye is not uncommon in the NFL, since teams are happy to use the extra days to prepare for their next opponent. In this case, Miami couldn’t have been in a better spot to take on Los Angeles.
Los Angeles was already making its fourth trip to the East Coast in just eight games. That’s roughly 2,500 miles one-way and a 5,000-mile round trip. Los Angeles was the perfect opponent for Miami and it didn’t hurt that Dolphins head coach Brian Flores knew just how to stifle the Rams offense after he faced them in the Super Bowl when he was Bill Belichick’s defensive assistant.
While Miami outscored Los Angeles by 11 points in Tagovailoa’s debut, the road-weary Rams gifted the Dolphins with three fumbles and two interceptions. Two of their four touchdowns were scored by their defense and special teams.
The other two touchdowns began with short drives off turnovers on the Los Angeles side of the field. The Dolphins ran only 48 plays compared to the Rams, who ran 92 plays. Tagovailoa dropped back to pass 22 times and finished the game with just 93 yards on 12 completions. His performance was only good enough for a 25.1 mark in ESPN’s Total QBR.
A deeper dive into his box score shows just how pedestrian Tagovailoa was in the start. According to Pro Football Reference, Tagovailoa averaged 5.4 intended air yards per attempt along with just 2.1 completed air yards per attempt. That’s a lot of checkdowns even for a rookie quarterback. Perhaps Tagovailoa’s biggest indictment was that of his 22 passes, 18% of them were graded as poor throws despite only being pressured on 8.3% of his dropbacks.
I’m not sure I can trust Tagovailoa this early in his development to be able to sustain long drives and move the ball down the field. Per TeamRankings, he’ll be facing a Cardinals defense that’s ranked sixth with a 76.6 opponent passer rating over their last three games and ninth overall with 6.4 opponent yards per pass attempt this season.
I would expect more checkdowns or short passes from Tagovailoa, especially considering that the Cardinals rank fifth in blitzes with 38.6% on opponent dropbacks.
The Dolphins come into this game fairly thin at the running back position with Myles Gaskin (MCL sprain) and Matt Breida (hamstring) already ruled out. Former Bears running back Jordan Howard could get some carries, but he’ll have to shake off some rust after being left off the game-day roster in Miami’s last three games.
Outside of the issues at running back, most of the players on Miami’s injury report were full participants at practice on Friday with the exception of cornerback Jamal Perry, who was limited and is listed as questionable.
The Cardinals will hope to come off their bye and notch their sixth win of the season. Through seven games, they’ve already matched last season’s win total of five games.
Murray’s improved play has certainly contributed to their success, as he’s raised his QBR almost 14 points in his sophomore campaign. Per TeamRankings, the Cardinals are in the top half of the league with 258 passing yards per game this season and they’re ranked fourth in their last three games with 302 yards per game. Arizona is also a team that likes to get the ball down the field as evidenced by Murray’s 8.4 intended air yards per pass.
According to Pro Football Reference, Murray has faced fewer blitzes in 2020 (7.43 per game) compared to 2019 (9.44 per game). It seems that teams would much rather keep him in the pocket as opposed to having him use his legs to scamper all over the field.
Fewer blitzes could also lead to fewer sacks, as Football Outsiders ranks Arizona’s offensive line 10th in pass protection. The Cardinals have also given up the second-fewest amount of sacks in the league. This is key because if Murray continues to face fewer blitzes each week, one could expect his comfort level in the pocket to continue to grow as well. That should help to create more downfield opportunities for Arizona in the passing game.
Murray could be set up for another strong performance at home on Sunday. In Arizona’s three home games this season, he’s thrown for at least 270 passing yards and is averaging 305 yards per game compared to just 234 yards per game on the road.
The absence of Cardinals running back Kenyan Drake could also lead to more passing yards for Murray should Arizona choose to deploy more of an air attack. Drake has been ruled out due to an ankle injury he picked up in Arizona’s victory over Seattle. Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick is also set to miss the game due to a thigh injury, while defensive end Jordan Phillips (hamstring) and linebacker Ezekiel Turner (toe) are listed as questionable.
Dolphins vs. Cardinals Pick
This is a fascinating head-to-head matchup between Tagovailoa and Murray.
With the total moving up one point after opening at 48, the market clearly likes the over. Part of that might have to do with the fact that both starting running backs are out with injuries, which bodes well for me considering that I have my eyes on a passing prop in this game.
I like Murray to eclipse Tagovailoa in passing yards on Sunday. For one, the Cardinals are the more likely team to take shots down the field and Murray has performed much better at homer than on the road. Tagovailoa is also likely to face a heavy blitz package from the Cardinals in just his second professional start.
I can’t see Miami opening up the playbook too much given the number of different reads he’ll need to process during the game.
DraftKings lists Murray as a -157 favorite to have more passing yards than Tagovailoa. That number looks short to me and I’m willing to swallow the juice and back Murray in this spot. I’d be fairly comfortable playing this up to -165.
PICK: Murray (-157) To Pass For More Yards Than Tagovailoa