This is a prime spot for Alshon Jeffery, who went into the bye hot. Now he should be nice and rested for the home stretch in a contract year with a reinvigorated Jay Cutler under center. That was a lot words jammed together. Short version is: good game ahead for Alshon.
Protection should also improve for Cutler with both guards Josh Sitton (ankle) and Kyle Long (triceps) set to return. The Tampa Bay secondary has given up some big games to top wideouts and a lot of big gainers: 37 receptions of 20-plus yards (only the Raiders and Browns have allowed more). Jeffery has seen his targets spike in recent weeks and ought to be able to translate them into 90 yards or higher here.
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY SportsKen Blaze
Ryan Tannehill passing yards UNDER 245.5
The Miami Dolphins made it clear this week that they’re perfectly content with Ryan Tannehill being a “game manager.” Quarterbacks don’t typically aspire for game management, but it’s a heck of a lot better than game-ruiner or chronic underachiever.
"It should be a compliment, but it kind of has this derogatory term of making you a non-playmaker," said Dolphins offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen. "I think game manager for a quarterback falls in that one that has this negative connotation, but not inside the coaching rooms it doesn't. Not at all."
Anyhow, Tannehill’s reformation was made possible by the Dolphins finding a running game -- when the offensive line got healthy and Jay Ajayi became the bellcow rusher. In their past three games, all wins, Ajayi has carried a total of 77 times for 529 yards and four touchdowns. Meanwhile, over their past five games, Tannehill has attempted an average of only 25.6 passes for an average 197 passing yards. This grinding, ball-control style of offense has been successful and there’s no reason it should stop this week at San Diego.
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Julio Jones receiving yards OVER 95.5
Obviously it’s a lofty total, but this is a game that has the makings of a shootout in which Atlanta should be airing it out against burnable Eagles cornerbacks. Those CBs include Leodis McKelvin, who will have to try to contain Jones while battling through a hamstring injury. Good luck. The Eagles defense is much tougher on the run. Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan has had this offense thriving by attacking opponents’ weaknesses, so this is yet another game where Jones should see double-digit targets and cross the 100 as he has in three of their past four contests.
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Rob Gronkowski receiving yards -- OVER 82.5
Picture Rob Gronkowski running down the seam against a Seahawks defense that been forced to play an astonishing number of plays in recent weeks -- and will likely be forced to do it again on a short week (Seattle played Buffalo on Monday night) and across the country. Since Tom Brady has returned, Gronk has caught 21 passes for 473 yards for a ridiculous 22.5 average. Bill Belichick has a way of exploiting/torturing opponents, so there’s a good chance that the Patriots use a hurry-up offense to try to wear down the Seahawks defense, meaning more catches and yards for Gronk.
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY SportsWinslow Townson
Jordan Reed receiving yards OVER 55.5
The weight of trying to make up for a putrid, sometimes nonexistent offense has taken a toll on the Minnesota Vikings defense. They’ve shown some cracks in the running game and recently tight ends have been able to find space, none of them as talented as Reed. Those recent TE performances include Eric Ebron’s 9 catch, 92-yard performance in Week 9 and Zach Miller's 7 catches for 88 yards in Week 8.
Reed has seen a ton of targets over the past 3 weeks (34 total) and turned it into plenty of production with with 26 catches for 225 yards and 3 touchdowns. Reed is effectively matchup-proof and should continue to feast here as a frequent source of first downs.