A familiar face returns to South Florida when the Jacksonville Jaguars visit the Miami Dolphins. Jags quarterback Chad Henne will play his first game in Sun Life Stadium since the Dolphins let him walk via free agency after the 2011 season, his fourth with the team after being drafted by Miami in the second round of the 2008 draft.
Since replacing injured Blaine Gabbert during a game at Houston in Week 11, Henne has guided the Jags to a 1-2 record as a starter. "To Miami, I don't think I have to prove anything," Henne said. "I think I have to prove something to the Jacksonville Jaguars and something to my teammates — that I can help win, and go down the stretch in winning terms."
The Dolphins are prepared to face their former teammate Henne, even though they have been rooting for him in Jacksonville. "I'm sure he's not going to throw the ball any softer," DE and sack leader Cameron Wake said, "so I'm not going to hit him any softer."
The Jags have been out of playoff contention for some time, while the Dolphins must win their final three games and get considerable help elsewhere if they want to keep playing in January.
When the Dolphins have the ball: WR Davone Bess has been ruled out for Sunday with a back injury, but the Dolphins may not need their second-leading receiver to put points on the board against Jacksonville. The Jags are 29th in the NFL in scoring defense, and 31st in total defense, giving up 27.6 points, 147 yards rushing, and 249 yards passing per game.
RB Reggie Bush has become more productive of late, averaging 5.0 yards per carry over the last three games. Bess' absence means either Marlon Moore or Rishard Matthews will start in his place. The two have combined for just 7 catches and 138 yards this season.
The Jags could be especially vulnerable in pass defense, with starting CB Aaron Ross out with a calf injury. Backup DE George Selvie is also out. Miami has gone 5 weeks with giving up at least one turnover; not coincidentally, the Dolphins lost in 4 of those weeks.
When the Jags have the ball: Jacksonville is in the bottom-five in both rushing and passing offense, thanks in large part to the loss of All-Pro RB Maurice Jones-Drew to a foot injury. He is expected to miss a ninth straight week of action, fellow rushers Rashad Jennings and Jordan Todman are also out.
Even though they have lost 5 of the past 6 games, the Dolphins continue to boast an above-average defense, thanks in no small part to their third-best red zone defense (allowing a touchdown in only 42% of opponents' trips inside the 20-yard line).
Keep an eye out for WR Cecil Shorts, averaging 19.2 yards per catch in his first season of significant action. In the past four weeks, he's caught 20 passes for 368 yards and four touchdowns.
Who has the edge? The Dolphins are playing at home with more talent and an outside shot at making the playoffs. If they cannot beat the 2-11 Jags, then there is no hope left in Miami.
The pick: Dolphins 24-Jags 14
Details: Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11) at Miami Dolphins (5-8)
TV: CBS, 1 p.m, Marv Albert, Rich Gannon
Line: Dolphins by 7.5
Previously: Dolphins won 14-10 in 2009