Is Tua Tagovailoa Miami’s Answer?

Tua Tagovailoa #1 of the Miami Dolphins.  Mark Brown/Getty Images/AFP

Tua Tagovailoa #1 of the Miami Dolphins. Mark Brown/Getty Images/AFP

 

The Miami Dolphins are banking on Tua Tagovailoa in 2021, but whether he’s the long-term answer for the Miami Dolphins is impossible to tell after his first year in the league left much to be desired.

With Ryan Fitzpatrick headed to the nation’s capital after signing a $10 million dollar deal with the Washington Football Team in free agency, it raises the question whether Miami has found its answer at the quarterback position. Simply put: is Tua Tagovailoa the answer in Miami?

Certainly, Miami hopes he is the future of the franchise. The quarterback that will bring about a renaissance in Miami, replicating the success and glory of yesteryears. Otherwise, why else would they let go of a capable veteran quarterback like Ryan Fitzpatrick, an inspiring leader on and off the field who proved to be the consummate professional and mentor to Tagovailoa last season.

It’s worth mentioning here that multiple sportsbooks are taking a rather optimistic view of the Miami Dolphins’ chances in 2021, going so far as to install them as potential contenders in Super Bowl 56 betting markets.

For instance, Draftkings has Miami installed as the +2800 bet in SBLVI futures, which puts them on a par with the Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints, Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots. That’s pretty solid company, to say the least.

Whether that’s down to an exaggerated optimism surrounding Tua Tagovailoa, who is slated to be the starter in 2021; or whether the encouraging outlook is based purely on Miami’s overall 2020 campaign that ended on a promising 10-6-0 SU mark despite missing the playoffs, remains to be seen. What is certain is that expectations are pretty high for Miami and, therefore, by extension, for Tagovailoa as well.

 

Tagovailoa, The Chosen One

A lot of hype and buzz preceded Tagovailoa in the 2020 NFL draft and he might have gone first overall but for the hip injury he suffered late in his last season with the Alabama Crimson Tide. In the end, he went fifth overall in the draft to the Miami Dolphins, who actually had had their eye on the left-handed signal caller all along and were absolutely delighted he was still on the board when their turn finally came around.

Tagovailoa started nine games for the Dolphins in 2020, going 6-3 straight up in those starts. That said, his record comes with a caveat as he was benched twice during that span for being outmatched and utterly ineffective.

Tagovailoa didn’t start until week 8 of the season, when Brian Flores surprised all with the decision to bench Ryan Fitzpatrick, despite the veteran’s inspired performance up to that point. Fitzpatrick had carried the Dolphins to a 3-3-0 SU start on the season, capping Miami’s modest start with a 24-0 win over the Jets before a week 7 bye.

As far as rookie seasons go, Tagovailoa, in his limited starts, enjoyed a decent enough stint but he didn’t exactly light up the field or wow the football world. Considering the hype that preceded him, he was underwhelming.

By the stats, he had 11 touchdowns and five picks while completing 64.1 percent of his passes. He also added 36 rushing attempts for 109 yards and three touchdowns. The knockbacks that emerged against the rookie included going for under 100 passing yards in three games, never throwing for more than two touchdowns in a game and at times looking to be out of his depth entirely

Moreover, twice during the season, Tagovailoa was benched in favor of Fitzpatrick. Arguably, the most illuminating occasion came in week 16 against the Las Vegas Raiders, when Flores benched an ineffective Tua for Fitzpatrick and it proved to be the right decision. Ballsy, but the right move nonetheless as Miami’s season hung in the balance.

Fitz came in late in the game and orchestrated one of the most impressive come-from-behind wins, lifting the Dolphins to a pivotal 26-25 win over the Raiders that kept their slim playoff hopes alive. Unfortunately, Miami’s season came down to Tagovailoa in the end as Fitzpatrick was ruled out for the final game following a positive test for coronavirus. Tale told, Tagovailoa was thoroughly outplayed, outmuscled and outshot by the Buffalo Bills in a 56-26 beatdown.

Although Miami finished the season with a respectable winning record, the season was a bit of a let down in many ways. In particular, Tagovailoa’s patchy performance raised more questions than answers about his ability to execute passing plays at the NFL level and lead his team to victory. He was a solid frontrunner when things were going to plan, but he showed little ability to be able to turn things around when things were going tough.

Granted one can look at the supporting cast and point the finger at the lack of an elite run game or offensive weapons, but that’s a simplistic view. Not to mention it flies in the face of the 10 wins they did pull off and stands in stark contrast to Fitzpatrick’s ability to rally the team.

Miami is Tagovailoa’s team now but that in of itself is no guarantee of it being so by season end. If there’s a lesson to be learned from 2020, it’s that Brian Flores isn’t averse to running a two-quarterback system. That in itself puts a lot of pressure on Tagovailoa to perform. He might not have Fitzpatrick breathing down his neck anymore, but the Dolphins picked up veteran Jacoby Brissett in the offseason. So, he’ll face competition regardless.

Brissett is a journeyman quarterback that has made the rounds in the league. On paper, he’s not an obvious threat to Tagovailoa. However, sometimes it’s a nuanced matchup issue: the organization, the coach-quarterback relationship, the playbook and scheme, so on not aligning ideally.

Indeed, Miami cast-off, Ryan Tannehill is a perfect example of that. Tannehill was absolutely ineffective in Miami, but a second chance in Tennessee proved the making of him. Quarterbacks like Brissett hope to be the next Tannehill, and you can bet he will be chomping at the bit to get his shot in Miami too. Worst-case scenario for all concerned, things don’t go to plan either way and the Dolphins find themselves in a position where neither quarterback proves to be the short-term or long-term answer for Miami.

Will Deshaun Watson Play in 2021?

 

Deshaun Watson of the Houston Texans in action.

Deshaun Watson of the Houston Texans in action.

 

Deshaun Watson, by the latest count, is facing 16 sexual misconduct lawsuits, a concerning development that has prompted sportsbooks across the board to take down the quarterback’s trade odds in recent days.

It wasn’t long ago when Deshaun Watson was the belle of the ball. an up-and-coming signal caller that was the envy of many a franchise. And in recognition of his indisputable talent, the Texans signed Watson to one of the biggest NFL contracts in the history of the game, tying him to the franchise for the foreseeable.

There was no prevarication or hesitation at the time by the Texans organization, not as is sometimes seen elsewhere — for example, Dak Prescott and his exhaustive contract negotiations with the Dallas Cowboys that took forever to complete. Watson had the proven upside necessary to fulfill the role of a franchise quarterback, and so the Texans made it happen without too much fuss.

That was back in the summer of 2020, just ahead of the start of the NFL season kicking off in September. A time of optimism and promise, when the world was at Watson’s feet, his oyster to rule, and the Texans were considered viable contenders for Super Bowl 55.

Today, the story couldn’t be more different than it is, having traversed through several unexpected étapes to reach an ambiguous point where his viability in the league is actually being called into question.

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Green Bay Packers Poised to Rule NFC North Again

Robert Tonyan #85 of the Green Bay Packers celebrates his touchdown with teammates. Dylan Buell/Getty Images/AFP

Robert Tonyan #85 of the Green Bay Packers celebrates his touchdown with teammates. Dylan Buell/Getty Images/AFP

The Green Bay Packers sit lotus atop the NFC North field, favored to clinch a third straight divisional title as the NFC North competition takes a step back – on paper, at least – in the offseason.

Green Bay’s neighbors might as well gift wrap the title now and be done with it; that is, if early NFL futures were any indication as throughout betting markets the Packers have the division cornered wholeheartedly in their camp. The odds gap between the Packers and the trio of the Bears, Lions, and Vikings resounding. And that gap is echoed in the broad spectrum of the league, where the Packers are installed amongst the top faves in Super Bowl 56 betting and all three of their divisional opponents are found hobnobbing with the longshots. Outlier bets that have little to any hope of registering an audible chord in the upcoming 2021 NFL season.

As per DraftKings Sportsbook, the Packers are tipped as the third-best bet at +1100 to win SBLVI, trailing behind only the Chiefs at +500 and the Buccaneers at +800. On the flipside, the Bears and Vikings are both priced at +5000 and the Lions are priced at a whopping +15000 – the latter of which represents the worst NFL odds at this point in time.

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Does Bagging Dak Prescott Improve Dallas Cowboys’ Super Bowl 56 Odds?

 

Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys catches a touchdown pass. Tom Pennington/Getty Images/AFP

Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys catches a touchdown pass. Tom Pennington/Getty Images/AFP

Should NFL bettors buy what the Dallas Cowboys are selling in NFL betting markets now that they’ve bagged Dak Prescott?

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Arizona Cardinals Super Bowl Odds Boosted with J.J. Watt Signing

New Arizona Cardinals Defensive end J.J. Watt. Carmen Mandato/Getty Images/AFP

New Arizona Cardinals Defensive end J.J. Watt. Carmen Mandato/Getty Images/AFP

 

The Arizona Cardinals reportedly have scooped up one of the most attractive free agents in the market this season: J.J. Watt. One of the biggest scoops of the offseason thus far, and one that’s had an immediate impact on NFL betting markets, raising Arizona’s prospects in 2021 across the board.

As per DraftKings, Arizona Cardinal’s Super Bowl 55 odds improved from +5000 to +3000 on Monday when the news broke. As well, their odds to win the NFC and NFC West also improved noticeably: the Cardinals are now tipped at +1500 to win the NFC (down from +2000) and at +500 to win the NFC West (down from +700).

J.J. Watt made the announcement himself, breaking the stunning, unexpected news on social media to the chagrin of his many suitors that were courting his services. By that same token, he also managed to – although inadvertently – crush the hearts of many NFL fans around the country, all of which were dreaming of the future Hall of Fame defensive end to sign with their beloved team.

 

J.J. Watt Accolades At A Glance

  • Seven-time AFC Defensive Player of the Week: 2012 (Week 2 & 15); 2014 (Week 4 & 11); 2015 (Week 11 & 17); and 2018 (Week 12).
  • Six-time AFC Defensive Player of the Month ( 2012 (September & December); 2013 (September & December); 2015 (November); and 2018 ( September).
  • Five-time Pro Bowl selection (2012-15, 2018)
  • Five-time Associated Press First-Team All-Pro (2012-15, 2018)
  • Three-time Associated Press and PFWA NFL Defensive Player of the Year (2012, 2014-15)
  • Two-time NFL sack leader (2012 and 2015)
  • Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year (2017)
  • Sports Illustrated Person of the Year (2017)

It would be fair to consider Watt’s move to Arizona a mild surprise; the franchise didn’t fit the popular refrain according to experts nor did it feature prominently in early speculation at multiple top-rated sportsbooks. Heck, some didn’t even have the Cardinals in the frame at all.

Top destinations for Watt based on NFL futures included the Cleveland Browns or the Pittsburgh Steelers (where his two brothers play). The Green Bay Packers also figured in the mix, largely because it would have represented a return to his native Wisconsin. Other destinations included the Buffalo Bills and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Watt made no secret about his desire to play for a contender following his requested release from the Houston Texans this year. The Cardinals are certainly a team that’s ascending in the NFC West and NFC since hiring Kliff Kingsbury and drafting Kyler Murray No.1 overall in 2019. However, the tandem have yet to get into the playoffs or challenge for the divisional title or any other meaningful prize. In their first two seasons, they’ve combined for a 13-18-1 SU mark, with the bulk of the winning gained from a modest 8-8-0 SU mark in 2020.

At the face of it, the addition of J.J. Watt is likely to bolster what was already a reputable defense under defensive coordinator Vance Joseph. The Cardinals were tied for the fourth-most sacks in the NFL last season with 48 and that feat was achieved without stellar line-backer Chandler Jones who missed the last 11 games of the 2020 season. Adding Watt alongside Jones should elevate the pass-rush game, which wasn’t impressive last season – the Cardinals allowed the 12th most passing touchdowns and 16th most passing yards.

 

A Few Career Highlights

  • Watt became the fourth-fastest player in NFL history to reach 100.0 sacks by accomplishing the feat in his 120th career game.
  • Watt became the first player in NFL history to reach at least 150 career tackles for loss and 100.0 sacks in his first 120 games
  • Watt owns Houston’s franchise record for 101.0 sacks
  • Watt leads the NFL with 281 quarterback hits and 172 tackles for loss and he ranks second overall in the NFL in sacks since his rookie season in 2011.
  • Watt is the only player in NFL history with 20-or-more sacks and 10-or-more passes defended in the same season, which he accomplished twice (2012, 2014)
  • Watt has registered 26 career games with multiple sacks, which is the most in the NFL over the last decade, and he’s tied for the fifth-most in NFL history through 128 career games.

 

Watt is no spring chicken and in a few weeks he will turn 32 years old, which in his position on the defensive side of the ball might take the shine off his value. There’s also the fact that he’s had a rash of injuries in recent seasons, along with several back surgeries that raise questions about his durability and sustainability.

However, Watt brings undeniable experience to the table as the former face of a franchise – an intangible asset that is hard to quantify because it encompasses a list of other subsidiary benefits such as leadership, mentorship, motivation, inspiration, execution, and so on. Watt can be all those things and more for a young team that is garnering a lot of excitement and expectation amongst their fans and the wider NFL sphere.

So, whether Arizona Cardinals will be genuine contenders in 2021 remains to be seen but the initial signs point in that direction. The ripple effect of his imminent move to Arizona evident already with many betting sites. That alone makes them a team to spot and, maybe with a few choice flutters, even a team to bet on in certain markets.