Greg Cote’s Thursday night NFL pick

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DOLPHINS (0-2) at JAGUARS (1-1)

Line: JAC by 3.

Cote’s pick: JAC 30-24.

TV: 8:20 p.m. Thursday, NFL.

Have you been hearing those TV spots pimping Thursday’s game? “FitzMagic vs. Minshew Mania!” Gotta love the creativity of network publicists! It’s a tough sell nationally, this matchup only the state of Florida could love (and maybe not even then?). Of all the glamour quarterback duels possible in the NFL, not sure Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Gardner Minshew wiggles the must-see meter all that much. Unless the category is facial hair and it’s one epic Game of Thrones beard vs. the other’s ’70s adult film star mustache.

Fitzpatrick and Minshew are likely to produce fat stats and a shootout, but that’s mainly thanks to lousy defense on both sides. The question: Whose D is lousier? The evidence says Miami’s is at the moment. Jacksonville was supposed to be deep among the NFL’s dregs but has played above expectations early on. Miami is clearly improved over last year (low bar to hurdle) but in mid-rebuild is nobody’s idea of playoff-good. Bottom line: A hot Minshew vs. a struggling Fins pass defense steers this pick. Minshew was 19 for 20 with three TDs in Jax’s opener and threw for 339 yards and three more scores last week, both against quality opponents. Now Jax visits a Miami secondary battered for 417 yards last week by the Bills’ Josh Allen. And a banged-up secondary at that, with cornerback Byron Jones, the big free-agent get, likely out with a groin strain and fellow CB Xavien Howard (knee) questionable. I don’t wanna say Howard is injured a lot, but when he walks into the trainers room, it’s like Norm walking into the bar on Cheers.

Jags also will enjoy something of an actual home-field edge Thursday, allowing 25% of capacity in these pandemic times or around 16,800 fans. (Jax’s home opener drew 14,100). This is notable because Miami has lost 14 of its past 16 road games. Fins haven’t been real good in prime-time lately, either — they’re on a 5-15-1 skid under the lights. I’d love to see an upset here (and still can if I squint just a little), but based on early performance and health, Miami’s pass defense will not be having a fun night upstate.


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