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Week 12: Dolphins at Broncos
The Miami Dolphins, coming off their best performance of the year in a 37-0 trouncing of San Diego, travel to Detroit to take on the 6-2 Lions, coming off a bye week. Both teams are hot, with the Dolphins winning 4 of their last 5 games, while the Lions have won 5 of their last 6 games. The game is a 1:00 kickoff on CBS.
Let's take a look at the 2 teams and see how they matchup.
Offensively, the Dolphins come into the game averaging 365.8 yards per game, 228.5 of that coming via the passing game, while 137.2 yards are generated in the run game, which ranks 4th in the NFL. The Dolphins are averaging 26.4 points a game, which ranks 9th. They face a very stout Detroit Lion defense that is giving up just 290.4 yards per game, which leads the NFL. They are giving up 206.4 yards per game in the pass game, 74.0 yards per game rushing, which ranks 2nd in the NFL. Detroit is giving up 15.8 points per game, which is an NFL best.
It goes with out saying that Miami faces a very stiff test today against the best defense in the NFL. QB Ryan Tannehill is coming off one of his better games, and is coming into the game completing 63.3% of his passes for 1,907 yards, 14 touchdowns to 6 interceptions. He is also the 2nd leading rusher on the team with 245 yards. Besides the call runs, I believe Ryan legs will be a key in this game, as he will need to be prepared to make plays with his legs against one of the better defensive fronts in the NFL that will be missing DT Nick Fairley. RB Lamar Miller leads the Dolphins with 518 yards rushing and a 4.9 average per carry. He a little banged up with a shoulder, but he is a go for the game today. RB Daniel Thomas and Damian Williams round out the RB core that will see the field. Mike Wallace leads a deep group of WR in catches with 35 catches for 468 yards. Rookie Jarvis Landry is 2nd on the team with 30 catches for 301 yards. Balance will most certainly be a key today along with the play of the offensive line, as they have not faced a DL this good since Buffalo, which happens to be the OL worst performance of the year. One big difference is Miami now has ORG Mike Pouncey back in the fold, and he has made the move from OC to ORG smoothly. OLG Dallas Thomas will be a BIG key in this game. This Detroit defense has playmakers on all levels, from the DL to linebacker to the secondary. Miami will have to be crisp and sharp with their execution today to have success today.
Defensively, the Dolphins come into the game giving up 304.6 yards per game, which ranks 3rd in the NFL. They are giving up 201.1 yards per game via the pass, which ranks 2nd in the NFL, 103.5 yards per game in the run game and are giving up 18.9 points per game, which ranks 3rd in the NFL. They face a Detroit offense that is producing 338.8 yards per game, 259.1 yards passing, which ranks 9th in the NFL, and only 79.6 yards per game rushing, which ranks 31st in the NFL. The Lions are averaging 20.2 points per game.
Detroit is coming off a bye week and get 2 big pieces back this week in WR Calvin Johnson and RB Reggie Bush. While Johnson was out with his injury, WR Golden Tate stepped up HUGE for the Lions and leads the team in receptions with 55 catches for 800 yards. QB Matthew Stafford is completing 61.2% of his passes for 2,216 yards, 11 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. One big stat is that he has also been sacked 24 times, which is an indicaiton that this Detroit OL has struggled in 2014. RB Joique Bell leads the Lions run game with 313 yards. With Johnson back in the fold, Stafford has his favorite piece back, and will throw the ball to Calvin regardless of if he is being double teamed or not. This is a game where the secondary has to make plays on the ball, because they WILL be given opportunities. CB Brent Grimes has very good ball skills, and will be key in this game along with CB Courtland Finnegan. Tate is a dangerous WR that has to be accounted for as well. That said, as usual, things start up front in the trenches. Miami needs to keep the Lions run game in moth balls, and then focus on getting after Stafford. Pressure on Stafford will give you chances to make plays, as he will throw it up for grabs. Safties Reshad Jones and Louis Delmas must be active HITTERS today as well as ball hawks.
The San Diego game began a brutal gauntlet of games that the Dolphins will be facing. After the game today, the Dolphins turn around on a short week to host Buffalo. Then it Denver, Jets, Baltimore & New England. If Miami is going to be a playoff team in 2014, they will have EARNED it. This is a game the Dolphins have a chance to win if they execute the way they did last week against Detroit. Should be a great game.
Let's Go Miami.
It appears that Miami is doing it's own version of the Hunger Games "Catching Fire". Miami is indeed on fire. They've won 4 of their last 5 with their only loss in the last moment of the Greenbay Game. It has been an impressive stretch and it is no accident that it has coincided with Ryan Tannehill's improved performance. It was clear to me early on when I watched NFL.com's coaching film that RT's passes were off on timing from last season. Given his WRs had not changed, I could only surmise that this was due to the different routes in Bill Lazor's Offense. It lead to a misperception that he wasn't accurate with the throw. The issue wasn't accuracy as much as it was hitting the WR late out of the break. That has changed and his timing has gotten better with each game. There's also the Marino factor. That throw between 3 defenders to Wallace in only a place where Wallace could catch it...that had Marino's signature all over it. RT would've never pulled the trigger on a throw like that a few weeks back. With that aside, he is now getting the ball out faster and it shows. His performance over the month of October was top 3. It couldn't have come at a better time because Miami is entering a very tough part of their schedule.
Over the next 6 weeks Miami will face 5 playoff contenders. It will determine their post-season fate. In order to have any shot at the playoffs, a 10-6 record is a must while 11-5 would make it a sure thing. That would mean that they have to beat two of the remaining 5 playoff teams (Lioins, Bills, Patriots, Ravens and Broncos). That is a pretty tough road. I've circled the Bills game as a must win since they lost to the Bills earlier in the season. There is a log jam of teams right now above .500 in the AFC. The entire Central North Division is currently above .500. So are the Bills, Chiefs and Chargers... Im purposely leaving out the division leaders. If you're counting that is currently 7 teams fighting for 2 playoff spots.
So does the world fall apart if Miami loses to the Lions. Nope. Does it mean they won't make the playoffs...no. Let's put this in a better light..what happens if they win? Well a couple of things...for one it will light my fire again. I've seen this play out before with not-so-good results. So I'm cautiously optimistic they can get there. However, I now it won't be easy and I'm not completely sold yet. Every potential playoff team is starting to measure every win and every loss and place more importance on each game. Miami is no different. A win this weekend against Detroit would be very big. They just have to keep this game close going into the 4th and they can then win it there. My feeling is it will be a defensive struggle. Ball security needs to be at a premium because the offense that makes the fewest mistakes will likely be the winner.
STs - Not impressed this year and I'm still not sure why the ST coach still has his job. Given that, Sturgis is killing me. He is a missed FG waiting to happen. Miami needs him this week to hit every single opportunity. If he doesn't, it might get ugly. Fields has had an off year. Not sure why but he seems to be good for 1 shank a game now. We need shankapottamus to get through a game without one for a change. ST's play a big role in close games. It would be nice to see them all step up and give Miami a needed boost on Sunday.
It is no secret Miami has struggled against good DL's all season. Their OL is going to need to play the game of its life this weekend. It will start and end there. If RT gets protection Miami might win by double digits. If he's running for his life from a jail-break on every snap, it might be a double digit loss. Keep your eye on this unit early as I would hope Lazor would keep a TE in to block here on a regular basis.
There's also the CJ factor. If he's allowed to push off, hold down, mug the DB... it will be a long day for the Miami Dolphins. Our CBs are athletic and can hang with most WRs but CJ is a beast and it will be interesting to see what he's allowed to get away with on Sunday.