The 4-4 Miami Dolphins, coming off a big 22-20 overtime win over Cincinnati on Thursday Night, head into a key Monday Night matchup with the 0-8 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are coming off a heart breaking 27-24 overtime loss in Seattle. The Dolphins are looking to keep their playoffs hopes alive, while trying to deal with an ongoing saga involving Ritchie Incognito and Jonathan Martin and accusations of hazing in the Dolphins locker room.
The story has blossomed into a full fledged public relations disaster for Miami, and has drawn not only the attention of ESPN and the major sports networks, but the major news networks as well. As I type this blog this morning, ESPN Sunday NFL Countdown continue to discuss this story, as layer after layer of this sage continues to unfold.
Stephen Ross has asked the NFL to come in and investigate this, and the ramifications of this investigation from the very top of the Miami orginization to the coaching staff could be costly, very costly. And this is a situation that will not go away any time soon, and with that being said, the Dolphins will have to try to deal with this distraction for a large part of the remaining games, if not all of them
It is with this background that the Dolphins prepare to take on the Buccaneers in Tampa Bay on Monday Night. Let's take a look at the teams and how they matchup.
Offensively, the Dolphins come in ranking 28th in total offense generating 315.2 yards per game, while ranking 21st in passing offense at 217.6 yards per game. The run offense now ranks 22nd in the NFL generating 97.2 yards per game, and the Dolphins are scoring at a 21.8 yard per clip average, which ranks 19th. They face a Buccaneer defense that ranks 17th in total defense, giving up 348.0 yards per game. They rank 15th in pass defense giving up 240.5 yards per game while giving up 107.5 yards per game in the run game, which ranks 12th. The Buccaneers are giving up 23.8 points a game, which ranks 17th.
The last 2 weeks, the Dolphins have run the ball for over 300 yards, having over 150 yards against both the Patriots and Bengals. The one concern about this very positive trend is the fact that the Dolphins have done most of the damage in the 1st half. In the New England game, for what ever reason, Miami got away from the run game, and in the Bengals game, they could not get the run game going again as the defense was on the field for an extended period of time in the 3rd quarter of that game. RB Lamar Miller has emerged as a dangerous, big play back for Miami as he has 448 yards on 93 carries, and 4.8 yard per carry average. The Dolphins need to get him the ball and continue to feed him the ball, as he is a big play threat waiting to happen. QB Ryan Tannehill had a solid game against the Bengals with no turnovers and he is completing 60.6% of his passes and has a 80.8 QB rating. WR Mike Wallace had his best game in my opinion last week with the Dolphins, and the coaching did a better job of getting him the ball in places were Wallace is more comfortable and can use his speed to make plays. This has to continue with the loss of WR Brandon Gibson, and TE Charles Clay will need to be more of a factor as well. The OL, without Martin and Incognito after he got hurt in the 1st quarter of the game with Cincy, had one of their better games of the year. Nate Garner at OLG and Tyson Clabo and ORT played solid games, and the coaching staff did a very nice job of getting extra OL personnel on the field at TE's to help in run and passing situations. OLT Bryant McKinnie has come in and played very well considering the circumstances that he came into, with little time to learn the offense and blocking scheme after the trade. Once again, this group will be the key to the game, as they will face a Tampa Bay defense with talent. The Buccaneers have only 17.0 sacks, which ranks 26th in the NFL. The coaching staff once again will need to scheme to protect in the pass game and continue to run the ball and have balance.
Defensively, the Dolphins come into the game ranked 23rd in total defense giving up 368.8 yards per game. They rank 22nd in pass defense giving up 252.2 yards per game while ranking 22nd in run defense giving up 116.5 yards per game. The Dolphins rank 16th in scoring defense giving up 23.4 points per game. They face a Tampa Bay offense that ranks 31st in total offense generating 304.2 yards per game. They are generating 196.8 yards per game in the pass game and are generating 107.5 yards in the rush game, which ranks 18th. They are scoring 15.5 points per game, which ranks 31st in scoring offense.
Tampa Bay has been a pretty anemic offense in 2013, and are now on their 2nd quarterback, as they traded away what they thought was their franchise QB of the future in Josh Freeman a few weeks ago. 3rd round pick Mike Glennon is now the starting QB, and while he has NFL size and an NFL arm, he has limited mobility. Get Glennon on the move and you can force turnovers. They also have lost their starting RB Doug Martin for the year and former Hurricane Mike James is now the starting RB. Tampa Bay does have weapons outside in WR's Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. Miami has been up and down defensively, which has been a disappointment. Miami will need to stop the run game, which has been a something the Dolphins have not done well this year. If they can, the pass rush, which ranks 10th in sacks with 25.0 got a big boost last week with a now healthy Cameron Wake in the fold. Wake had 3.0 sacks in the game agains the Bengals last Thursday Night, including the last sack for safety that won the game. And while the pass defense has not improved as much as you would like to see from a stats standpoint, this secondary ranks 9th in the NFL with 11 interceptions. CB Dmitri Patterson and Brent Grimes have been as good a duo at CB as the Dolphins have had since Sam Madison and Patrick Surtain and they have 4 & 2 interceptions respectively, which leads the team. Stop the run and get after Glennon in the pass game. This is the key defensively.
This is a game that Miami HAS to win if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive. Miami cannot afford to lose to a Tampa Bay team, that while it has talent, is winless. To complicate matters is the ongoing saga that was discussed earlier. This is a very young football team, and this is a distraction that a veteran team may have issues handling, much less a team with this type of youth.
Can Miami overcome this major distraction and do what they need to do to get a win, I think they can. Miami 27-17 over Tampa Bay.
Let's go Miami.
Be sure to download our browser toolbar for Firefox, Internet Exploder, and now Google Chrome. We keep it updated with all the current links that keeps us informed. I promise you that will not be able to live without this toolbar!
Download the Free Phinfever Browser Toolbar