Following an embarrassing loss to the Browns last week, this Sunday, the Miami Dolphins (0-3) head west to take on the Chargers (2-1) for a 4pm start. Both, the Dolphins and Chargers, are coming off poor performances against below par teams. The Chargers had decent numbers last week, but committed too many mistakes that let the lowly Chiefs hang around. The Dolphins, similarly, had the lead for the majority of the game, but, unlike the Chargers, could not seal the deal. I have seen comparisons of these teams that say they are very similar, but will that make for a close game? Let’s see…
What to Watch For:
Chargers’ Offense vs. Dolphin Defense:
When examining the Chargers’ offense it’s easy to figure out where to start: Pro-Bowl QB Phillip Rivers. Last week, Rivers threw for 258 yards on 24 completions and had 2 INTs. I’m going to chalk up that performance to him having a bad day, considering Rivers has thrown for the 4th most yards (979) this season. The matchup of Rivers against the Miami Dolphin defense is scary at best for Dolphin fans. It’s no secret the Dolphins’ secondary has more than struggled this season and I do not foresee that changing this week as CB Vontae Davis did not make the trip with the team. If the Dolphins’ 30th ranked pass fails to right the ship without Davis, Rivers may drop Brady type numbers on Sunday.
The Chargers’ offense relies heavily on their passing attack; having attempted 126 passes to 81 rushes in 2011. Despite their reliance on Rivers, the Chargers’ backfield will feature two RBs: Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert. Both backs have combined for 271 rushing yards in 2011, but their main contributions come in the passing game. Together, the two backs have accounted for 34 receptions for 341 yards and 2 TDs. These two may play a larger role this Sunday as, future Hall of Famer, TE Antonio Gates’ status looks bleak. This is very good news for the Dolphins as it takes away one of Rivers’ favorite targets and Gates is a TE (whom the Dolphins simply cannot cover no matter the quality). This is a big loss for the Chargers, but definitely not a fatal one. Rivers’ will still have quality targets in Malcom Floyd, Vincent Jackson, and his RBs.
Dolphin Offense vs. Chargers’ Defense:
The Chargers come into Sunday with a solid defense to backup their equally solid offense. The Charger have the 9th ranked passing defense, 19th ranked rushing defense, and the 8th ranked defense overall. You might think their 19th ranked rush defense would be the point of attack for the Dolphins given how well Daniel Thomas has played the previous two weeks right? I thought so too, but that idea went out the window once reports came in that Thomas did not make the trip with the team due to his ailing hamstring. Great. This might be the explanation for the Dolphins acquisition of RB Steve Slaton. Hopefully Slaton will have picked up enough of the Dolphins’ playbook to possibly take advantage of this Charger weakness. Oh, maybe Bush will give it a shot?
As I said in my Week 3 Wrap-up, I felt that Henne had another good week. There had been rumors following last week’s game that the Dolphins were looking into trading for Carson Palmer. I do not think that this is a good move or the answer for this team’s problems. Henne has been playing better and Palmer wouldn’t make that much of a difference. Until he would learn the offense the season would be over (at least our chances of making the playoffs), you’re not building your franchise around him because of his age, and you’re giving up valuable draft picks. That being said, it’s time for Henne to stop “not losing games” and start winning them. As I said, he has been playing better, but the redzone struggles are no longer acceptable. The Dolphins’ offense has shown they can drive the ball, but now it is time to finish those drives. For this to happen, the line has to play good (not even great, just good), then Henne and the receiving core have to get on the same page, and they have to change up the play calling. As will be the case every week, if the Dolphins fail to put the ball in the endzone, then they will have NO shot at winning this one.
Two Minute Drill:
Dolphins’ Key to the Game: Damn the Rivers. If the Dolphins allow Phillip Rivers to get into a groove, then it’s going to be a long, painful day for Miami fans. The Chiefs were able to force Rivers into making mistakes. The Dolphins must do the same if they want to remain in this game.
Chargers’ Key to the Game: Safe and Sound. The Chargers do not need to be flashy in this matchup to be successful. The Dolphins’ secondary can be picked apart with basic passing plays; especially with a QB the caliber of Phillip Rivers. To win this game the Chargers do not need to hit big plays, but rather hit short passes and keep the ball safe.
Dolphins’ Player to Watch: The Defensive Line. I usually save the “Player to Watch” for someone I think will have a big game, but this week it’s the players that NEED to have a big game. I have pretty much given up on the secondary’s ability to stop the pass, so this leaves the task of stopping Rivers to the D-line. The D-line needs to finally come alive and get to Rivers consistently to break up his rhythm.
Chargers’ Player to Watch: Phillip Rivers. No shocker here. If Rivers can have a solid day with minimal mistakes, then the Chargers will find themselves in position to get the W.
How it plays out: After looking at the numbers, I do believe these two teams do matchup better than I originally thought. Despite this, Phillip Rivers is still Phillip Rivers and the Dolphins’ secondary is the Dolphins’ secondary.
Prediction: 27-17 Chargers. Rivers and the Chargers’ offense control this game. They do not make many mistakes and put the ball in the endzone. Henne and the Dolphins offense do not. Failed opportunities and poor defense continue to plague the Dolphins.
If my prediction holds up, I hope it doesn’t, the Dolphins will drop to (0-4) entering their bye week. One has to wonder if Tony Sparano can survive another loss. Something will have to be done, but what can be done and will it honestly make a difference?
As always, PhinsUp! -John
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