We're inching close and closer to Sunday's big game between the Miami Dolphins and the Toronto Bills. And I thought that a good discussion starter would be to discuss some of the keys to victory for the Dolphins. I'll just talk quickly about some that I feel are important and then I'll open the floor up to all of you.
And these keys are in no particular order:
PTR - Pound The Rock
I think it was our very own "Little Nicky" who came up with this slogan (if I'm wrong, please correct me), but it's 100% what the Dolphins' motto should be for not just this week's game, but for every game that remains. While the Bills do struggle a bit more against the run - statistically speaking - this is a key to the game more so due to the need for the Dolphins to make sure they take full advantage of their best playmakers.
Don't get me wrong - I love Chad Pennington just as much as most of you do. And this isn't a knock on him. But you win football games - especially late-season battles - by running the football successfully. That's why it isn't any wonder that the teams who are currently in the top 5 in rushing attempts per game all would be playoff teams if the season ended today. The Dolphins, meanwhile, rank just 14th in the NFL in rushing attempts per game (27.8).
I just don't understand why Ronnie Brown - this team's best offensive weapon - is only getting 14 carries per game and just 16 total touches per game. That's unacceptable. Don't take this as an insult to Ricky Williams, either. It's not. He's getting 10 carries per game, and I'd like to see that increase as well. Why not run the ball 32-37 times per game, with Ronnie getting 20-25 carries and Ricky getting 12-15 per game?
This offensive line is built to run the ball, too. While I'm aware they've struggled from time to time, I think now is the time to see what they are made of. The loss of Justin Smiley sucks, but Andy Alleman played pretty well last week after Smiley went down. And the running game really wasn't hindered at all.
So the motto is PTR - and doing so will be a big key this week.
Get Pressure on the QB
With Trent Edwards not practicing the last two days, it's looking more and more like J.P. Losman will get the start on Sunday for the Bills. Regardless of who is starting, though, the Dolphins have got to get pressure on the quarterback.
Edwards has been sacked only 8 times, but he completes less than 50% of his passes and has a QB rating of just 71.1 when he is under pressure.
But it's looking more and more like Losman will start - so we'll spend more time talking about him. And getting pressure on Losman is even more important. Why? Because he has a big arm and loves to throw the deep ball. But to do so, he needs time. So it'll be very important for the Dolphins to find ways to get to Losman before he can get the ball off.
And let's be honest - sacking Losman isn't exactly difficult. This season alone, Losman has been sacked 8 times - which is an astounding number when you consider he's only dropped back to throw 46 times. That means that Losman has been sacked on 17% of his drop-backs this season - an amazing stat when you really think about it. And last week, Losman was sacked 3 times by the 49ers in just 20 drop-backs, which was an improvement for Losman - only being sacked on 15% of his drop-backs.
Last time these two teams met, Joey Porter was able to get to Edwards a couple times. But the rest of the team struggled to do so. On Sunday, look for the Dolphins to really try to find ways to create pressure on Losman.
Prevent the big return
The Bills present a big challenge for the Dolphins on special teams. They possess two of the most dynamic return men in the NFL. Rookie Leodis McKelvin is averaging 29.4 yards per kick return - 1st in the NFL among players with at least 20 returns. Roscoe Parrish, the Bills' dynamic punt returner, is averaging 14.2 yards per punt return - placing him 4th in the NFL.
In their first meeting this year, the Dolphins did a surprisingly good job at containing these two game-breakers. But the Fins are still the worst team in the NFL in kick coverage, allowing 26.2 yards per return. Miami is also 2nd worst in punt coverage, allowing 14.5 yards per return.
The encouraging sign, other than Miami' success at containing these two back in week 8, is that the Dolphins have played better on special teams lately. Over the last 2 weeks, the Dolphins are only allowing 6.3 yards per punt return and 21.1 yards per kick return - a marked improvement from the previous 10 games.
This trend will have to continue if the Dolphins want to contain Toronto's - I mean Buffalo's - two outstanding return men.
Those are my 3 top keys to victory this week. Now it's time to hear from you all. What do you think will be the keys to victory on Sunday?