The Dolphins will head to Minnesota on Sunday to take on the Vikings in what is their 2010 home opener. In their last 23 home openers, the Vikings are 18-5. And including the postseason, the Vikings were 9-0 last year at home, with Brett Favre throwing 25 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions.
That's why the Dolphins have been installed as six point underdogs on Sunday. Of course, not many people were picking the Chiefs to beat the Chargers or the Texans to beat the Colts. On any given Sunday, people.
So let's get into the matchups. When you look at some of the important matchups, you'll notice that this game isn't exactly as lopsided as many want you to believe.
Vikings offensive line vs Dolphins front seven
The Dolphins did an excellent job a week ago in limiting Buffalo's three-headed backfield to just 38 yards rushing on 14 carries. Cameron Wake, Koa Misi, and Quentin Moses (yes, he was out there a few times, too) did a great job keeping Buffalo's backs from getting outside - particularly the explosive C.J. Spiller. The defensive line, meanwhile, was outstanding in winning at the point of attack and really exerting their power over Buffalo's suspect offensive line.
But Buffalo's rushing attack is not on the same level as Minnesota's, of course. Adrian Peterson, when he's not fumbling, is an elite back. This we know. And the Vikings offensive line is big and physical. Their five starting linemen weigh an average of 321 pounds, with their two giant bookends - Bryant McKinnie (335) and Phil Loadholt (343) - leading the way. The Dolphins obviously have got to contain AP if they want to steal this win.
Last week the Saints didn't exactly shut down Peterson (19 for 87 yards). But they did enough to not let him beat them. Brad Childress also helped, of course, by only handing it to AP six times in the second half. Truth be told, I'd much rather have to deal with an old, rusty Brett Favre rather than Peterson. If the Dolphins can contain Peterson early, Childress might just so the Dolphins a favor and emphasize the passing game more.
Jake Long vs Jared Allen
If you like to watch two great players battle it out in the trenches, then you can't miss this game. What we have here is a top five left tackle against a top five pass rusher - and it's going to be one hell of a matchup. Allen is one of the few defensive ends who can simply take over a game from his position. Just ask the Packers or Bears - they've seen it first hand.
Long, meanwhile, has been outstanding in each of his first two seasons in the league. He's been a Pro Bowler both seasons and, outside of a rough performance to start the year last year in Atlanta, has dominated pretty much every pass rusher he's faced. But Allen might be the best he's ever faced. Long's ability to neutralize Allen is going to have a enormous impact on the outcome of this game.
Cameron Wake/Koa Misi vs Bryant McKinnie/Phil Loadholt
I know I mentioned these guys above in the first key matchup above. But that was more about stopping the run. Now I'm highlighting these four because the ability of Miami's outside linebackers to get to Brett Favre is going to be huge for the Dolphins.
As I mentioned above, Minnesota's two tackles are very big men. They are strong and once they get their hands on you, there's little you can do. Wake and Misi, though, are fast and athletic. Typically, it's these speed rushers that can give big tackles trouble. And if these two can get to Old Man Favre (bum ankle and all) consistently, there could be turnovers ripe for the picking (quite literally). We all know Brett is an interception machine. Let's see how he responds if he has Wake and Misi (among others) breathing down his neck all game.