New York Giants (5-2) at Miami Dolphins (0-7)
With all this talk about how this season for the Dolphins is basically over now, and it is, I pointed out earlier in the week why we, as Dolphin fans, should continue to watch our team play week in and week out. This week's game actually has my attention and it's not because it's being played in London. To be honest with you, I could care less about this game being played in London. What I do care about this week is how this Dolphins offense will go about attacking this 8th ranked Giants defense that is only allowing 303 yards per game. But that stat only tells half the story about the Giants defense. Consider this: over the last 5 games, they are only allowing 256 yards per game and have sacked the QB 25 times in that span. So this Miami offense, and the offensive line in particular, is going to have their hands full. It'll be interesting to see how Cam Cameron game plans for this matchup.
Because of the immense pressure that the Giants get on the quarterback, the running game is going to very important. Yes, I'm aware that Jesse Chatman is the starting running back this week. But he's a very capable back as long as the offensive line is opening up holes. Last week against the Patriots, Chatman played well filling in for the injured Ronnie Brown, breaking off runs of 21 yards, 17 yards, and 30 yards. And this Giants' defense can be run on. They haven't allowed many yards on the ground because, usually, teams are passing the ball trying to come from behind. But when teams do run, they can do so effectively. The Giants are surrendering 4.2 yards per carry over their last 5 games. It's just a matter of staying in the game and allowing yourself to stay committed to the run.
But like I said earlier, the running game is very important in this game against this pass rush. An effective running game makes the pass rushers think twice when attacking the quarterback off the snap because of the fear of over-pursuing and, therefore, taking themselves right out of the play. Running on the early downs also keeps the offense out of clear passing situations. These kinds of situations must be avoided if the Dolphins are to have any success on Sunday because this is when their pass rush is at its best. What the Giants will do in clear passing downs is go into a nickel or dime package with talented linebacker Antonio Pierce remaining on the field as the main linebacker in either package. In the nickel, Kawika Mitchell is the other backer. Now, that is the normal alignment for nickel and dime packages. But what the Giants do that is unique is that they are able to use 4 extremely talented pass rushers along the defensive line, causing havoc for the offensive line trying to block them. They line up defensive ends Michael Strahan (4 sacks), Osi Umenyiora (8 sacks), and Justin Tuck (7 sacks) along the line with former DE and current LB Mathias Kiwanuka (4.5 sacks) as the 4th down lineman. That's 23.5 sacks total between the 4 lineman that the Giants rush in obvious passing situations. Without a doubt, this will be the Dolphins' offensive line's toughest test yet. We'll see this week if they are as improved as they seem to be, which is what I'm most excited about seeing on Sunday.
Now here's the thing about this game. There are big plays to be made against New York's secondary if Cleo Lemon has the time to make a read and throw the ball downfield. Of course, he'll have to be accurate, which is a concern, but I digress. The reason I think this is because we saw how effective the Cowboys and Packers both were against this Giants defense. Sure, the Cowboys have some great weapons in the passing game, but the Packers really don't. But still, Brett Favre was able to complete 76% of his passes for 286 yards and 3 touchdowns. Yes, the Packers have Donald Driver. But outside of him, they don't have any receivers which you can clearly say are better than the Dolphins trio of Marty Booker, Ted Ginn, and Derek Hagan. However, they were still able to get open. So don't think that you can't have success against this secondary because that isn't true. They key is giving the QB enough time to find the open receiver. If I had to guess, I'd say that either Ginn or Hagan are due for a relatively big day as long as Cleo has time to throw the ball and he can be somewhat accurate.
Oh, and speaking of Cleo Lemon, we need to consider this question: Is Cleo playing this game to save his job, at least for another week? If he struggles, does Cam decide to make the switch that many have been waiting for and start John Beck at home against Buffalo following the bye week? That will be the question everyone will be pondering as they watch this game on Sunday. Personally, I hope Cam does make the switch. But I got a feeling that as long as Cleo isn't absolutely horrid, he will remain the starter for a little longer. And boy would that anger a lot of Dolphin fans.
Second half of the preview to come tomorrow. As always, your thoughts below...