We're now just a couple of days away from Sunday's game between the Seahawks and the Dolphins - a game that the Dolphins are expected to win. That alone worries me.
And with that said, let's highlight 4 critical matchups for Sunday's game:
Joey Porter vs Walter Jones
We all know that Joey is having an amazing season so far in terms of his pass-rushing performance. His 11.5 sacks are a league high and keeps him on pace to break Michael Strahan's sack record of 22.5. But to remain on pace, Porter is going to have to have success on Sunday against one of the league's best left tackles.
Walter Jones is an 8 time Pro-Bowler, including a current streak of 7 years in a row. He's been a dominant force at LT for Seattle since being a 1st round pick back in 1997. And though Jones is older now, he's still a monster, anchoring a line that has allowed just 17 sacks this season through 8 games. It'll be interesting to see how Porter fares against Jones. And it'll be interesting to see if they move Porter around if he does struggle early on against Jones, potentially trying to match him up with 5th year RT Sean Locklear. Regardless, Joey is going to have his work cut out for him on Sunday against a good offensive line and a mobile QB. Advantage: Push
Seahawks' Pass Rush vs Dolphins' Offensive Line
The Seahawks are a very poor defensive team against the pass - allowing 258 yards a game through the air (2nd most) and letting opposing QBs complete over 66% of their passes (5th highest). So Chad Pennington could easily be in line for his 5th consecutive 280+ yard passing game on Sunday.
But that's only if the Dolphins can keep Pennington upright in the pocket. Pennington was sacked twice last week by a team with a similar pass rush. This week, the Seahawks come into Miami with the 9th most sacks in the NFL (20). Though it helps that their leading pass-rusher, Patrick Kerney, is out for Sunday's game, the Dolphins have to protect Pennington better than they did at times last week. Honestly, I thought the line struggled to protect him up until that last "game-sealing" drive. This week, let's hope for more consistency in pass protection. Advantage: Dolphins
Ted Ginn vs Marcus Trufant
Now I'll admit that you never really know which corner is going to cover which receiver for most of the game. But from what I've seen of Seattle, it seems like Trufant (who is one of the most underrated corners in the game) is usually on the team's most dangerous receiver. While Greg Camarillo is the Dolphins' most productive and reliable receiver, it's Ted Ginn who is this team's most dangerous. We saw him have a big day against Buffalo two weeks back and we saw Ginn nearly break a quick slant for a TD last week - if not for a shoestring tackle, Teddy was gone.
If the Seahawks follow suit with what every other team has been doing against the Dolphins, they are likely to put one of their safeties - most likely Deon Grant - down in the box to defend against the run. This means there will only be one safety over the top and there's a good chance he will be shaded toward Ginn's side.
So if that's the case, then why am I talking about this matchup so much? Well it's simple. Last week, we saw Camarillo eat up his defender all game long because of the cushion that the corner gave Greg - mainly due to the lack of help over the top. So what if the Seattle coaching staff decides that Trufant is good enough to handle Ginn without safety help and then shade that safety over towards Camarillo? It could very well happen, especially if Ginn is struggling against Trufant early in the game. The best thing the Dolphins could hope for is for Ginn to get open deep once or twice early on, forcing Seattle to keep their safety deep to Ginn's side. But if Trufant can show he can shut down Ginn himself, then that safety will either stay more in the middle or even more towards Camarillo. So this matchup will be crucial. Advantage: Seahawks (slightly)
Julius Jones/Maurice Morris vs Dolphins' Front Seven
I talked about how important this matchup will be yesterday, but I feel like I need to stress the point today. The Seahawks have a big, physical offensive line that likes to maul people. And with Seneca Wallace again starting for Seattle, they will surely look to get their running game going. Last week against Philadelphia's 8th ranked run defense, the Seahawks were able to grind out 84 yards on 18 carries from Jones and Morris combined. That may not seem like much, but that's because Seattle fell behind and had to pass the ball 29 times to try and catch up. The interesting stat is that Jones and Morris averaged 4.6 yards per carry against Philly's rush defense - a defense that only surrenders 3.5 yards per carry (tied for 5th best).
On the other hand, the Dolphins also only allow 3.5 yards per carry and dominated Denver's offensive line last week - hold Denver to 14 yards rushing and dropping their running backs for no gain or a loss of yardage on 4 of their 11 carries. Another performance like that, and the Dolphins could well be on their way to an over .500 record for the first time since 2005. Advantage: Dolphins
So those are my 4 key matchups for Sunday's game. Be sure to tell us all what you think will be the important matchups on Sunday.