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Dolphins vs Titans: Matchup Analysis

Rather than do a simple five question exchange this week to discuss the Dolphins/Titans game with a blogger from Music City Miracles - SBN's Titans blog - we've done something different this week. Jimmy from MCM and I have decided to share our thoughts on which team has an advantage in each phase of the game. Check it out below and then tell us what you think.

Dolphins Offense vs Titans Defense

Matty I: Advantage Dolphins
Any way I seem to look at this matchup, I can't see how the Dolphins don't have at least a little bit of an advantage. Tennessee's secondary has been giving up yards through the air at a rate worst than most of the NFL. And while the Titans haven't been overly hurt by the departure of Albert Haynesworth, their 4.2 yards allowed per carry is average at best. Miami has been playing their best offensive football all season over the past four weeks, averaging 355 yards per game in that span and I think that the Dolphins will use a well-balanced offensive attack on Sunday to move the football with relative consistency.

Jimmy: Push
The reason I go push here is because the Titans struggles on defense have come against the pass, and the strength of the Dolphins offense is running the ball. The Titans haven’t been outstanding against the run, but they have been solid. Chad Henne appears to be playing pretty well, but I am not sure he has the weapons to take advantage of the Titans weaknesses in the secondary like Manning, Brady and Schaub have done this season. The Titans are going to try to take away Ricky Williams and make Henne beat them. I am not sold yet that he will be able to.

Titans Offense vs Dolphins Defense

Matty I: Advantage Titans
If you've been reading my thoughts at all this week, then you'd know the amount of respect I have for Chris Johnson. He's the most explosive player in the NFL and, quite frankly, scares me to death. It's mind-boggling that CJ has done something this season that no player has ever done in their career - rush for 3 85+ yard touchdowns. I think he'll get his yards on this Miami defense. The key for the Dolphins will be limiting the impact CJ's yards have on the game. I also think that the matchup between the Titan receivers and Dolphin corners should be very fun to watch.

Jimmy: Advantage Titans
The Titans offense has actually been really good since VY took over in week 8. He has actually been a very good passer since re-entering the offense, and he also adds the extra dimension of being able to make a play with his legs when things break down. His presence has also really opens the playbook up for offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger, i.e. QB draws and little option.

The other advantage the Titans offense has in this game is the fact that the Dolphins have never seen CJ live. Hearing about his speed and watching it on tape is very different than defending it. He usually gets some extra yards on runs early in games against teams he has never played because the underestimate their angles.


Dolphins Return Team vs Titans Coverage Team

Matty I: Advantage Dolphins
I think that this is one aspect of Sunday's game that the Dolphins have got to exploit. The Titans have one of the worst kick coverage units in the NFL, allowing 25 yards per kick return. Ted Ginn, meanwhile, has been one of the best kick return guys in the AFC this year. His average of 28 yards per return leads the conference and is second in the conference in kick returns of 40+ yards. Recently, it seems as though there were a few returns where Teddy was one more block away from busting a big one. Sunday could be the day he finally breaks through again.

Jimmy: Advantage Dolphins
I would imagine the Dolphins have the advantage against pretty much anyone with Ted Ginn returning kicks, but that will be especially true in this game. The Titans coverage teams, especially kick-off, have been horrendous this season. Kicking the ball to Ginn might be the scariest thing about this game for Titans fans.

Titans Return Team vs Dolphins Coverage Team

Matty I: Advantage Dolphins
Prior to this season, the Dolphins had been struggling for years covering kicks and punts. But they've turned things around this season, holding opponents to 22.8 yards per kick return and 8.2 yards per punt return. Nothing spectacular, but certainly an improvement over past seasons. They also held some of the top return men - Clifton Smith, Fred Jackson, Wes Welker, and Darren Sproles - under their season averages. The Titans, meanwhile, are ranked towards the bottom in both kickoff return and punt returns and I just don't see any reason to think the Dolphins won't continue their consistent performance on Sunday.

Jimmy: Advantage Dolphins
I haven’t looked at any stats for this one, but I have watched the Titans play all season so I don’t need too. The Titans have gotten better at returning kick-offs since they put Kenny Britt back there, but they still don’t have anyone that could return a punt for a touchdown against a middle school team.


Matty I: Push
Titan fans probably will disagree with this. After all, Jeff Fisher is one of the top coaches in the league and I have a great deal of respect for him. But you can't argue with the results that Tony Sparano and his staff have gotten out of this football team in the almost two seasons as head coach. They took over a 1-15 team and completely turned them around. This season we've seen the Dolphins - despite being far less talented - hang tough and come very close to knocking off the unbeaten Colts and Saints. This coaching staff has helped overcome injuries to many key players (Chad Pennington, Ronnie Brown, Will Allen, Jason Ferguson to name a few). More recently, they've done an excellent job of game planning for their opponents - deciding to put the pressure on their young quarterback against a porous New England secondary, for example. Sparano knows how to motivate his team. He gets as much out of his players as any head coach can get from theirs. And I just don't see how anyone can prepare for a game against these Dolphins and think that they can actually "out-coach" or "out-prepare" this team. It's not going to happen.

Jimmy: Push
Honestly I am close to giving this one to the Dolphins. Last year I would have taken Jeff Fisher over 95% of the coaches in the league, but he has made a ton of boneheaded decisions this season that have really lowered my confidence in him. It started in the offseason when he didn’t bother to get the team anyone who could return kicks and has continued in season with his refusal to remove Nick Harper from the starting line-up. Plus you have to be really impressed with the job Tony Sparano has done, especially with all of the injuries they have suffered. All of that being said, Jeff Fisher is still a very good in game coach who has been through all of the battles which is why I went push.