The Miami Dolphins face a formidable foe this Sunday in the city that means “Whale’s Vagina” in German (according to Ron Burgundy). As tough as it is to resist the temptation to hijack this thread and talk about marine life genitalia, we need to figure out how to beat the San Diego Chargers.
The tiebreaker implications of this game are very important if we manage to stay in the Playoff picture. The AFC West is far and away our main threat to a Wild Card berth, and San Diego currently sits 4th in their division. It would be awkward to lose to San Diego and then turn around and hope they beat Kansas City and Oakland later in the season - we’d be rooting for a team that has a tiebreaker over us.
However, one game at a time.
The Chargers are winners of 3 of their last 4, and except their game against Jacksonville earlier in the year, every game they have played in this year has been decided by 8 points or fewer. This has the makings of a close game decided in the 4th quarter; ideally, we have the opportunity to run out the clock like we did last week. Yes, that really happened - we ran the clock out on someone, against the #1 rushing defense no less.
The Chargers have a bye after our game, so we should expect to face a very motivated and focused football team.
3) Dolphins LB’s Vs. Melvin Gordon
Slowing down the #3 scoring offense in the NFL is a tricky proposition, but it all starts with slowing down the run game. If Jay Ajayi is the “hottest” RB in the NFL right now, Melvin Gordon is the 2nd hottest, rushing for 469 yards in the last 3 games compared to Ajayi’s 529. The LB unit’s ability to maintain gap discipline and tackle Gordon will define how our run defense turns out on Sunday.
The Chargers have only been held under 27 points 3 times this year. Surprisingly, the Indianapolis Colts were one of those teams to hold the Chargers below 27 points (the Broncos did it the other 2 times). The Colts limited the Chargers to 37 yards on the ground, forcing the Chargers to throw it 39 times compared to 17 runs. The Colts also forced 3 turnovers. If we can force that kind of one-dimensionality, we will put ourselves in a more favorable position to win this game.
2) Ndamukong Suh Vs. Chargers Interior OL
Philip Rivers has a quick release and a sharp mind, but he is not a nimble guy who is going to move around the pocket too much. With these types of QB’s, interior pressure can be exponentially more disruptive than facing a mobile QB.
The closest analogy we have to this situation is when we faced Ben Roethlisberger - although we only sacked him twice, we hit him at least 7 times and pressured him on several additional plays. The Colts had a similar distribution of sacks, hits, and pressures in their win against the Chargers.
With Suh promoting anarchy in the middle and Wake regaining his beastly form, the Chargers will have their hands full slowing down our pass rush. I’d look for the Chargers to go with some screens and draws to keep the pass rush off-balance, as well as use a dink-and-dunk short passing attack. Our secondary will need to get good jams on the boundary WR’s to disrupt the timing.
1) DeVante Parker Vs. His Injury/Apathy
Our defense has played better football during the 3 game winning streak, but I think this is a difficult game to win if our offense only gets to its 21 point average. We know our running game will do its part, but we may be entering the game with Kenny Stills and Jarvis Landry hobbled - or possibly being without one or both of them.
Jay Ajayi can’t do this alone. Maybe Gase gets creative and puts Ajayi and Drake in the game at the same time, and then splitting Drake out into the slot or out wide against a LB. Leonte Carroo and Jakeem Grant have to be able to step in if necessary, but the brunt of the burden falls on DeVante Parker. Can Parker become the #1 receiving threat on offense? Nothing this year has suggested he is ready for that spotlight.
Whether it’s his soft tissue injury or he is professionally complacent (or a combination of both), I can’t quite figure out why he is not blossoming. More details will unfold about how Stills and Landry are recovering, but as of right now, Parker’s job becomes tantamount vs. the Chargers. Even if Stills and Landry both play, it’s possible neither one of them are at 100%. We need Parker to step up in a major way - become a big boy, if you will.
What key match-ups do you see Phinsider Nation? Let’s hear it in the Comments!
(Just to add a little fuel to the fire:)
- San Diego is favored by 3.5 points at most sportsbooks. The public action on the game is 70% Chargers/30% Dolphins.
- ESPN’s FPI (a predictive index) has the Chargers at a 72% chance of winning.
- James “The Regurgitator” Walker (ESPN’s Miami Dolphins beat reporter) believes the Chargers will win.
Adam Gase said it best (paraphrased): “no one cares what you did last Sunday”.
Frankly, I like that we continue to be overlooked. We’ve always played better with a chip on our shoulder. The only thing that will change people’s minds is to keep winning.