The 2016 NFL regular season starts off with a bang for the Miami Dolphins, making their longest trip of the year to commence the Adam Gase era. Oh, by the way, it’s in one of the most hostile environments the NFL has to offer an away team, against a perennial Playoff contender in the Seattle Seahawks.
A potential win in this game is going to take a great deal of offensive and defensive execution, and likely, some luck, too. Here are 3 important match-ups going into the week 1 tilt:
3) Arian Foster vs. Bobby Wagner
If the Dolphins offensive line can slow down the Seahawks defensive line (more on this later), I like our chances with Foster against Wagner. I look for us to manufacture yards from the running game through play design and perhaps some gimmicks, because Seattle is simply the NFL’s best at stopping the run - and run blocking appears to be the weakness of our offensive line to boot.
The real match-up is when we can get Foster isolated on Wagner in passing plays. Arian Foster is an elite pass-catching RB, and the one knock on Wagner is his pass defense. In the 2015 week 1 upset against the (now) LA Rams, the Rams primarily attacked the Seahawks defense with TE’s and RB’s.
Let’s hope he doesn’t have to do too much of this....
2) Ja’Wuan James vs. Cliff Avril
I’m not going to lie to you, the #1 match-up involves the trenches, too. This game will be decided in the trenches. The real ideological stretch for the Dolphins is trying to pretend to have a run game throughout the course of the game to keep Seattle’s defense honest. Running is not a very effective thing to do against Seattle - but neither is passing the ball. Seattle’s defense was #1 in run defense and #2 in pass defense in 2015! There’s not a whole lot of room for error.
In their week 1 upset of the Seahawks in 2015, the LA Rams had nearly a 50/50 split in terms of passes and runs, with only one fewer rushing attempt than passing attempt.
With a clean pocket, I think Tannehill can find receivers - yes - even against the Seahawks’ vaunted secondary. The Rams, in last year’s upset, were able to nickel and dime the Seahawks to death. Tannehill has plenty of experience looking at the short-to-intermediate routes, and with enough time, will find a way to move the chains.
James coming off his injury-shortened 2015 season; Cliff Avril, a seasoned pro. Let’s see if our right side is solidified or not - James has looked good all preseason. I’m particularly interested if we can generate a few timely running plays to keep the Seahawks defense off-balance.
1) Mario Williams vs. Bradley Sowell (And Really, the Dolphins DL vs. the Seahawks OL)
The stars are proverbially aligned when it comes to our defensive strength and Seattle’s offensive weakness, as this will be one of the few advantageous match-ups we have among position groups: our DL vs. their OL. The more Mario Williams (or Cam Wake) destroys Bradley Sowell, the more likely the Miami Dolphins win the game. Setting the edge is so vitally important to containing Russell Wilson, and slowing down the Seahawks running game.
But we also need an interior presence like Suh blowing up the pocket for Wilson, and screwing up angles for the Seahawks RB’s.
What we really need is our defensive line to kick ridiculous amounts of ass, period.
The Rams beat the Seahawks week 1 last year with 6 sacks. The Seahawks offensive line can be had, and if we can get to Russell Wilson and increase his discomfort, especially early in the game, this has the opportunity for a low-scoring slugfest.