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The Dolphins Play the Raiders in What’s Miami’s Biggest Game of the Year

I said it last week that the Dolphin’s march towards the playoffs began with the Patriots. Essentially, that was round one. They advanced and have now entered round two. Now they play a team in the Raiders that very recently was looking to make the playoffs. The Raiders are officially not in the hunt anymore but that doesn’t mean that they will roll over on Saturday night. It be great if they did, but I wouldn’t count on that happening.

No, I think this Raiders game gives me the feeling I had while I was watching the Broncos game. I think of the Raiders as this scrappy team that poses issues for the Dolphins. I didn’t have this bad feeling against the Patriots. I was supremely confident that Miami would take it to New England. I do not have the same level of confidence about this Raiders game.

I know the Raiders have lost four of five games, and that their lone win in that span was a last-second win against the Jets when they decided they were still in on losing for Lawerence. There’s also a game in there where they got obliterated by the Falcons who were missing Julio Jones.

Also, we know that the Dolphins put on a bullying clinic(ironic isn’t it?) last week against the Patriots where they ran for 250 yards. The Patriots have the 6th worse run defense in the league. The Raiders have the 8th worse giving up 125.8 yards a game.

Okay, maybe the Raider's pass defense is solid and it’s why everyone just runs the ball on them? Decent theory if the Raiders didn’t also have the 7th worse pass defense.

Maybe you think that I’m a bit fearful of their offensive players. Well, Josh Jacobs is the best running back that the Dolphins will have played all year. Yes, he’s better than Melvin Gordon. The Raiders, as a team, are the 12th best rushing team in the league running for 121.9 yards a game. Jacobs, highest rushing game in the last month has been 76 yards, and hasn’t rushed for over a 100 since week 10. So, it looks like he’s slowed down a bit.

Darren Waller, Nelson Agholor, Henry Ruggs, and Hunter Renfrow; these guys scare me. If you go and look at their stats, besides, Waller, none of them have been out of this world or anything like that. Agholor has revitalized his career which is to say that he only has 648 yards. Ruggs, the 12th pick in the draft, only has 414 yards on the year on 23 catches. We know what Renfrow is going to do. I don’t think I’m breaking any ground with this take but Renfrow does Wes Welker/Julian Edelman type things. He’s going to be who Carr goes to on 3rd and short because he has a quick first step. Nik Needham will have his hands full with him.

These receivers shouldn’t make me uneasy. But they do and it’s not because they’re uber-talented. It’s because I feel that that just go deep a lot. The Raiders are 7th in the league at 7.2 yards a pass attempt. During their last three games, that number is at 8.7, second in the league. All this means is that in classic Raiders fashion, they like to push the ball downfield.

Derek Carr has a lot to do with this and he’s been, surprisingly, accurate this year. He has 24 TDs and only 7 INTs. When throwing deep, Carr has been around average. But like trying to impress girls at the bar pre-covid, it’s a numbers game for the Raiders. They just do it a bunch of times hoping to hit on one or two.

We know Carr injured his groin against the Chargers last week and that Marcus Mariota came in and played pretty well. Looks like Carr is doing what he can to play.

Honestly, I’d rather Miami play against Carr than have to watch the battle of Hawaii between Mariota and Tua. Carr is even less mobile now which the Dolphins defense don’t have to worry about him slipping out and running around them like Mariota would try to do. Also, there’s a reality where Mariota goes on a Tannehill like tear and resurrects his career by starting with the Dolphins on Saturday night. I don’t want to see a motivated Mariota. Give me the slugging through the season Derek Carr.

I love the chances of Sieler, Wilkins, Lawson, and Ogbah causing all types of chaos to Carr. Carr’s immobility should be his downfall against a front that is playing with an attitude I haven’t seen from a Dolphin’s front in years.

Finally, Darren Waller. This guy is a beast of a player. He has 93 grabs for 967 yards and is a force. Eric Rowe didn’t do his best work against Travis Kelce a few weeks, but he has a chance to avenge that by dusting Waller. The Raiders go to Waller often. He’s been targeted 129 times this year. So yeah, he worries me. Miami likes to go with zero coverage quite a bit. If they don’t get to Carr, I can see Waller being open from all spots on the field. The guy lines up everywhere.

Howard, B.Jones, Rowe, Needham, and Brandon Jones will earn their check this week. I foresee man deep shots along with more crossers. Carr is a very capable passer and will throw those square-ins that Jacoby Myers ran last week and succeeded at. The Dolphin’s secondary have been stellar at stopping deep balls from being completed. This needs to continue.

Forcing turnovers, something that this defense has done for league-leading 20 games, will be the equalizer to the Raider’s passing attack. Overall, I like the Dolphin’s chances at overwhelming the Raider's offense.

It’s also nice to see what Stone Cold Brian Flores has done in only one year. Yeah, I definitely think that the Dolphin’s defense will handle the Raider's offense.

On the Dolphin’s side of things, injuries are sort of going their way.

Parker and Gesicki, we were told, were close to playing last week. You’d like to think that if that really was the case then they should be good to go this week. I suppose we won’t really know until around game-time.

One guy we know that will be playing is Myles Gaskin.

I’d expect Gaskin to get the start even though Salvon Ahmed ran wild last week along with Matt Breida. I just think Flores likes Gaskin’s all-around game more than Ahmed. That doesn’t mean we won’t see much of Ahmed. I think we will. He showed last week that he has a burst that Gaskin doesn’t happen and get chuck plays for an offense that has a difficult time getting yards in bunches.

I’d love to see more screens to the backs. Gaskin, Ahmed, and Breida can catch those types of balls and are solid in space. You’d think that a struggling offense like Miami has would try and get yards using that strategy. But they seldom do it. Hey Chan, run more screens.

Tua will be on the world’s stage for the first time under the lights and on prime time. That shouldn’t bother him in the slightest due to his time at Alabama. He has the chance to show everyone that he has the real deal. If he gets his best playmakers back, I really think he’ll have a great game. As I wrote earlier in the blog, the Raiders don’t have much of a defense and at this point in the year, it’s possible though unlikely that they might be thinking about the season being over since they can’t make the postseason. Tua seems like a guy who learns every week so I wouldn’t expect a terrible throw like the one he did at the five-yard-line happening again any time soon.

Here’s a heart-warming stat.

Bowden Jr. is getting more comfortable every game. With at least Parker playing, that should open up lanes in the slot and over the middle for him. At least that’s what conventional football talk has taught me.

If Parker and Gesicki are back, then I would like to see more 50/50 balls headed their way. Were at the part of the season were trying to do things that aren’t your strength shouldn’t be an option. Don’t be like the movie Tenet and overthink things. Let your guys who are great at leaping into the air and bringing the ball down even if there’s a guy on them go and do that. Sure, keep hitting seam routes to Gesicki and have Parker run slants. But don’t leave their best attributes on the table. You don’t want to say at the end of the game that you wished you gave them more opportunities.

The offensive line, which was awesome last week, is a bit undecided. Solomon Kindley hasn’t practiced this week and Ereck Flowers will certainly be questionable at best to play. That would mean Michael Deiter would get the start. Deiter came in last week and did a very nice job. The line didn’t miss a beat and you could argue that may have played better. Whatever the combination is for the line, doing more of what they did last week would be wonderful.

Hey Jason Sanders, do your thing. No doubt about you.

I’m actually looking forward to the announce team of Joe Davis and Kurt Warner. Warner is a regular guy that doesn’t go for the over the top sound byte. He’s reasonable in his expectations and doesn’t pile on someone for making a mistake.

Prediction

This will be a gritty game even though I think there will be a fair amount of points scored. I can see the Raiders getting an early lead. The Dolphins have been behind in games during the Tua era. Arizona and this past week against the Patriots to rattle them off. They won’t freak out. They’re very capable of responding. Surprisingly Las Vegas, not the Raiders, our friends from the desert Las Vegas, have the Dolphins as three-point favorites. Miami is 11-3 against the spread this year so like Vegas, I’m laying the points.

Though I have a nervous feeling about this game, which probably has more to do with this game actually mattering and I haven’t felt like this in many years, I say the Miami Dolphins, your Miami Dolphins will give us all an after Christmas gift of a victory and will head into Buffalo with everything on the line.

Dolphins 32 Raiders 24

From all of us at Sern342 and everyone at The Phinsider, have a wonderful holiday, be safe, drink with pride and with responsibility.