The Miami Dolphins face the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday in a Week 6 contest. The Dolphins are coming off their second straight loss, while the Minnesota Vikings are on a three-game win streak and currently lead the NFC North. Who has the edge heading into Sunday?
Under new head coach Kevin O’Connell, the Vikings' offense has taken a step forward this year, both through the air and on the ground. Simply put, this is one of the best teams in the NFL, and the Dolphins will have their work cut out for them on Sunday.
Game: Miami Dolphins (3-2) vs. Vikings (4-1)
Date/Time/TV: October 16th, 2022 / 1:00 PM ET / FOX
Location: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida
SB Nation: Daily Norseman | @DailyNorseman
Who’s Got The Edge?
QB - Vikings. With Tua Tagovailoa starting, there’d be a conversation here with Kirk Cousins. With Teddy Bridgewater starting, that conversation would then fall on deaf ears. But with Skylar Thompson starting, the less said, the better.
RB - Vikings. While Miami’s running game finally got going last week via Raheem Mostert, Vikings running back Dalvin Cook is still one of the NFL’s premier rushers, and Sunday won’t be any different. In 2022, Cook has the 10th-most rushing yards (373) and is only regaining form every week. A powerful runner through the numbers, the Dolphins defense will have their hands full trying to stop Cook this weekend. Raheem Mostert is good, but he’s no Dalvin Cook.
WR - Dolphins. Although Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle have cooled off following the absence of Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, the pair are still in the Top-10 in the NFL for receiving yards and 40+ yard catches.
Now, one could make the argument that Justin Jefferson is the best receiver across both teams, and they’d certainly have a case. Jefferson is 2nd in the NFL in catches (40) and leads the NFL in receiving yards (547). But at the end of the day, Jefferson is just one guy, and as a unit, I’m still inclined to say Miami has the edge.
TE - Vikings. Mike Gesicki. Man, what happened?
Alright, we all know what happened, but I’d rather not discuss it, so let’s focus on Minnesota Vikings tight end Irv Smith Jr, who’s reeled in 14 catches (15th-most) for 133 yards (17th-most) this year. Middle-of-the-pack numbers at best, but still far better than Gesicki’s.
OL - Vikings. The Dolphins started the season exceptionally in the trenches, but injuries have dragged this team back down to reality. While Terron Armstead, Robert Hunt, and Connor Williams all rank in the Top-10 for their respective positions (as per Pro Football Focus), they’re severely held back by the performances of tackle Liam Eichenberg and Greg Little, who rank dead last in the NFL.
And not to mention, without the quick release of Tua, Miami’s blocking issues are exacerbated even further. Almost by default, I have to give the Vikings the advantage here.
DL - Dolphins. I’m giving Miami the edge here, but just marginally. While the Vikings have managed more sacks (11) than the Dolphins (9) this season, they’ve also played much weaker offenses in the Detroit Lions, New Orleans Saints, and Chicago Bears. I still believe in the talent on Miami’s defensive line, and a breakout game is due.
While Minnesota also has talent in the trenches in Harrison Phillips and Dalvin Tomlinson, I believe the Dolphins are just slightly better.
LB - Vikings. Simply put, the Vikings have a lot of talent in their linebacking core, and Miami doesn’t. Vikings outside linebackers Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith are two of the NFL’s best all-round linebackers, but also excel at getting to the quarterback. They’ve combined for 5.5 sacks together this year, only 3.5 behind the entire Dolphins defense. A very solid unit, and one that Miami can’t compete with.
DB - Dolphins. With Xavien Howard set to play on Sunday, Miami gets the nod in the secondary. Jevon Holland and Howard speak for themselves, but undrafted free agent Kader Kohou has performed exceptionally well this year for the Dolphins, and has managed to fill some of the hole left by veteran cornerback Byron Jones.
The Vikings have a veteran presence in their secondary with Patrick Peterson and Harrison Smith, who were at one point elite defensive backs in the NFL. However, in 2022, some of that fire has definitely been lost, and this duo is simply not the same as it once was.
Special Teams - Dolphins. Jason Sanders is not the same kicker he was in 2020, but to his credit, he’s getting better each week. He’s made 6 of 8 field goal attempts on the season (75%), and is 4/6 from 40 or more yards. While Vikings kicker Greg Joseph has made more field goals (8/12), he also has a much lower percentage (66%) and is only 3/7 from 40 or more yards.
Both kickers aren’t exactly among the NFL’s elite, but Sanders is better.
Which Matchups Will Decide The Game?
1) Skylar Thompson vs Vikings’ Defense
If Miami wants any chance of winning this game, they can’t solely rely on the legs of Raheem Mostert to do it. The Vikings will likely run up the scoreboard every chance they get, and Miami’s offense needs to be able to keep up with them through the air.
Making his first NFL start this week, Thompson needs to do better than his NFL debut in Week 5. The Dolphins’ defense isn’t what is was last year, and Miami will have to go toe-for-toe with Minnesota on the scoreboard.
Luckily, Thompson is blessed with an elite receiving unit, and should be able to distribute the ball 10-15 yards past the line of scrimmage, and let the likes of Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle take over from there. Keep it simple, and get the ball into your best players’ hands, and Miami has a shot at winning this game.
2) Dolphins’ Secondary vs Vikings’ WRs
A banged up Miami secondary? Justin Jefferson? Adam Thielen? Even the most optimistic of Dolphins fans should see that Sunday could get very ugly for the Dolphins, and fast.
However, if the Dolphins could limit the production of Jefferson and Thielen, the Dolphins’ offense would then be be able to stay in the game, giving Miami a fighting chance at victory. This game cannot turn into a shootout, and stopping the Vikings receivers is the first step in achieving that goal. Of course, that’s much easier said than done, but the simple fact remains: Stop Justin Jefferson, and you likely stop the Vikings.
The team with the better QB almost always wins in the NFL, and the gap between Skylar Thompson under center and Kirk Cousins is a massive one. I’d love to be proved wrong, but I don’t see Thompson going head-to-head with Cousins on Sunday and keeping up with the Vikings offense.
What are your predictions for Sunday? Can the Dolphins get back to winning ways at home? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!