Week 8 has arrived, as the Miami Dolphins prepare to take on the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. The Dolphins are coming off a 16-10 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 7, while the Lions suffered a 6-24 loss at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys.
Heading into the halfway point of the NFL season, who has the edge?
Who’s Got The Edge?
QB - Dolphins. Many have compared Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to Lions quarterback Jared Goff, and while there are definitely similarities between the two, it is hard to look past Tua on relevant production.
Tua currently ranks 4th in the NFL in passer rating (105.9) and completion percentage (67.3), and leads the league in yards per attempt (8.6). While Goff may have more passing yards (1,583 to 1,223) and touchdowns (11 to 9), injuries have held back Tua’s total passing numbers. But, on actual production that translates to winning football games, Miami has the edge here.
RB - Lions. Even without star running back D’Andre Swift (ankle injury), Detroit’s running back room is easily stronger than Miami’s. Leading rusher Jamaal Williams has racked up 411 yards and 6 touchdowns (2nd-most in the NFL) on the ground for the Lions, and the possible return of Swift would only bolster this group.
While Dolphins running back Raheem Mostert is getting better each and every week (388 yards on 87 carries), he seems to be Miami’s only rusher to do so, with Chase Edmonds struggling to live up to expectations (106 yards on 38 carries).
WR - Dolphins. As I have said every week this season, do I really need to explain this one?
TE - Lions. T.J. Hockenson of the Lions is one of the league’s best at his position, and seems to get better each week. In just 6 games, Hockenson has amassed 23 receptions for 315 yards (6th-most among tight ends) and three touchdowns (3rd-most).
While the Dolphins’ Mike Gesicki is just behind him at two touchdowns, he’s only managed 18 catches in 7 games, and has a measly 197 yards so far this season. Gesicki is wildly talented, but Hockenson’s numbers speak for themselves.
OL - Lions. Miami has talent in the trenches, but a few weak spots continue to hold this unit back. The Dolphins’ offensive line ranks 25th and 18th in pass-block and run-block win rates, respectively. While they have only allowed 15 sacks in 7 games, this number would be far higher without the quick release and pocket awareness of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
The Lions rank slightly above the Dolphins in both of these categories at 19th and 14th, respectively. Tackle Penei Sewell highlights a strong group of linemen, giving Detroit the slight edge here.
DL - Dolphins. While the Dolphins’ defensive line hasn’t been as explosive this season as many would have hoped, it is still a solid unit. As per ESPN, the Dolphins have a pass-rush win rate of nearly 50%, 7th-highest in the league. Their run-stop win rate ranks even better at 34%, 5th-highest in the league.
Meanwhile, the Lions rank 31st and 24th in these same metrics, respectively. So, while both teams have struggled to get actually get to the quarterback this season, the Dolphins have done the “little things” much better.
LB - Lions. Neither group is special, but the Lions’ linebackers have been far more “active” this season. In terms of total tackles, sacks, and forced fumbles for linebackers, they lead the Dolphins in all three.
DB - Dolphins. Yes, even this banged up, I am taking Miami’s secondary over Detroit. The Lions do rank higher in a number of pass-defense metrics, but these numbers could be explained by the fact that opposing teams usually hold a lead over the Lions, and do not need to throw the ball all that often. With Xavien Howard and Jevon Holland, the Dolphins clearly have the more talented group overall, regardless of what the numbers may suggest.
Special Teams - Dolphins. Jason Sanders, is that you?
After a fantastic Week 7 performance in which he converted all three of his field goal attempts, Dolphins kicker Jason Sanders moved up to 17th in the NFL for field goals made. Middle of the pack, sure, but considering the Lions have already cut two different kickers this season, it is safe to say the Dolphins have the edge here.
Which Matchups Will Decide The Game?
1) Miami’s Defense vs. T.J. Hockenson
Make no mistake about it, T.J. Hockenson is the Lions’ biggest threat through the air. Assuming the Dolphins jump out to an early lead, the Lions will rely heavily on their passing game to claw their way back, and Hockenson is the key to that.
At 6’5, 244 pounds, he is a matchup nightmare for defensive backs and linebackers alike, and the Dolphins have issues in both of those departments. Miami’s secondary is severely banged up, and their linebackers struggle in coverage. If they somehow manage to do so, nullifying Hockenson would go a long way in ensuring a Dolphins victory.
2) Miami’s WRs vs Detroit’s Secondary
It is well documented how productive Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle have been this season, but their numbers have not been great (relatively) in one key metric: touchdowns.
While Hill and Waddle have combined for a staggering 1,394 yards so far this season, the pair only have five touchdowns between them. Still decent numbers through seven weeks, but not what you would expect from two of the NFL’s best wideouts. Hill and Waddle have not been involved enough in the red zone, and that needs to change on Sunday. Get the ball into your best playmakers’ hands, and let them cook.
Were it not for a number of injuries on defense, I would trust the Dolphins to win by a large margin here. Still, the Dolphins’ offense is more than capable of carrying this team to a win, and I believe that is exactly what will happen this week. Expect a shootout, but more importantly, expect a Dolphins victory.
What are your predictions for Sunday? Can the Dolphins grab their second consecutive win? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!