The Miami Dolphins will take on the 5-1 Philadelphia Eagles this Sunday evening in one of the biggest showdowns of the season thus far. The Eagles have been one of the best teams in the NFL and are coming off of a Super Bowl birth from last year. The Eagles are also coming off their first loss of the season, an ugly game in which Jalen Hurts threw three interceptions against a tough Jets defense.
There are a few matchups in this game that will decide the outcome. Let’s break down these key matchups and talk about who has the advantage.
Slowing Down the Eagles offense
This is going to be the story of this game. The offense will find ways to put points on the board, but if the defense can’t get some stops, it will be difficult to pull out this victory. The Eagles present a lot of special problems for any defense. There are two things they do as well as any team in the NFL: running the football and taking the top off the defense. It’s no surprise that these two things work in conjunction with one another and they both leverage their top-tier offensive line. Let’s talk about the running game first...
One of the keys to this matchup will be slowing down the Eagles' running game. They love to run behind Dickerson/Kelce and off the right tackle (Lane Johnson). pic.twitter.com/ctgw2yYUNj— George Forder (@GeorgeForder3) October 19, 2023
This will be a big game for Miami’s interior defensive line. We have to hope that the run defense has gotten better over the last couple of weeks because there is no question that this Philly team will want to run the football. The front seven will probably not have much help in the form of safeties dropping in the box, so they need to win their matchups up front and keep this running game from taking off. It’s great that they’ve been dominating some lesser opponents, but this is a game where Christian Wilkins can add a few million dollars to his next contract if he shows out.
It’s hard to look at the film and not admire what they’ve built in Philadelphia. They do such an excellent job of leveraging their talents on offense. When fully healthy, they have the best offensive line in football... oh and they have one of the best receivers tandems in the league (AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith). They can pound the football, or they can drop back and take the top off your defense. It’s the difference between a slow and painful death or a quick and painful death.
Here is why you can't commit too many bodies to stopping the run. And If you send the house, you can get burned on the back end. If you don't pressure Hurts, he'll kill you down the field. This is a game where the defensive line has to play well, or Philly will drop 30+, easily. pic.twitter.com/XNh99QGsGI— George Forder (@GeorgeForder3) October 19, 2023
If you look at most of their big plays through the air, you’ll see Hurts with ample time in the pocket. The danger with blitzing is that it gets picked up (or Hurts escapes) and then you’re leaving your coverage unit shorthanded against some of the best receivers in the NFL. The way the Jets slowed them down was by getting pressure using their front four. Most of that pressure came after Lane Johnson exited that contest. Johnson’s replacement, Jack Driscoll, struggled against the Jet’s stable of edge rushers. Unfortunately for Miami, Johnson is rumored to be returning against Miami and has already started to practice on a limited basis. Johnson hasn’t given up a sack since 2020 (that’s a real stat), so don’t expect Miami edge defenders to get a lot going on his side.
Will Miami’s offense have problems?
The Eagles have some injuries and problems in their secondary, but their defensive line is as good as it’s ever been. They have a stable of pass rushers, both on the edge and the interior. Josh Sweat, Haason Reddick, Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Jordan Davis, and Jalen Carter can all wreck a game for your offense. Even with all those big names, it could be Jalen Carter who is emerging as the best.
The Eagles have a ton of talent on their defense, but the biggest game-wrecker might be rookie defensive tackle Jalen Carter. His status for this Sunday night is the one I'll be watching the closest. pic.twitter.com/KHMeo8BYNN— George Forder (@GeorgeForder3) October 19, 2023
Jalen Carter missed last week but already has two limited sessions in this week. If he can go, it would change what the offense can do. One of the biggest problems this offense has had this season (there haven’t been many) is dealing with interior pressure. The Bills have been the only team that could generate consistent pressure from the interior and it disrupted the offense in the second half of that game.
Connor Williams’ availability will be essential for this game. Liam Eichenberg filled in last week and played well, but this would be a totally different situation. If Liam has to line up at center, they need to really consider finding ways to get him help when he’s matched up with Carter or Cox. Even with Connor healthy, this is one of their more difficult matchups of the season.
“Speed can hurt you, but physicality can hurt speed.” Eagles defensive coordinator Sean Desai seems to tip his hat a bit for how this Eagles defense wants to slow down Miami. Desai is yet another Fangio disciple (they’re everywhere) and runs a similar defense with a lot of two-high shells. They will bring a safety down in the box depending on offensive personnel. We are likely to see them try and replicate what the Bills did. That means getting physical with our receivers at the line of scrimmage, muddying up first reads, and hoping that the pressure (especially interior) gets home. They should have Darius Slay and James Bradberry both healthy on the outside, so it will be a fun matchup to watch.
Will McDaniel have them ready?
This is a much more difficult one to quantify or study. The last time they had a huge matchup this season (Bills), they came out flat. The offense scored early, but the defense just looked shell-shocked. Once the Bills got a couple of stops, the team started to look overwhelmed. The Bills played as perfect a game as we’ll see them play this season and the crowd was deafening... it was a tough day for Miami.
If there is one thing Philly fans are known for, it’s creating a hostile environment. The team is coming off its first loss of the season and is back in Lincoln Financial Field for a prime-time showdown with one of the best offenses the NFL has seen in a long time. This place is going to be absolutely rocking. Will the Dolphins look like a deer in the headlights or embrace the chaos and go shot for shot with the Eagles?
This is going to be a tough game to pull off for the Miami Dolphins. After their showing in Buffalo earlier this season, we really just need to see them show up and perform in a big game. Another thing that is important to note is that this Eagles team has tasted their first defeat of the season and they will do everything they can to avoid dropping two in a row. Miami will need to score 35+ and get a couple of stops against this high-powered Eagles offense. We’ll see them come out and fight but inevitably drop their second game of the season against a motivated Eagles squad. Eagles win this one 38-35.