The Miami Dolphins are 5-1 on the season, tied for the best record in the NFL through Week 6. Their reward for reaching that mark? A primetime matchup with another of the 5-1 teams, in this case the Philadelphia Eagles. Miami kicks off against the Eagles in Philadelphia on Sunday Night Football tonight at 8:20 p.m. ET.
This game is probably the game of the week, and has the potential to be one of the games of the year. Two of the top teams in the NFL, both sporting elite-level offenses, meet in primetime. What better way to end the week’s Sunday slate of games?
Tonight’s game is the 16th meeting all-time between the Dolphins and Eagles. Miami leads the series 9-6, including winning the last meeting 37-31 in Miami. This time, they are playing in Philadelphia against the reigning NFC champions.
Who are the Eagles? I spoke to Brandon Lee Gowton from Bleeding Green Nation, SB Nation’s Eagles team site, to get a closer look at Philadelphia. We talked about what the New York Jets did last week to beat the Eagles, who Jalen Hurts is as the Philadelphia quarterback, and the odds for this game.
You can check out my side of the conversation as I answered questions about the Dolphins here:
The Eagles lost to the New York Jets last week, dropping to 5-1 on the year. What worked for the Jets and can Miami exploit the same issues this weekend?
The Jets’ defensive front won their battle with the Eagles’ offensive line. New York certainly benefited from Lane Johnson getting hurt on Philly’s first drive. They feasted on Eagles backup right tackle Jack Driscoll, who allowed a whopping eight pressures. The Jets were able to neutralize the Eagles’ running game and force Jalen Hurts into some mistakes.
Some of the Jets’ success was based in bad luck for the Eagles. Jake Elliott uncharacteristically missed a 37-yard field goal. Dallas Goedert bobbled a screen pass to create an interception. DeVonta Smith dropped two passes, including one where he was wide open in the middle of the field. I tend to think the Eagles won’t be that unlucky again.
The way the Jets beat the Eagles isn’t the way that I’m worried about the Dolphins beating the Eagles. The defense more than lived up to their end of the bargain last week but their banged up secondary is going to be tested by Miami’s passing attack. This week it’s really on the offense to make up for last week’s failures and outpace the Dolphins’ scoring ability.
Last week was obviously not quarterback Jalen Hurts’ best performance, but he has been strong usually. What should we expect to see from him? What are his strengths and weaknesses?
Yeah, it’s a little weird because he was having a pretty good game up until crashing and burning at the end. The third-down interception he threw to Tony Adams may have been the worst pick of his career. And then he couldn’t even manage to lead the Eagles to a first down with a chance to go on a game-winning drive.
I expect him to bounce back. After an uneven start to the season, it felt like Hurts was making positive strides each week. He’s earned enough benefit of the doubt to say those last two drives aren’t indicative of what he’ll do moving forward. This is a player who is 22-2 in his last 24 starts.
Hurts’ strengths normally include making good decisions and taking care of the ball. He hasn’t been as strong in that regard recently, which bears monitoring. Hurts has really improved as a passer in terms of accuracy. He’s also obviously a weapon to do damage with his legs. His ability to make plays out of structure puts stress on the defense.
Hurts’ weaknesses include holding onto the ball for too long. He actually has the second-slowest average time to throw, only ahead of Justin Fields. It’s a stark contrast with Tua Tagovailoa’s league-leading quick release. There are times when Hurts bails the pocket too early.
You have to attack the Eagles defense, offensive coordinator. What are you designing? Where can Miami find success?
If I’m the Dolphins’ offensive coordinator, I’m looking to get the ball out quick to help neutralize the Eagles’ defensive line. I’m also looking to test the vulnerable spine of the Eagles’ defense. The Birds aren’t especially strong at linebacker and they’re starting two backups at safety.
I know the Dolphins like to run the ball and I wouldn’t abandon that approach entirely. But I have to say the Eagles will probably feel like it’s a win whenever the Dolphins aren’t trying to pass.
The thinking here is that the Eagles need to be aggressive and willing to give up big plays with the hope that they can generate some takeaways. They’re not going to beat the Dolphins by forcing Miami to go on long drives and simply take what’s underneath. And so I’m expecting the Dolphins to try to make the Eagles pay for being aggressive by hunting for explosive opportunities down the field.
The Dolphins are on a run through NFC teams right now, having played the New York Giants in Week 5, the Carolina Panthers last week, and now the Eagles. These are not teams Miami normally sees. Who is a player on offense Dolphins players may not know, but will make an impact on this game? On defense?
Offense: Tough to pick an under-the-radar player on offense since the Eagles have a lot of recognizable names there. I could go with Olamide Zaccheaus but I think he’s going to be WR4 with the Eagles unexpectedly signing Julio Jones this week. I’m intrigued to see what Jones’ role looks like in his this game. As of me typing this sentence, it’s not perfectly clear if he’ll actually play. But I’m guessing he will. And I could see him making a big play or two as WR3 behind A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith.
Defense: Milton Williams is the player to watch out for on defense. He’s overshadowed by more prolific teammates at his position such as Fletcher Cox, Jalen Carter, and Jordan Davis. But Williams is capable of generating pressure and being a reliable run-stuffer. The feeling here is that generating interior disruption is the Eagles’ key to slowing down the Dolphins’ offense so it’s possible Williams can contribute in that regard.
This game is hovering around the Eagles favored by 2.5 points, according to DraftKings Sportsbook. I know the Dolphins have made noise this year, especially on offense, but the Eagles are the reigning NFC champions and a team looking like the class of the conference again this year. Do you think the Dolphins and Eagles are that even? Do you think this is over or under the 52-point total?
I have a lot of respect for this Dolphins team. I’ve been in on them since watching them really outshine the Eagles in last year’s joint training camp practice.
I do think these teams are even in terms of being in the same tier as legitimate Super Bowl contenders. We could conceivably see this exact matchup take place again in February.
I do like the Eagles to win this game because I think they’re going to be motivated to prove last week was uncharacteristic. The Linc is going to be juiced up and that could give Miami some issues when it comes to their pre-snap motions, just like it was when the Dolphins played in Buffalo.
Speaking of that game, I feel like a lot of people were quick to jump on the Dolphins getting 2.5 points on the road in that one. I feel like the same thing is happening again this week. And, despite that, the spread has stayed the same. The line is telling me that the Eagles are going to win this game. Or at least it’s going to be very close, which I think it will.
At first thought, I do like the over since it seems like this is going to be a shootout. But the Eagles might try to shorten the game by going on long drives to keep the Dolphins’ offense off of the field. So, in that case, the over might not be as easily achievable. But I’ll still lean that way since I think there’s going to be a lot of scoring.