Miami Dolphins fans had one of the most enjoyable bye weeks in recent memory following a heartbreaking loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. The Bills, Patriots, and Jets all lost, and now the Dolphins will look to widen their lead in the AFC East as the 5-5 Raiders will travel to Miami for a 1 pm (et) showdown this Sunday. The Raiders looked like a team that was dead in the water earlier this season, but they’ve managed two straight victories over the Giants and Jets after firing head coach Josh McDaniels.
This is clearly a game the Miami Dolphins should win, but we’ll highlight some areas that deserve extra focus this week if the Dolphins want to walk away from this game 7-3.
Force Aidan O’Connell to beat you
This isn’t meant to disparage O’Connell in any way. After watching their game live last week and then going through the all-22, I came away impressed with how he commanded the offense against this Jets defense. If you go back and watch Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen against this group, they didn’t fair any better (and maybe did worse). But at the end of the day, he’s a rookie QB and is likely to struggle if you put too much on him.
This Raiders offense runs through Josh Jacobs and Davante Adams. Against the Jets, they accounted for over 77% of the team's total yardage. pic.twitter.com/NbOQyByLII— George Forder (@GeorgeForder3) November 17, 2023
Antonio Pierce has been clear on how he envisions this team winning games down the stretch and it makes a lot of sense. He wants to see his guys impose their will and the best way to do that is “stopping the run on defense and running the ball on offense.” He’s been gifted a roster that may not be as talented as some of the other AFC powerhouses, but they can win games if they make it ugly and physical.
That means that this offense is going to run through Josh Jacobs (all of his fantasy owners can celebrate). Jacobs touched the ball on 29 of the Raider’s 62 offensive plays last week against the Jets (46%). The first step to stopping this offense is stuffing Jacobs on first and second down. If they can slow down the running game, they can then turn their attention to O’Connell and the passing attack.
Again, the Raiders are not afraid to lean on their stars here. O’Connell attempted 27 passes last week and 13 of them (48%) went to Davante Adams. The Dolphins are in the envious position of having two true lockdown corners.... but so are the Jets, and he still made his impact on that game. The Raiders have some interesting pieces behind Adams (Renfrow, Mayer, Myers), but the key to this game will be forcing O’Connell to look their way and then winning those 1 on 1 matchups.
Limit Offensive Mistakes and Slow down Maxx Crosby
The Raiders are banged up on the back end of their defense and Marcus Peters may still be experiencing night terrors after Miami’s week two game in Baltimore last season... just kidding, but really they should have opportunities against this secondary. But, again, they want to play a brand of football that would prevent Miami from taking advantage of that.
Defensively, they get after it up-front... and that starts and ends with Mad Maxx Crosby. pic.twitter.com/JK2rMv8tMp— George Forder (@GeorgeForder3) November 17, 2023
That brand of football will again rely heavily on the Raiders’ other major star and that’s Maxx Crosby. I was a fan of Patrick Graham when he spent a season in Miami and he has continued his successful NFL career here with the Raiders. He’ll employ multiple looks on the defensive line and they’re going to try to get after Tua Tagovailoa all day. While this will be as solid as Miami has been at offensive tackle for a while (since James/Tunsil?), it might be a good idea to give AJ help with Crosby as much as possible.
The Dolphins may also have an advantage in the perimeter run game in this contest. If they get Achane back, he could end up being a huge part of their offensive game plan. If I’m the Raiders, I don’t know that I trust my linebackers to get to the edge faster than these Dolphins running backs.
Antonio Pierce and the Raiders are a good story and another example of how dysfunctional the “Patriot Way” is without Tom Brady. They’re playing much better football and Pierce has identified a smart game plan for how this team can win games down the stretch. They have a handful of bonified stars and they’re going to feature them as much as possible. The problem for them this week is that they aren’t facing Zach Wilson or Tommy DeVito, they’re facing a legit top-5 QB and MVP candidate in Tua Tagovailoa. Their style of football will win games against the NFL’s middle class, but it won’t be enough against a healthier Miami Dolphins squad coming off a bye. The Raiders fight, but the Dolphins win this one 35-17.