Hope everyone enjoyed the bye week. I certainly did, thanks to watching yet another nail driven into the coffin of the Bill Belichick New England Patriots Era, then watching the New York Jets lose another ugly game, and the Buffalo Bills continuing to spiral into a bizarre form of mediocrity. There wasn’t much news from the Miami Dolphins camp as they rested for the week, following a tough loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Frankfurt. On that note, my straight-up predictions took another hit after an overly optimistic prediction against KC:
driftinscotty’s Straight Up Predictions for 2023
|Game #||Opponent||Prediction||Outcome||My Straight Up Season Record|
|Game #||Opponent||Prediction||Outcome||My Straight Up Season Record|
|1||@Chargers||L, 27-24||W, 36-34||0-1|
|2||@Patriots||W, 27-20||W, 24-17||1-1|
|3||Broncos||W, 34-17||W, 70-20||2-1|
|4||@Bills||W, 34-24||L, 48-20||2-2|
|5||Giants||W, 41-17||W, 31-14||3-2|
|6||Panthers||W, 41-20||W, 42-21||4-2|
|7||@Eagles||L, 27-24||L, 31-17||5-2|
|8||Patriots||W, 31-20||W, 31-17||6-2|
|9||@Chiefs||W, 27-24||L, 21-14||6-3|
Despite my “L” on the last game, I feel like I have a solid sense of where the Dolphins are at, compared to the competition. Unlike regimes of the previous 15 years, the head coach Mike McDaniel Era has locked into a predictable consistency: they’ll beat bad and mediocre teams and come up a bit short against opponents with good defenses and solid offenses. So which type is up next?
This Sunday is a return to normal scheduling, with our Dolphins facing the Las Vegas Raiders in Miami for a typical 1:00 EST kickoff. It’s the beginning of what on paper looks like a stretch of very winnable games for the 6-3 Fins. But we’re Dolphins fans. We know all too well how favorable stretches of games can end up leaving us mystified and angered. What should we expect against Las Vegas this week?
Tale of the Tape
Your numbers on Vegas and Miami, heading into week 11:
Key Team Stats Per Game
|Stat Per Game||Dolphins||Raiders|
|Stat Per Game||Dolphins||Raiders|
|Passing Yards||287.4 (1st)||192.1 (23rd)|
|Rushing Yards||147.9 (2nd)||83.3 (30th)|
|Points Scored||31.7 (1st)||17.2 (17th)|
|Pass Yards Allowed||216.2 (12th)||198.7 (8th)|
|Run Yards Allowed||106.2 (13th)||135.6 (29th)|
|Points Allowed||25 (26th)||20.5 (13th)|
|Net Turnovers||-4 (tie 24th)||-7 (31st)|
|Against Penalty Yards||49.4 (16th)||44.7 (6th)|
As expected by any who have paid attention this season, the numbers are lopsided in favor of Miami. The Fins still rank first in points and passing yards per game, while the running numbers slipped just a hair to second in the NFL. Las Vegas, on the other hand, has posted pathetic offensive stats overall. The defensive numbers aren’t quite as embarrassing for the Raiders, with an eight ranking in pass defense and 13th in points allowed per game. Their run defense is bottom-five, though, suggesting that teams don’t bother passing against them as much since they can go the safer route of keeping it on the ground. Miami’s points allowed ranking is still poor, though we know that some of this is due to several interceptions and fumbles returned for touchdowns, which can’t be blamed on the defense.
Do these numbers reflect what the Raiders have looked like recently, or have they perhaps been improving? Let’s look at their last two games to see what they show us.
Las Vegas’ Last Two Games: Vs. Giants and Jets
Two weeks ago, the Raiders hosted an abysmal New York Giants team looking for any source of hope. Earlier in the week, Raiders owner and live-action cartoon character Mark Davis rage-fired head coach Josh McDaniels and general manager Dave Zielger. The move was popular with the players, as they came out hyped and ready to feast on the carcass of the 2023 New York Giants. With Jimmy Garoppolo on the bench and Aiden O’Connell now at QB for Vegas, the Raiders exploited every one of New York’s many weaknesses. Vegas was up 7-0 at the end of the first quarter and opened it up in the first after Giants quarterback Daniel Jones went out with an injury and was replaced by Tommy “Don’t Call Me Danny” DeVito. They converted two bad interceptions by DeVito into 10 points, in addition to the more traditional touchdown they scored to go up 24-0 by the half. That was really it, as the second half was all but garbage time. The Giants did score a touchdown early in the fourth quarter then missed a two-point attempt, putting the score at 27-6. Vegas added another field goal shortly after, which was where it all ended. Raiders win, 30-6 and go to 4-5. The Raiders players reveled in their McDaniels-less victory as if they were the munchkins of Oz celebrating a house falling on the Wicked Witch of the East.
This past Sunday night, Vegas hosted the other Jersey club: the New York Jets. If you dig field goals and offensive struggles, the first three quarters of this game were for you. Both the Raiders and the Jets would string together a few decent plays, only to have them stall due to penalties or general lack of dynamism. After one quarter, it was 6-3 Jets. The two teams then exchanged field goals in the second quarter, putting the score at 9-6 at the half. The 3rd quarter was more of the same, with the only points being a Raiders field goal to tie it 9-9. The Raiders finally put a touchdown up in the 4th quarter on a solid drive to go up 16-9, with the Jets tacking on another field goal not long after, putting the score at 16-12. The two teams jostled after that, with the Jets using a quick-strike offense that was working well but ended in a bad interception from quarterback Zach Wilson with under 2 minutes left. The Raiders couldn’t get the firs down to ice the game. Wilson then completed a long pass to get the Jets to midfield with 14 seconds left, but the comeback bid fell short when the Hail Mary pass was batted down in the end zone.
My takeaways from watching these two games:
- Raiders rookie quarterback Aiden O’Connell is what you expect of a backup quarterback thrust into a starting role. He will make a few nice passes, a few bad passes, and some questionable decisions, especially when under duress. And he’s under duress quite a bit because…
- The Raiders offensive line is a below-average unit. They looked passable against a discombobulated Giants defense, but a strong Jets defensive front steadily bullied them.
- Raiders running back Josh Jacobs can still gash defenses with poor gap integrity and tackling.
- Not surprisingly, Raiders WR DeVante Adams can still be a force. He and Josh Jacobs might be the only top-level offensive skill players the Raiders have, but they’re enough to keep the unit from being horrible. Give them a little space, and they’ll put up yards on you.
- Las Vegas’ run front seven is essentially Maxx Crosby wreaking havoc and then six other guys who can occasionally capitalize on an offense double or triple-teaming Crosby. Linebacker Robert Spillane made a big play late in the win over the Jets, but nobody else stood out much in that group.
- Assessing the Raiders defensive backfield is a little tough, since the Giants and Jets have lame passing attacks. Still, the Jets did manage to move the ball through the air well enough, thanks mostly to Garrett Wilson serving as a human Snuggie for Zach Wilson. Garrett aside, the Raiders left more than a few wide-open spaces for the Jets’ receivers to hang out, and they were very vulnerable to quick-strike pass plays around the middle of the field.
Overall, the Raiders went 2-0 by beating the snot out of a horrible team and narrowly beating a team with a bottom-5 offense. How they match up specifically against our Dolphins?
Miami & Las Vegas Unit Matchups
Dolphins Offense vs Raiders Defense: Based on the recent games of these two teams, I see the Dolphins having no great trouble moving the ball against the Raiders defense. Maxx Crosby will need to be accounted for, but the Fins O line has been getting healthier and the tight ends and fullback Alex Ingold should be able to handle the job. The Vegas secondary seemed to have trouble keeping up with quick-strike offensive plans, often leaving large openings against the Jets. Tua is a far better QB than Zach Wilson, and the Fins receivers are a much greater handful than anything Vegas has faced recently. Add in the fact that the Fins running game is strong and welcoming back rookie phenom De’Von Achane, and I have to think that the offense will flourish. Major advantage: Dolphins
Dolphins Defense vs Raiders Offense: As mentioned, the Raiders do boast two top-end skill players on offense in WR Davante Adams and RB Josh Jacobs. However, Adams has been kept relatively quiet in recent weeks. With Jalen Ramsey, Xavien Howard, Jevon Holland, and the rest of the Dolphins secondary healthy and really starting to thrive, I expect that they’ll keep Adams’ impact to a minimum while still having the talented players to account for Jacobi Meyers. The Raiders’ offensive line is a below-average unit, which should allow the very talented Dolphins D line to penetrate and put plenty of pressure on the green Aidan O’Connell. Josh Jacobs is still a serious threat, but the Fins run defense has developed into one of the better run-stuffing groups in the league. I expect Jacobs to get plenty of touches early and probably break off a few solid runs, but it will be tough for him to go completely berserk. This will be especially true if the Dolphins can build a lead early and force the Raiders to think more vertically. The one area that Vegas might be able to take some advantage be in the middle of the field, where the Dolphins linebackers aren’t great in coverage. Overall, though, I can’t see the Raiders moving the ball with great success. Advantage: Dolphins
Special Teams, Coaching, and Other Factors
Special Teams: The Dolphins continue to be very bland in this area. Nothing tragic, but nothing especially good either. The Raiders are mostly in the same boat, with the strongest aspect of their special teams being punt coverage, as they allow the 6th fewest punt return yards in the NFL. Everything else is average about this unit. Advantage: NONE
Coaching: The Dolphins coaching staff continues to do an excellent job in the major areas of the game. While there is still the question of whether Mike McDaniel’s offense can thrive against good defenses, the offense is still excellent against everyone else. Vic Fangio’s defense has made serious strides in the last three games, and are now arguably a top-10 defense, with a chance to crack the top five by season’s end. The Raiders have responded well to the firing of Josh McDaniels three weeks ago, and interim HC Antonio Pierce is off to a decent start. It’s too early to say whether he’ll be the man for the permanent position, but I didn’t see anything in his first two games that suggests that he’s out of his depth. But that’s a different thing than a head coach squeezing high performances out of a talent-deficient roster. Sure, his team did fine against two of the worst offenses in the NFL, but it would take an absolute savant to overcome what Mike McDaniel’s team brings to the table. Advantage: Dolphins.
Injuries: The Dolphins health looks decent at this point, though I was hoping to see LG Rob Hunt back practicing after missing two games and having a bye week to recover. We may have to wait at least another week before his return, as he didn’t practice all week. That aside, the Fins are looking solid, with De’Von Achane set to return after his stint on IR. The Raiders are fairly healthy, too, with several players nursing injuries but practicing in some capacity through most of the week.
Potential X-Factors: The Raiders got the typical “a-hole head coach got fired” bump two weeks ago with their win over the hapless Giants. They carried a markedly smaller amount of that momentum into their home game against a better Jets team with another win, but that second win looked a lot more like a team coming back to earth. Miami will be coming out of a bye week after a tough loss to the defending champs, so no reason to think they’ll be resting on any laurels. Last year, they came out guns blazing after the bye week against the Houston Texans, who they would have buried even worse than they did if Mike McDaniel hadn’t decided to start getting cute with the offense in the 2nd half. I don’t see any major psychological advantages happening here, to be honest, but if they tilt in any direction, it’s toward the Fins.
Prediction: Dolphins 34, Raiders 10
I’m calling for one of the bigger blowouts of the season in this one. I’d predict the Raiders to score more than 10 points if they weren’t coming to Miami and we hadn’t seen the Fins defense take such excellent strides in the last few weeks against two offenses (Eagles & Chiefs) far more dangerous than the Raiders. Mix Achane back into the offensive mix, and I see a dominant win to get our guys to 7-3.
Are you all thinking what I’m thinking here? Whatever the case, drop a comment down below and let’s see where our heads are at heading into game 10 of this season.