You could make the argument that the Miami Dolphins’ season is going to start in earnest this Sunday when they welcome a frustrated Dallas Cowboys team to Hard Rock stadium. Of course the logic behind that statement is a little flawed, as the Dolphins won enough games early in the season to put themselves in this advantageous position... but you get the point. These next three weeks will decide a lot for this team and first up will be a dangerous Cowboys squad.
Don’t be fooled by the fact that they didn’t look too dangerous on the road against the Bills. The Bills are one of those teams that can absolutely put it on you when they play up to their potential (as the Dolphins are aware). Let’s look at where the Cowboys present the most problems and talk about how Miami can pull out this victory.
Road vs Home Splits
It is kind of shocking how many ways these two teams mirror each other. They are both extremely balanced and rank inside the top-10 for both offensive and defensive team statistics. They have incredibly talented rosters and quarterbacks that don’t usually get enough credit for what they do. One of the negative things that both of them have experienced this season is struggles on the road.
The Dallas Cowboys are undefeated (7-0) in their home (temperature controlled) stadium and are averaging almost 40 points a game there (39.9). On the road, they are just 3-4 while averaging just over 21 points a contest. The Dolphins have similar stats, but the splits aren’t quite as drastic as they are for the Cowboys. So what makes road games so much more challenging for this Cowboys team?
Well, for starters EVERY NFL team has home field advantage. You are in your own environment, you’re familiar with the surroundings, your fans make noise at the right time, and you don’t have to travel. The way Vegas sets the lines reflects the reality of home field advantage. The weather in Miami this weekend should be fairly mild, so it will be interesting to see if this trend continues for both teams.
Most Dangerous Defensive Player in the NFL
There are a ton of game changing defensive players in the NFL right now. Almost every team could make a claim to having the best... with that said, there aren’t too many (if any) players like Micah Parsons in the NFL. He has the ability to play off ball (like he did in college) and line up pretty much anywhere on the defense. Where he really wrecks games is as a pass rusher though.
This Dallas defense is filled with game-changing talent, but none more so than Micah Parsons. They'll play him up and down the offensive line and all he does is win.— George Forder (@GeorgeForder3) December 22, 2023
Him vs some of Miami's interior backups (Cotton, Jones, Eichenberg) is the matchup the watch. #FinsUp pic.twitter.com/3C2JRFF2ik
The biggest problem with game planning for Parsons, is that you don’t know where they will deploy him. He’s just as good rushing from the interior as he is from the edge. Since Miami is dealing with more injuries from the interior of their offensive line, you would have to imagine that is where they will deploy him most. Lester Cotton, Rob Jones, and Liam Eichenberg (hopefully Rob Hunt plays) will get a heavy dose of Parsons.
Along with Parsons, this team has a ton of talent at pass rusher and in the secondary. Stephon Gilmore, Daron Bland, Malik Hooker, Demarcus Lawrence, and Markquese Bell can all ruin your day. They’re built to get a lead and force you into passing the football. Last week, the Bills just refused to play into their strengths, only attempting 15 passes all game. Will the Dolphins try their luck and go strength vs strength or keep the ball on the ground and wear down this Dallas front that’s missing one of their best run stuffers (Johnathan Hankins)? When they do put the ball in the air, look for it to be out of Tua’s hands quickly, just like last week.
Slowing Down Dak and the Offense
This offense goes as Dak Prescott goes. While they have some talented players at running back and one of the best offensive lines in all of football, they don’t rely too heavily on their running game. This is a big play passing attack and it will be important to stop/limit their explosive plays through the air.
This Cowboys offense can be explosive when Dak is on. CeeDee Lamb is obviously his favorite target, but Brandin Cooks, Jake Ferguson, Michael Gallup, and Tony Pollard are excellent complimentary pieces. Fangio will have his hands full game planning for this one.. #FinsUp pic.twitter.com/qG4yelB5Pc— George Forder (@GeorgeForder3) December 21, 2023
One of the best ways to do that is to get after Dak Prescott. The Bills only blitzed Prescott on 17% of his drop backs, but managed to pressure him on about 25%, getting home for three sacks. The Cowboys fell behind early in that game and some injuries on the offensive line (namely Zack Martin) forced them to abandon balance and throw the football. The Bills were physical and really dominated this Cowboys team in every facet of the game. The status of the Cowboys two top lineman (Tyron Smith & Zack Martin) will have a major impact on how well they can protect Dak in this game.
These final three games of the season are going to be huge for this Dolphins team. None of them will be easy wins, so taking care of the Cowboys on Christmas Eve would be huge. They would clinch a postseason birth and could (with a Bills loss) clinch the AFC East. If the Dolphins can capture an early lead and pressure Dak, they have a great shot at stifling this offense like the Bills did. On the offensive side of the football, expect Miami to run the football and attack the perimeter. In the passing game, they would be smart to get the ball out of Tua’s hands quickly and frustrate this dominant pass rush. This team showed they aren’t the same old Dolphins by dominating the Jets last week. They’ll keep that going by securing a one score victory against a talented Dallas team 27-24.