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2015 Dolphins Draft Picks
The Miami Dolphins travel to Minnesota to face the Vikings in what will be a fight for both of their playoff lives. They recently went through polar opposite weekends with the Dolphins beating the dreaded New England Patriots in what is hailed as the Miracle in Miami. The Vikings were humiliated on Monday Night Football which resulted in their Offensive Coordinator being fired the following day. Vegas currently has the Dolphins as 7 point underdogs with a 44 over/under. Keep in mind they are 1-5 on the road this year.
The Vikings defense is no joke and Head Coach Mike Zimmer has done well building this unit. They currently rank 11th in points allowed and 5th in yards allowed. The struggles of Miami's offensive line and quarterback Ryan Tannehill's propensity to hold the ball too long have been drive killers too often this season. Well, Minnesota has 38 sacks with defensive end Danielle Hunter notching 12.5 of them. They've also forced 10 fumbles and picked off 12 passes. Miami will need to lean on running back Frank Gore to fight for tough yards and not expose Miami's shaky pass protection. Thankfully the Vikings defense has allowed 148+ rushing yards in 3 of their last 4 games.
As I mentioned earlier the Vikings offense will be with a new coordinator. Zimmer wants to run the ball and find balance. Quarterback Kirk Cousins struggles under pressure and clearly needs some help seeing as though his team has put up a total of 17 points in the last 2 games. He has some great receiving weapons in Adam Theilen, Stefon Diggs and Kyle Rudolph. The running game boasts Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray who both average over 4 yards per carry. The offense has scored 20+ points in 10 of 13 games this year so Miami cannot bank on them sleepwalking into this game. The Vikings should come in angry over the previous 2 weeks and excited to be back at home. Miami's pass rush is not what it once was so I have concerns about Cousins having the time to carve up Miami's battered secondary and struggling linebackers. Hopefully Zimmer leans too heavily on the run and Miami can shut them down.
The key to Miami's defense will be getting cornerback Xavien Howard back. Minkah Fitzpatrick and Tory McTyer struggled on the boundaries against the Patriots as neither seemed ready for what they were asked to do. The Dolphins have survived on complimentary football (defense creates short field via turnover, offense responds with points). Cousins has 9 interceptions and 9 fumbles so he isn't exactly careful with the ball. Miami has to make him uncomfortable and not let his receivers expose the soft spots in zone coverage.
Frank Gore played such a huge, almost unheralded role in Miami's offense against New England. Yes, Kenyan Drake and Brandon Bolden scored the touchdowns and got the glory, but Gore consistently found holes and kept drives alive. He will need to keep Minnesota's front 7 on their toes and open up the play action game for Ryan Tannehill. Speaking of the passing game, it is time to make Kenny Stills what Jarvis Landry used to be aka the primary target. Stills does a nice job of getting open and his speed is killing opposing defenses. I fully anticipate Zimmer to try and remove Stills from getting open and force Tannehill to find his other targets. The Vikings' pass defense is 5th in yards allowed and has surrendered the fewest passing TDs in the NFL. This is going to take some serious creativity from Head Coach Adam Gase and some great execution from the offense.
I don't normally believe in "QB Wins" as a stat but it is worth mentioning that Kirk Cousins has a career 4-24 record against opponents who have an above .500 record. None of the Vikings victories have come against a team over .500 this season. Still, the Dolphins have been hot garbage on the road and Minnesota's defense could really themselves a day against Miami's offensive line.
If Gore can shorten up 3rd downs for the offense and Tannehill can be as accurate as he was against New England the offense will put up 20+ points and keep this game tight. Even without the miraculous final touchdown against New England you have to tip your cap to the offense for going shot for shot with Tom Brady on one of his better statistical days. They should use that confidence to keep playing with a "one week at a time" attitude as they continue fighting for the playoffs. I have this sneaking suspicion that Cam Wake is going to play out of his mind and have one of those signature games. Fortunately for him, Minnesota may have lost their starting tackle who he would have gone up against.
I'm cautiously optimistic but afraid to jinx things by going against conventional wisdom. Vegas is buying Minnesota and with good reason since Miami is dreadful on the road.
Hopefully I'm wrong (again)
When the Dolphins beat the Patriots, this list gets considerably longer.
Let's start with the game winning play. It is being called the Miracle in Miami and required perfect execution by multiple people including a good pass by Ryan Tannehill, two well executed laterals by Stills and Parker and a terrific finish by Kenyan Drake. This is a once in a generation play and we're lucky to have experienced it in such a big game against a big time opponent.
Ryan Tannehill. Even though he didn't have to do much, what he did was near perfect. 14 of 19, 265 yards and 3 TDs against a team that completely shut him down earlier in the season.
The running game was in beast mode, gaining 189 yards on 21 carries and 2 touchdowns. Aside from the typicaly game by Frank Gore, Brandon Bolden, the former Patriot, made huge contributions with two runs for two touchdowns, including a 54 yarder.
It was nice to see Kenny Stills get in on the action with 8 catches for 135 yards and 1 TD.
The run defense was the best it has been all year, holding the Patriots to 77 yards on 30 carries. The last time the Dolphins faced the Patriots, they allowed 175 rushing yards. An almost 100 yard swing. Honorable mention to Raekwon McMillan, who was in on 9 tackles and honestly looked like a different player than he has all season.
The Patriots still gained 344 yards and 3 touchdowns through the air. The absence of Xavien Howard was felt. The Patriots were still very efficient on 3rd down conversions and were able to hold the ball for 35 minutes.
What happened on special teams? The punts blocked by the Patriots. Our best unit failed to show up on the day that our two bad units sort of did.
While the offensive line created nice holes for the running backs, they also created nice holes for pass rushers. The interior line continues to be an issue in pass protection.
The Dolphins are very much in the playoff hunt. That being said, the Ravens seem to currently own all of the tie-breakers against Miami and the Colts while the Colts hold a head-to-head win against Miami. Miami needs to sweep the remaining three games and have some chips fall their way to make the playoffs. There is a chance the Dolphins could finish the season 10-6 and miss the playoffs.
Up next, the 6-5-1 Vikings (pending outcome of game against Seahawks), a team that boasts one of the better defenses in the NFL but a middle of the road offense that is last in rushing. It should be an interesting match up that could position the Dolphins well to finish the season off strong.