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Your Miami Dolphins are 6-4. Let that register for a minute. After having us believe this was another lost season Miami is in the thick of the AFC Playoff Picture with 6 games to go. Adam Gase's 1 game at a time approach seems to have these guys focused and executing. Next up is perhaps the easiest game remaining on their schedule, which of course makes us skeptics think it will be a dud. Not so fast...
Chip Kelly's 49ers travel to Miami for a 1 PM game. Las Vegas currently has Miami -7.5 with a 45 O/U. For now Miami is a heavy home favorite.
Miami took on Kelly's Eagles last year and came away with a 20-19 victory thanks in part to a timely Mark Sanchez interception. At least they have some experience against what Kelly will throw at you and that is a plus.
After smoking the Rams in week 1 the 49ers have lost 9 straight games. They have surrendered 30+ points in 7 of those 9 losses. The opposing running backs seem to have season best performances in those games (we'll get back to that in a bit). Whether it is Colin Kaepernick or Blaine Gabbert, there doesn't seem to be a lot of offensive explosion since neither can consistently complete passes. Kaepernick will take off running and that could present some problems for Miami, but he's barely completing over 50% of his passes this season.
With the Dolphins rushing defense being leaky one has to think Kelly will use his bowling ball of a running back, Carlos Hyde, to try and wear down Miami's front 7. Hyde has 529 yards, a 3.8 YPC and 6 TDs. Nothing great but Miami's run defense ranks 30th in the league and as we've witnessed in the last few games they have given up some untimely big runs. Kaepernick will also try to take off for big chunks and has done so to the tune of 260 yards and a 7.8 YPC.
San Francisco's passing game is not scary, at all. They boast Torrey Smith (currently injured), Jeremy Kerley, Quinton Patton and TE Vance McDonald. The statistics aren't terrible but my guess is a lot has come in garbage time. McDonald as a TE could present some problems for Miami, and Smith if healthy has very good deep speed (or at least used to). But Kaepernick is sporting a lovely 53% completion percentage which is only a tick higher than his accuracy on registering to vote - sorry, had to drop that jab. Funniest remark I read about him was a writer saying his speed looks really good this year, no doubt in part from not being weighed down by an "I Voted" sticker. Hey, if you want to make statements you have to open for some jokes at your expense.
Back to performance. As I mentioned earlier, San Fran's run defense is a dream matchup for Jay Ajayi and Miami. While Miami is 30th in run defense San Fran is dead last allowing 179 rushing yards per game. You read that number correctly, 179 YPG allowed. That also comes with 13 rushing TDs allowed. Even if the statuses of Branden Albert, Laremy Tunsil and Mike Pouncey are in question there is zero reason for Miami to not pound the ball. Ajayi hasn't had 100+ yards in the last two games but he still produced a few clutch runs and over 4 YPC.
If Miami feels the need to throw the ball its okay, San Fran stinks at defending that as well. Opposing QBs have thrown 23 TDs, 7 Ints and 250 YPG for a nice 97 QBR. Coincidentally, those numbers line up with how Ryan Tannehill has been playing over this winning streak. With Devante Parker really showing up the last two weeks (13 receptions 182 yards 1 TD) and Jarvis Landry making plays late in the game I think Miami can feel comfortable attacking San Fran's secondary when called upon. San Fran has dialed up 17 sacks, 7 interceptions and 11 forced fumbles. Not great, not bad.
Miami needs to win this game early. I love the drama of 4th quarter comebacks and seeing young guys developing into clutch contributors, but its time for a good ol' fashion butt kicking. The offense cannot leave the defense out to dry for so long and only show up here or there. This is the opponent that gives you the chance to play four dominant quarters. Yes, any given Sunday always applies but Ajayi should smash through this defense like a brick through a window.
Adam Gase will not have his team looking beyond this game. I have that trust in him now. I expect a healthy dose of Ajayi (and a 100+ yard game) and some timely Tannehill throws to keep the offense humming along. Hopefully they ditch the sideways stuff and attack downfield more, but that may be limited if the OL is mostly backups. I see the offense overall having one of its better performances this season. On defense, it could be a day where they give up a lot of yardage but limit the 3rd down conversions and red zone trips. San Francisco just strikes me as a demoralized team whose coach is probably scouting college job opportunities. This isn't a rivalry game nor do they have anything to play for. A cross country trip will hopefully have them mailing it in. I've been wrong before but even Vegas agrees with me this time.
San Francisco 17
Happy Thanksgiving Phinfever!