Miami Dolphins @ San Diego Charges (-4)
Announcers: Greg Gumble and Trent Green
In a game where everything hangs in the balance going forward, the Miami Dolphins begin their 2 week road trip to the west coast, first to take on the San Diego Chargers. The Dolphins, winners of 3 straight, take on the Chargers, winners of 3 of their last 4. Both teams seem to be clicking at the right time. While this game is really the season for SD, with the way the AFC West has been playing, they need to scratch and claw to victory this week against a stingy Dolphins defense of the past 3 games.
These teams have quite a bit in common but the biggest factor, both their 23 year old running backs have been making a bit of noise. We all know about Jay Ajayi, but lets take a look at Melvin Gordon. He was a first round pick in 2015 and struggled mightily in his first campaign. However, in 2016, Gordon has compiled 768 yards on the ground with 9 TDs. He has to be Miami's focus, as the Chargers are fairly depleted at WR.
The Dolphins will look to once again hold serve on their 3 game winning streak, riding the hot hand of Jay Ajayi. He sought to become the only player in NFL history with 3 consecutive 200 yard games. He fell short, but still pushed 111 yards on the ground versus the number 1 rushing defense in the league in the Jets. The Chargers boast the 5th best run defense, while also forcing 18 turnovers. Here are the keys to victory in San Diego on Sunday:
1. Stop Melvin Gordon: As good as the Dolphins defense has been recently against 3 decent rushing attacks, this is the best back currently they will be playing. Nobody, other than Ajayi, has been hotter than Gordon. Miami needs to set the tone up front early and not allow big plays out of the backfield. Don't be surprised to see Michael Thomas, or IAQ playing up at the line of scrimmage on most plays
2. Pin your ears back: Philip Rivers is a statue as we know. He does slide the pocket well when he needs to evade pressure, but the Dolphins front 4 have been absolutely ferocious lately. Cameron Wake, in particular has been the driving force. Since he was inserted back in as starter, Wake has 4 sacks, 2 forced fumbles. They need to do the above (stop Gordon) and force Rivers into third and long. This will allow some pressure behind an average offensive line.
3. Game Manager Tannehill- I know, people hate that we are paying 19 million to a game manger. But the success of this team the last 3 weeks has been to take the ball out of his hands and let the defense and run game assist him. Tannehill has only thrown for 600 yards in the last 3 games with 2 TD's and 0 picks. He needs to be put in great positions to succeed. He has been smart with the football and has moved the sticks. Move the chains and put up points. Dolphins have averaged 28 points in their last 3 wins. I will take that.. all of you should too.
4. Win the turnover battle- The Chargers are great defensively at taking the ball away. They have 18 turnovers forced. The amazing thing, is the Chargers have 18 turnovers on offense. The Dolphins have forced 8 turnovers (amazing when you see the amount of times they force fumbles) and 11 turnovers on offense. The team that minimizes the mistakes will win the game.
5. Leave last year in the past- The Dolphins traveled to SD and were absolutely crushed 30-14. Most of the team is still here and remember that. They need to realize they cannot avenge that loss last year. Why? Because it is a different regime and staff. Win for the now. Keep your streak up and don't look ahead to the LA Rams.
I can't stress how vital these 5 games were. Miami has taken advantage of the first 2. A win this week not only puts Miami in the driver seat to make their own destiny going forward (holding tie breaks against the Steelers, bills, Jets and potentially the Chargers, will bode well in the future). Take care of the Chargers and the Dolphins have a chance to have a 7 game winning streak. But let's take this one game at a time, and a win in SD is perfect confidence boost against one of the conferences better teams (record doesn't dictate that, but they are better than Baltimore and Cincy)
Dolphins 27 Chargers 23
Season Record (6-3)