Who: Dolphins (0-0) vs. Titans (0-0)
When: September 9, 1:00 PM East
Where: Hard Rock Stadium – Miami Gardens, FL
Weather: 88 degrees, 76% humidity, scattered thunderstorms (40% precipitation)
Vegas Slant: Dolphins +1
Here we go again. Another trip around the sun means another opening day full of hope, passion, and the core component for what makes sports so great – the potential for utter euphoria or sheer devastation. Anticipation has patently boiled over and friendly (and not so friendly) trash talk continues to amplify.
For the Dolphins, the reintroduction of football season is an opportunity. An opportunity to silence the detractors and vindicate the believers. Few things provide motivation quite like questioning a man’s standing within his own profession.
Sure players are taught to avoid social media and all the outside noise, but let’s be realistic; they hear it – all of it. Las Vegas hears it too. They have pinned the Phins as underdogs in their own building to kick off the new season.
Since 2012 (when Ryan Tannehill took over) the Dolphins are 11-10 as underdogs playing at home. For you true game-handicappers, Miami are 12-7-2 against the spread in such games over that time span.
Miami isn’t a pleasant place to visit this time of year – at least not for opposing football teams. Dating back to 2012, Miami are 11-8 at Hard Rock Stadium during September and October. While not great, that .579 winning percentage is a .110-point improvement over all other Dolphins games from 2012-2017 (.469).
The Titans will face a pair of challenges on their return pilgrimage to South Florida (16-10 losers in 2017).
1.) A revamped coaching staff (only one holdover from 2017)
2.) Temperature on the visitor’s bench (90 degrees and 80% humidity with no shade)
Mike Vrabel takes the next step after going one-and-done in Houston as the defensive coordinator (linebackers coach three years prior). Vrabel’s defense ranked dead last in scoring and 20th in total defense.
Vrabel will draw on the experience added by veteran coordinator Dean Pees (previously with Baltimore). Pees directed the Ravens’ defenses that have historically given Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins fits dating back to 2012.
Together, Pees and Vrabel will operate primarily out of a three-man front. Although star end Jurrell Casey will periodically two-gap, it’s a one-gap penetrating scheme that will mix up their fronts, coverages and blitz packages.
Few teams overloaded pressure like Pees did in Baltimore and, given Vrabel’s background coaching talented linebackers like Jadeveon Clowney, we can surmise that the Titans will play with their hair on fire.
On the back end, Pees loves the use of a robber, or peeling linebackers into the hook zone. Showing one look pre-snap and rotating to something entirely different has been a staple for his takeaway-based defenses of old.
No unit is making a greater seismic shift than the Titans offense. Tennessee will be going from a power-based running team, to shifting their emphasis on spacing, play-pass and misdirection brought in by second-year coordinator, Matt LaFluer.
LaFluer, alongside Sean McVay, helped correct the career path of Jared Goff and he’s being charged with the same expectation in Tennessee with Marcus Mariota.
The personnel haven’t dramatically changed but the identity of the team will. Creating opportunities on the edge, in space, and down to the intermediate portion of the field will be a greater emphasis for this Titans offense.
Going from a throwback 12-personnel base to a more modern 11-personnel based attack, it bears watching how long it takes the Titans offense to find its footing in 2018.
Everything starts with Mariota. He’s trending in the wrong direction after throwing more interceptions (15) than touchdowns (13) in 2017. His mechanics are inconsistent and, as a result, his accuracy is woefully erratic.
Mariota is right around a 60% completion quarterback that struggles in the intermediate range. Where he can absolutely burn the Dolphins is on the ground – something of a kryptonite for Miami’s defense.
The offensive line tends to do what it wants with a pair of pro-bowl bookends. Fortunately, for Miami, one of those stalwarts might miss the game, and the Titans interior line remains a question after a down year in 2017. The premier match-up when these two sides are on the field is the battle between Robert Quinn and Taylor Lewan.
Corey Davis is expected to make a massive leap in his second year as a professional. Expect him to see plenty of Xavien Howard as these two uber-talented, physical players square off in the secondary. Taywan Taylor, the diminutive sophomore has had a standout camp and should get his fair share of targets.
Tennessee’s revamped backfield is going to be a problem for plenty of NFL teams this year. Derrick Henry is sheer brute force and Dion Lewis is among the best pass catching backs in the league.
On defense, everything begins with Jurrell Casey. He’s a bull-rushing, run-stuffing nightmare that can play all three downs and wreck an entire series.
We’ll see which outside linebackers are healthy enough to dress but, at full strength, the Titans are loaded with quality edge rushers (Brian Orakpo, Derrick Morgan, Harold Landry). In the middle the Titans will have to replace Avery Williamson (signed with the Jets). Inside, Vrabel operated with two primary linebackers in Houston. Benardrick McKinney played 94% of the Texans snaps and Zac Cunningham played 70% – don’t expect to see a lot of dime defense from the Titans.
In the secondary, Kevin Byard’s surprise all-pro campaign might’ve been the very entity that attracted Pees to Tennessee. Whether it was Ed Reed or Eric Weddle, Pees has always had a player that can start from deep center field and wind up in the box disrupting a passing lane. The Dolphins need to key him on every play.
Adoree’ Jackson, Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan make for a steady trio of corners, but each is beatable. Kenny Vaccaro signed a month ago after starter Johnathan Cyprien tore an ACL in practice.
— Al Butler (@ALaboutSports) October 5, 2017
Offensively, the primary concern are the polarizing backs. If Miami can’t at the point of attack and slow Henry from gaining chunks of yards on early downs, it’ll be a long day. The same story applies if Matt Burke refuses to deploy more defensive backs in lieu of linebackers to deal with the versatility of Dion Lewis.
If Lewis draws match-ups with Kiko Alonso, this game is already over.
Three things need to be taken care of by the Miami offense in order to successfully move the ball on this Titans defense:
1.) Correctly sliding pass protection – Vrabel and Pees are going to send overload pressures. The last time Tannehill played this Titans team, those same overloaded pressures wrecked his offensive line.
2.) Keying Kevin Byard – His ability to disguise coverage and jump into lanes where he’s not supposed to be is why he earned all-pro honors in 2017.
3.) Helping Jesse Davis on Jurrell Casey – Casey can ruin plays, series and games – he did as much in Miami in 2017. It’s a tall ask to expect Davis to win one-on-ones against Casey for 60 plays. Whether it’s additional protection off the edge or a back stepping up in pass pro, Casey needs to be accounted for.
Tennessee’s current depth chart features only five defensive lineman on the active roster. If they don’t add another body or two, it’ll be a long afternoon; provided Miami can convert first downs before half time.
Outside of Jurrell Casey (80% snaps played in 2017), none of these Titans defensive linemen are fit to play more than a timeshare’s worth of snaps. Bennie Logan took the next highest snap count in 2017 with 52% of the Chiefs defensive reps (his former team) while undrafted free agent Matt Dickerson is making his NFL debut.
Adam Gase has been holding back a lot of his playbook, but he might not need to dig too deep into the well this game. The use of outside zone, and screens on top of screens could gas this defense leaving them without legs in the fourth quarter.
Miami’s pace and tempo are absolutely pivotal to leaning on this Titans team.
The Projected Result:
Fans in Nashville are geeked about this Titans team. The Miami faithful are, well, not as excited. Despite these two team’s expectations trending in different directions, the folks that build all those beautiful chandeliers in Vegas are calling this contest essentially a pick ‘em.
Opening weekend is always prime for surprises. Roughly 85% of “experts” and fan-picks alike favor the road team. Doubting a team, with the energy created from playing in their own building, combined with the extreme weather all lines up aces for the Dolphins.
Dolphins vs. Raiders Week Three Preview
Who: Dolphins (2-0) vs. Raiders (0-2)
When: September 23, 1:00 East
Where: Hard Rock Stadium – Miami Gardens, FL
Weather: 88 degrees, 73% humidity, 60% precipitation
Vegas Slant: Dolphins -3
Dolphins vs. Raiders
Favored for the first time in three outings, the Miami Dolphins return home to the building where, under Adam Gase, the organization is bordering on elite. Since Gase’s hire in 2016, the Dolphins are 11-5, riding a six-game winning-streak with Ryan Tannehill under-center, and average nearly four touchdowns per game at Hard Rock Stadium.
Beating the Titans was a commencement that this team wasn’t the pushover many projected it to be. Throttling the Jets to the tune of a 20-point halftime lead, Miami asserted itself into the discussion of potential playoff outfits.
Now the expectation is that the Dolphins will hit the showers on Sunday with an unblemished record through three games. Winning as an underdog can be attributed to the emotional influence of the game but, winning as favorites, that’s a different ballgame.
The Patriots are on-deck. Miami are in a perfect situation to set-up a Late-September statement game – a potential changing of the guard game, perhaps.
But first, the Raiders.
The Raiders’ Scheme
Oakland have been a team of two halves under second-time Head Coach, Jon Gruden. Obliterated in the second half against a loaded Rams team, on national T.V. no less, the Raiders had an opportunity to right the ship with a 12-point halftime lead at divisional rival Denver.
Gruden’s play-script has yielded positive results. A healthy mix of 11 and 12-personnel focuses the offense around Amari Cooper and Jared Cook. Everything Oakland does offensively revolves around the running game. Establishing Marshawn Lynch and the zone running game early is the precursor for the play-action, bootleg layers’ concepts that we’ve seen regularly with Miami.
For a team that wanted to throw things back to 1998 (and they did, no roster is older than this veteran-laden group assembled in Oakland), Gruden’s offense sure struggles to convert third-and-short. On 10 attempts from five yards and in, the Raiders are moving the sticks just 40% of the time.
That issue, compounded by a lack of ingenuity once the game becomes about adjustments, are why the Raiders are starring an 0-3 start square in the face. Mixing plenty of variety early in the game (bunch 12-personnel followed up by an empty formation down in the red zone) kept the Broncos and Rams defenses guessing.
While the yardage ranks show success, the Raiders have the fifth-lowest scoring offense in the National Football League.
Coordinator Paul Guenther believes in three things: Blitzing, blitzing and, you guessed it, blitzing. Though it didn’t start that way this season, Gruden has specifically stated he would prefer that Oakland brought heat more often.
The Raider defense increased the blitz-package last week and, as the pass rush continues to struggle in the post-Khalil Mack era, that trend likely continues this week.
A-Gap pressure has been a favorite for Guenther. He’s a disciple of Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer, who’s defense is predicated on showing pressure down up the gun-barrel.
On the back-end, Oakland will mix-up zone and man-coverage. Because of a lack of pressure from the Raiders’ lackluster four-man front, the Dolphins could take Guenther’s defense to task in two ways:
– Throwing the football to the backs
– Setting up the quick screen game early and often
Derek Carr has regressed back to the norm after an anomaly in 2016. His propensity to succumb to heavy pressure and poor decision making has resulted in a rough start for the fifth-year pro.
Carr’s passer rating under pressure is 33.1 – 32nd in the NFL. Miami had Sam Darnold under constant duress Sunday at the Meadowlands.
Donald Penn and Kolton Miller have surrendered eight pressures among the pair – keeping them each outside of the top 50 tackles in the league when it comes to pass blocking efficiency.
The interior of that offensive line is where the Raiders’ strength is supposed to lie – only it isn’t any better than the perimeter. Gabe Jackson and Kelechi Osemele have allowed a combined nine pressures.
Neither Raiders’ tackle is a top-50 graded run blocker and the guards check in at 42nd and 24th respectively. Marshawn Lynch’s elusive rating is 35th among NFL backs.
Miami has three wide outs with an average yards-per-route-ran over 2.0 – Oakland has one (Martavis Bryant on just four targets). Jordy Nelson’s diminishing speed has made him a shell of his former-self and Amari Cooper still hasn’t recaptured the magic of his rookie season.
Jared Cook, however, is fifth among all tight ends with 3.82 YPPR.
Miami have gashed teams on the ground through two games and that trend could continue in week-three. The Raiders interior defensive line is inexperienced and without much production. Jonathan Hankins arrives to reinforce a front that is allowing 5.7 yards-per-carry – worst in football.
The edge rushers might offer even less. The most efficient pass rusher through two games is Frostee Rucker. His pass-rush-productivity ranks 77th in the league.
Gareon Conley and Rashaan Melvin are off to solid starts on the perimeter of the Raider defense. Leon Hall, Oakland’s nickel corner has allowed 75 yards on just nine pass targets – Miami will make the grizzled-vet a target on Sunday.
Linebacker play isn’t any better. The collective group has just six run-stops and each of the three are allowing passer ratings over 100 in coverage.
Oakland cut Obi Melifonwu in order to keep Reggie Nelson on the field and the returns have not been great. His passer rating allowed is 150.7 (just 7.6 points shy of a perfect rating).
|CB Leon Hall||Illness||Limited|
|DT P.J. Hall||Ankle||DNP|
|WR Dwayne Harris||Foot||Full|
|C Rodney Hudson||Ankle||Limited|
|G Gabe Jackson||Pectoral||Limited|
|RB Marshawn Lynch||Shoulder||Limited|
|T Brandon Parker||Ankle||DNP|
|WR Danny Amendola||Non-Injury||DNP|
|LS John Denney||Shoulder||Limited|
|RB Kenyan Drake||Abdomen||Full|
|DE Williams Hayes||Finger||Full|
|S Reshad Jones||Shoulder||DNP|
|WR Devante Parker||Knee||Full|
|DT Jordan Phillips||Knee||Limited|
|QB Ryan Tannehill||Knee/Ankle||Full|
There’s an easy answer to this one and it would be ultra-contrarian to go away from said obvious conclusion. Jared Cook caused a multitude of problems for the Miami in last year’s meeting, and he’s off to a similar start this season.
Oakland’s ability to stretch him both vertically and horizontally doesn’t bode well for the Miami linebackers. Raekwon McMillan is struggling immensely in this area and Kiko Alonso has been problematic in this department in his own right.
Tackling and poor angles have been a bit of an issue on the back-end. It’s a team effort to get Marshawn Lynch to the ground – if he has success, the Raiders’ offense will have success.
Miami needs these three things to go in their favor:
1.) Contain Oakland’s first down offense – Oakland’s tackle play has been suspect. With a wave of edge rusher’s ready to capitalize, if Oakland can’t find success on early downs, it won’t fare any better on the money down.
2.) Unleash the passing game – A balanced attack has been the prescription so far with early double-digit leads. The same could happen against these Raiders, but Miami has advantages all over the field in regards to the passing offense v. Oakland’s pass defense. Expect Oakland to commit to stopping the run, meaning the aerial show begins at 1 ‘o’ clock eastern standard time.
3.) Shut down Amari Cooper OR Jared Cook – Miami will pick its poison here, but if they can blank one of these two and make the Raiders passing game one-dimensional, the Dolphins can start robbing Derek Carr and force the mistake-prone quarterback into turnovers.
Frankly, they’re everywhere. Miami’s edge rush against Oakland’s substandard tackle play, the young interior defensive line of Oakland against Miami’s ever-evolving ground-game, the perimeter match-ups, Miami ought to be able to draw their weapon-of-choice from a hat and attack accordingly.
The Projected Result:
An angry Adam Gase is a dangerous Adam Gase. The absurd rumblings around his quarterback are sure to ignite a fire and create a run-up-the-score mentality in the snarky third-year coach. This game could very well be all gas and no breaks with plenty of scoring opportunities schemed into the passing game down in the red zone.
Coming east in the early-game window has proven difficult for this Raiders team. Sure, change has been rampant since The Visor regained control of the operation, but that doesn’t make the challenge of an out-of-whack body clock any easier.
In 2017 Oakland was 1-3 playing in the eastern time zone. Three of those games were in primetime and the Raiders were collectively outscored in the four games 104-61. The lone early-window game was a 34-14 loss at the Buffalo Bills.
The Raiders are about to find out how much resiliency they have under Gruden. The loss in Denver was devastating and will either foster a hungry, desperate team, or send the lads in the opposite direction with no hope in sight.
With the Dolphins tempo-based-attack, playing back at home in the brutal South Florida conditions, not many aspects of this game favor the road team.
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Week 3: Miami Dolphins Power Rankings Round Up
How did Miami’s 20-12 win over the Jets in Week 2 affect their position in the eyes of the major national media outlets? Let’s take a look:
Last Week: 24
This week: 16
Last week: 23
This week: 17
Last week: 28
This week: 21
Last week: 17
This week: 12
Last week: 19
This week: 15
As you can see, there’s a pretty wide range of opinions on this Dolphins team. Bleacher Report continues to remain mum on Miami, saying “Undefeated or no, we’re still not ready to call the Dolphins contenders. Or even call them good.”
Pete Prisco of CBS Sports ranked the Dolphins No. 12, and said: “They are off to a 2-0 start and have a winnable game at home against Oakland. Adam Gase has this team playing good football.”
If the Dolphins get to 3-0 by beating the Oakland Raiders at home this Sunday, they may start to get some more national recognition as a team who could contend for a playoff spot.
5 potential landing spots should Miami trade Devante Parker
Following Miami’s 20-12 win over the Jets on Sunday, Devante Parker was upset he didn’t see the field, claiming he was fit and ready to go.
The reaction to the quote was mixed, some fans were pleased Parker wanted in on the action while others felt he was overshadowing the victory and making it all about himself.
We saw this with Jay Ajayi, complaining he didn’t see enough off the ball after the Dolphins won games and the last thing Adam Gase wants is another player putting his personal needs above the team’s.
Who are we getting in return? I’m legit worried about Parker spoiling the good vibes in the locker room so I’d trade him just about anything.
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) September 17, 2018
Parker has failed to live up the hype when he was drafted 14th overall in 2015.
Yet to get a contract extension, it may be time for #11 to move on.
The team are not short at receiver with Albert Wilson, Kenny Stills, Danny Amendola and Jakeem Grant all proving to be Gase’s guys.
Parker doesn’t fit in to what Gase is trying to build in Miami and instead of letting him hit free agency when the time comes, it may be worth trading him to a WR needy franchise.
Below are five teams who could be interested in Parker should he be available:
Ajayi texts Parker.
“Hey, I agree Coach Gase doesn’t know what he’s doing.
“He didn’t give me enough touches when I was in Miami and I left to win a Super Bowl. JOIN ME!”
On a serious note, this is a move which we could actually see happen.
The SB champs are short at receiver due to a few injuries.
Eagles should scoop up DeVante Parker or Kevin White for a low price.
— 1-1 World Champ Birds 🦅 (@NationOfEagles) September 18, 2018
While they have Alshon Jeffrey to return, Mike Wallace may not see the field again this season and Mack Hollins is on IR.
Carson Wentz returns this Sunday and giving him a new shiny toy to play with in Parker could be the perfect welcome back gift.
Eagles Twitter want it to happen and know the franchise have a good relationship with the Dolphins after acquiring Ajayi for what seems to be a steal.
Can Howie Roseman do it again?
Howie Roseman boutta fuck around and get Devante Parker from the Dolphins like he did with Ajayi
— Adib (@Hadiibz) September 18, 2018
Landry texts Parker.
“Hey, I agree Coach Gase doesn’t know what he’s doing.
“He gave me loads of touches when I was in Miami and I left to lose with the Browns. JOIN ME!”
The Browns’ receiver core is shrinking.
Corey Coleman? Gone.
Josh Gordon? Gone.
For Thursday Night Football against the Jets, their current depth chart at WR reads:
1. Jarvis Landry
2. Rashard Higgins
3. Derrick Willies
1. Antonio Callaway
2. Damion Ratley
3. Rod Streater.
If Cleveland are serious about actually winning a game of football, giving Tyrod Taylor/Baker Mayfield some actual weapons could be a start.
Should Miami work out a deal, better than the one they got for Landry, they could be looking at a pretty decent draft pick in 2019.
Cleveland has the cap room to offer him a long-term deal and Parker gets moved to a team looking to rebuild for the future.
The win against the Giants on Sunday Night Football didn’t mask the fact that Dak Prescott has a lack of good options to throw to.
The team has seven WRs after adding Brice Butler to give the receiver room some much-needed height but still lack an X-factor player on the perimeter.
Now wondering if any of these teams are calling the Dolphins about DeVante Parker’s availability (though Skins did sign Perriman) https://t.co/cYTLF2MU5O
— Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL) September 17, 2018
Jason Garrett must be worried about the amount of snaps Tavon Austin and Cole Beasley are seeing and Parker can potentially bring to this team what they lost in Dez Bryant over the summer.
It would mean getting rid of two or three WRs but given the list of names on the Cowboys depth chart, that shouldn’t be too hard to make room for a former first round pick.
Russell Wilson needs help.
First and foremost, he needs an offensive line.
But he also has no-one to throw to.
Pete Carroll’s days seem to be numbered and he may not last the entire season given their start and the changes in Seattle the past 18 months.
But should he need a quick fix to try and save his job, Parker could help alleviate the pressure on Wilson while also taking some of the attention Doug Baldwin is shown by opponents.
Should trade talks take place, instead of going for a draft pick, Miami’s front office should see if Seattle would send Earl Thomas the other way.
Yes Miami has T.J. McDonald but would you turn down the opportunity to partner Reshad Jones with ETIII?
One can dream.
Like Seattle, this team needs all the help it can get.
Larry Fitzgerald cannot keep single-handedly saving this franchise.
Christian Kirk looks a nice pick up but if they want to give Josh Rosen the best chance to succeed when he does step in for Sam Bradford, he needs more weapons.
For those of you who wanted the #AZCardinals to get Dez Bryant or Josh Gordon how about we trade a 5th Rd Pick to Miami for Devante Parker?? Less of a headache. Also not a big loss because Keim can’t draft anyway.
— 2 Beavs Sports (@2BeavsSports) September 18, 2018
Parker can immediately step in and be productive in a team which failed to get past the half-way line until the final drive of the game against the LA Rams and were shut out.