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Dolphins Need Answers Against Bucs In Season-Defining Game

Dolphins Need Answers JC Ruiz via Flickr


Dolphins Need Answers Against Bucs In Season-Defining Game

Despite dropping three straight prime-time games, Miami is still in the playoff hunt. Only six AFC teams currently have winning records, and eight wins may be enough to get the Dolphins a wild card. Starting out 4-2 just to drop to 4-5 is not exactly a surprise. Miami ranks dead last in almost every major offensive category. The injuries on defense are starting to show, and the pass rush has been quiet in recent weeks. The Dolphins need answers from this game against Tampa, and maybe getting out of the spotlight will help. Miami plays both the Patriots and the Bills twice, home against Denver and at Kansas City. That being said, the Week 11 Buccaneers game is a must win.

Defense Is Reeling

A strong start had Miami sitting among the top ten in the NFL in yards and points per game. The past three weeks, however, have been a different story. The Dolphins have fallen out of the top 15 in most categories, and are allowing 24 points per game. The pass rush has not made much noise, and the secondary is suffering because of it. Miami’s defense is built to rush the passer and force quick passes.

That 4-2 record had a lot to do with the defense picking up the offense’s slack and hurrying the quarterback. In recent weeks, the pass rush just hasn’t been there. Much of that has to do with Miami playing from behind, and the other team does not need to throw the ball much.

It shows in the passing game. Both Derek Carr and Cam Newton picked apart a Miami secondary that has looked average so far this season. However, a lack of pass rush affects the entire defense. Receivers have more time to develop deep routes, and scrambling quarterbacks become a nightmare.

The bottom line is that Cameron Wake cannot do all the heavy lifting, and more guys need to step up. The defense has one sack in their last three games, and it was a coverage sack. The energy and passion defensive players need to carry on the field just doesn’t seem to be there.

Also, the offense puts the defense in bad spots pretty much every single game. Not all the Dolphins’ struggles belong on defense. In fact, they have kept them in games longer than they should be asked. The Dolphins need answers on defense if they want to contend for the playoffs. The offense needs to help them out, but the defensive line needs to do their part.

Matchups Favor Miami

Jameis Winston is expected to miss an extended period, which means he will not be suiting up on Sunday. That is excellent news for a Dolphins defense that has played three straight talented quarterbacks. Ryan Fitzpatrick put up 187 yards, a touchdown, and an interception last week against a below average New York Jets defense. Fitzpatrick struggled most of the game but also didn’t have his top receiver.

The Buccaneers’ offense looked dreadful at home against the Jets last week, and Miami definitely can replicate that same defensive success. Meanwhile, Miami’s passing game can get going against a bottom of the league passing defense. Miami’s offensive line and rushing success will be the crucial matchup trying to bounce back. Kenyan Drake busted a huge 66-yard touchdown run last week, but it was too little too late.

Ryan Fitzpatrick Is Not A Threat

Mike Evans returns from a one-game suspension this week and could be a nightmare. However, I do not think Fitzpatrick will be able to go on the road and have much more success. The Dolphins need answers, especially in the passing game. Miami needs to load the box, and force Fitzpatrick to beat you, which he will struggle to do. Look for Miami to spy and confuse Fitzpatrick on defense. DeSean Jackson and Mike Evans are great receivers, but the quarterback needs to get them the ball. With a lackluster run game, expect Tampa to face many obvious passing situations. If Miami can take advantage and generate pressure up front, this matchup favors them.

As mentioned earlier, stacking the box early and forcing third and longs are keys to Miami’s defense getting off the field. Tampa does not run the ball well, sitting at 28th with 82 rush yards per game. Combine that with Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Miami may not even have to load the box. Not to completely discredit this offense, but it just isn’t the same without Winston(and it was not spectacular before). It is easy not respect the run game. If Miami played this game Week one as scheduled, I do not believe they would win. However, Hurricane Irma may very well aid the Dolphins in their playoff hunt.

Jay Cutler Should Continue His Hot Streak

After missing a game and a half due to cracked ribs, Cutler has been on a hot streak. Despite having little to no help on the offensive line, he is flat-out slinging the football. Throwing for 550 yards, seven touchdowns, and two interceptions in the last ten quarters. Even though he is faced with terrible line play, injuries, and a team that doesn’t know their offensive identity. He is getting better with every game but still has his classic Jay Cutler moments. Decision making remains his kryptonite, but shouldn’t be forced to carry the offense as he does.

Tampa’s defense ranks outside the top 25 in points and passing yards per game. The Dolphins need answers and will find out how bad they are against a lowly Buccaneers defense. They are a secondary extremely susceptible to big plays and can be attacked over the top.

Bottom Line

The rushing game has looked average, mostly on account of situational play calling. Miami routinely finds themselves in second and third down and long. First down seems to be a ridiculous puzzle Miami cannot solve. Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams are filling in fine, but neither appears to be an every-down back.

The secondary has not been playing well in man or zone coverage, and can’t seem to get off the field on third and longs. Miami is the only team in the NFL not to convert a 3rd and 11 or longer. Things seem to get worse and worse despite Cutler getting better. The Dolphins need answers on both sides of the ball, and they must find them on Sunday. Tampa is not exactly explosive on offense or scary on defense. Miami needs to get going early offensively and set the tone defensively if they want to even think about the playoffs.