Both teams need to win this game – Miami need to get out of the AFC East basement to stay in the division race, while the Eagles need to stay in the mix in the wide-open NFC East. The Dolphins have been disappointing this season. Expected to have one of the league’s best defenses after signing players like Ndamukong Suh, Miami haven’t made the leap, which cost head coach Joe Philbin his job after a loss to the Jets at Wembley. Despite two strong games against weak opponents, interim coach Dan Campbell has not fixed Miami’s issues. Philadelphia have also been a disappointment. After a whirlwind offseason in which Chip Kelly gutted the roster and brought in players designed for his system, the Eagles haven’t delivered on their preseason hype. Though only one game back in the NFC East at 4-4, Philadelphia could struggle to hold second place for the rest of the way if they don’t start stacking wins.
Three Keys to the Game
Can Miami stop the run?
The Dolphins allowed two 100 yard rushers last week against the Bills despite having Ndamukong Suh, who hasn’t played like a $114 million man this year. With Philadelphia’s offense hitting their stride in the run game, the Dolphins will struggle to stop the trio of DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews, and Darren Sproles.
Can Philadelphia stop the pass?
Ryan Tannehill had 309 yards against the Bills last week, despite the Dolphins putting up just 17 points. Byron Maxwell has not been the number one corner Chip Kelly thought he was getting. Instead Walter Thurmond has been Philly’s best corner. The Dolphins are struggling to win games despite having a good passing attack on paper. Coordinator Bill Lazor is from Chip Kelly’s coaching tree, so it seems plausible that Kelly will be able to have an answer for whatever Lazor dials up. Philadelphia’s defense has played well this year, even when the incompetent offense has left them on the field for 40 minutes.
Pressuring the quarterbacks
Both Tannehill and Sam Bradford have struggled behind bad offensive lines this season. The Dolphins have allowed 23 sacks, while Philly has allowed 14. Miami’s defense struggled to get to the quarterback under Philbin, and with Cameron Wake lost for the year against New England, the Dolphins still can’t bring down the passer. Wake accounted for seven of Miami’s 16 sacks this year. The Eagles have a much better pass rush with Fletcher Cox, Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham. Philly has totalled 19 sacks so far, and should add a few more against the Dolphins.
Matchup to watch
DeMarco Murray vs Ndamukong Suh
When the Dolphins signed Suh, he was supposed to solidify their run defense ready for a playoff run. That hasn’t happened. The Dolphins rank 31st against the run, allowing 142.1 yards per game. DeMarco Murray has finally hit his stride since leaving Dallas after last season, and has put up 260 yards over his last three games despite splitting carries with Ryan Mathews. Unless Suh can live up to expectations and stop Murray and the run game, the Eagles will run all over Miami.
The Eagles are starting to hit their stride. Murray and Mathews have been strong over the past few weeks while Sam Bradford has improved slightly. The defense has been playing well all year and gives Philly and edge over the arguably more talented Dolphins.