The San Diego have been far from competitive in 2015, but will be looking to take advantage of a similarly disappointing Miami Dolphins team to record back-to-back victories for the first time in 2015. The Chargers never would have expected to be sitting bottom of the AFC West at Week 15 of the season, but after a litany of injuries on both sides of the ball, plus a lack of support for quarterback Philip Rivers from his receivers and the running game, they have been on the road to rebuilding for 2016 for a while now. They are currently sitting at 3-10 and in the running for the first overall pick in the 2016 draft. The Dolphins’ slim playoff hopes were ended by a defeat to the New York Giants on Monday night. A year which has seen much turmoil in the coaching staff has been far-from-promising on the field too, with several big name players failing to live up to their respective hype; whether that’s the development of quarterback Ryan Tannehill or the big money free agent signing Ndamukong Suh. They can still record a .500 season, but need to win their remaining three games, as they currently hold a 5-8 record.
Three keys to the game:
1. Miami’s pass rush
The Chargers’ biggest threat yet again has been Rivers, who has been the loan bright spot in a lost season in San Diego. The Dolphins’ best shot at limiting the damage he can do with his arm will be taking advantage of a Chargers offensive line that has been banged up almost beyond repair. With Suh providing a stout force in the middle, it will be on Olivier Vernon to make the most the mismatch on the lines.
2. Melvin Gordon
Will the rookie prodigy, touted as the second best running back in the draft behind the Rams’ Todd Gurley, finally have a breakout game? It’s been a tough ask for Gordon to run behind virtually a new offensive line every game, and it has hampered his development, but he needs to prove that he was worth the high draft pick from the Chargers sooner rather than later.
3. Miami’s offensive consistency
Nothing sums up the Dolphins offensive inconsistency like their use of Lamar Miller. Despite being fifth for yards per carry in the NFL with 5.1, he ranks only 22nd in carries, with just 167. Miller is used twice as much in the first quarter as in the fourth, for reasons that seems to be only known to the Dolphins brass. When Miller carries the ball, the Dolphins are more effective overall on offense, so using him consistently is the key to the Dolphins chances of victory.
Match-up to watch: Antonio Gates vs Kelvin Sheppard
Rivers’ favourite target will be matching up against the Chargers’ top tackling linebacker in a battle that may affect the tide of the game. If Sheppard can disrupt Gates’ route running and trail him effectively, it will effectively shut out Rivers’ only reliable target.
Prediction: Miami Dolphins
The Chargers are too banged up to remain competitive for too long in the season, and the Dolphins seem to be playing for interim Head Coach Dan Campbell. With his job on the line, expect the Dolphins come through and try and stop them recording another losing season.