Week 1 recap
Due to concerns over Hurricane Irma, the Dolphins scheduled season opener against Tampa Bay was postponed. Miami is coming off a 2016 season in which it went 10-6 and returned to the AFC Playoffs for the first time in eight years. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill had his finest season yet and was aided by the emergence of second-year running back Jay Ajayi, who rumbled for 1,272 yards. The defense was paced by veteran end Cameron Wake and his 10.5 sacks. An injury knocked Tannehill out in early December, meaning backup Matt Moore was at the helm for a 30-12 wild card round loss to Pittsburgh.
In a wild season opener against the division rival Broncos, the Chargers very nearly rallied from a 24-7 fourth quarter deficit only to come up short in a 24-21 loss. Denver dominated for much of the contest, but the Chargers forced two key turnovers that led to Philip Rivers firing touchdown passes to Keenan Allen and Travis Benjamin. The Chargers then benefited from a missed field goal to get in position to tie the game. But rookie kicker Younghoe Koo had his 44-yard attempt with one second remaining blocked, ending the comeback hopes.
The Cutler comeback
There may not have been a more polarizing quarterback in the last two decades in the NFL than Jay Cutler. For every person wowed by his quick delivery and cannon arm, you could find another unimpressed with his intangibles and leadership skills. When Ryan Tannehill was lost for the year with a preseason knee injury, the Dolphins didn’t have much choice but to sign Cutler, just a few months after he retired from the Bears. His play on a team that’s trying to get back to the playoffs will be one of the most fascinating developments in the league this season.
Coming back from heartbreak
On the one hand, the Chargers are to be commended with how they fought back in Week 1 against a good team on the road to nearly pull off a stunner. On the other hand, their could be an emotional hangover from the heartbreaking the way they lost the game. They’re playing a Miami team that will be revved up to play after having to unexpectedly sit out the first week of the season. But they should get a jolt of energy from playing their first game in their new Los Angeles home.
Star runners on display
We live in the day and age of the running back by committee, as teams regularly utilize two and three running backs to fill out the various offensive roles. But with Melvin Gordon of San Diego and Jay Ajayi of Miami, this game will feature two of the last bell cow runners in the league. Gordon found a lot of early running room against Denver before the lanes closed down and the Chargers had to throw to come from behind. Meanwhile Ajayi has been dealing with a balky knee but should be ready to go for the opener.
Chargers OG Kenny Wiggins vs. Dolphins DT Ndamukong Suh
The Dolphins can dominate defensively when Suh is on top of his game. That didn’t happen enough for some fans last year, especially considering his massive contract. He would seem to have an advantage over Wiggins or any of the other journeyman types on the Charger line, which means he could be facing double teams for much of the evening.
Fantasy football tip – Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry
Much of the preseason hype surrounding the Dolphins passing game centered on wideout DeVante Parker, who seemed to develop an immediate rapport with Cutler in those games. But Landry, who was the subject of trade rumors, has a long history of production, and he should be able to work the middle of the field where the Charger defense is most vulnerable.
Prediction: Los Angeles Chargers 22-20 Miami Dolphins
The Chargers should be able to pressure Cutler with Joey Bosa and company into a couple mistakes, just enough for a win in the home opener.
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