The Packers face a Dolphins team that will be fresh off their bye on Sunday. Is this team a threat? The Packers have been trending upward lately but don’t have any wiggle room in the NFC North. While a look at the Dolphins record (2-2) may not seem impressive, one of the Dolphins’ wins came against the New England Patriots.
What will the Packers need to do to secure a win? Read on to find out.
Contain and bring down Ryan Tannehill
Tannehill has some ability but he is not an elite quarterback. If the Packers contain him and collapse the pocket, he will go down, plain and simple. I look for Mike Daniels to have another good day. If he can keep attacking up front, and Peppers and Matthews keep contain on the outside, the Packers defense should be forcing either quarterback hits or interceptions.
Tannehill at times can make plays when he gets outside the pocket, but with a general lack of inaccuracy. Tannehill is an adequate starter, but adequate starters need to be excellent game managers. Ryan Tannehill at times tries to do too much, mostly because it is required on a team with so little offensive talent. The balls that Tannehill throws when he can set up are a little bit slow and soft, though they have good spin. Somehow I think that they will be very catch-able…for the Packers defense.
Finally, the Dolphins’ initial injury report had both Cortland Finnegan (CB) and Brandon Gibson (WR) as non-participants. Knowshon Moreno was limited, but his elbow injury should not affect his performance. If the Packers handle Knowshon and the run game, the defense will have a field day in this one. But the Dolphins have to feel better after a bye week, having 14 guys on their injury list compared to 23 before the game against the Raiders. They will be fresh too which means the Packers have to leverage their coaching philosophy against Philbin’s which means:
The coaching matchup
Run the no-huddle: Dolphins’ head coach Joe Philbin uses all of his players. That is part of the reason the Dolphins were so banged up before the bye. This gives the Packers the perfect opportunity to leverage the no-huddle against them. Coaches who substitute as a matter of philosophy do so to keep players fresh (they will also, of course, substitute to get preferred defensive sets in) and the Packers no-huddle offense will work against them and expose any players who while fresh from a bye week, may be in less than perfect condition.
Joe Philbin knows he is outmatched in this contest so watch out for desperation plays and possible fake punts. But if the Packers play this right on offense, they can have the ‘Phins defense on their heels regardless of who plays. I watched the Dolphins game against the Bills…a team that most closely resembles the Packers in terms of defense. Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins’ play calling are predictable and play into the Packers hands IF the Pack can stop the run. So I give the coaching nod to Dom Capers’ defense in this one.
Here’s an example of why I don’t put too much emphasis on team rankings for offense and defense. The Dolphins are ranked #7 in total defense. Stats are only as good as the quality of the input and overall rankings NEVER predict a game. Did the rankings indicate that the Packers defense would hold the Lions to 10 points? Conversely, did those same rakings give any indication that the Packers offense would give away 9 points and only score 7? Nope.
The Packers have playmakers and up-and-coming young players on their team. They are starting to gel and come into the Dolphins game with tons of confidence. The ‘Phins only homefield advantage will be the heat…the Packers seem to always lose a key player to cramps or a pulled hammy in hot weather. But if the Packers’ defense can stay hydrated and healthy, they will dominate a Dolphins offensive line that is middle of the pack.
- Turnover diff: Packers are plus 6 in turnover differential. The pressure is getting there and the safety play is following it up. Tramon Williams is playing great football and Sam Shields is making his money too. The Dolphins are plus 2 with most of their takeaways (5 of 8) coming in the form of fumbles which is often the result of offensive inadequacy moreso than stellar defensive play. This leads to another important stat.
- Marquee wins: The Dolphins only big win came against the Patriots, a game in which they admirably came back from a 10 point defecit. The Patriots, however, are not the team they once were. They have stormed back recently with a big win against the Bengals, but they were not playing like that early in the season.
- Strength of schedule: The Packers are 3-2 with losses to the defending Super Bowl champions and the Detroit Lions. The Dolphins are 2-2 with losses to the Bills and Chiefs (worthy opponents) but their latest win came against the Raiders, a team whose own Charles Woodson says “sucks” in London, and the Raiders moved the ball well against the ‘Phins early, scoring on the first drive.
More to come
There is more to be said about this matchup between the Packers and the Dolphins. I will bring all the goodies in part 2 of this post. But for now, tell me what you think the keys are to getting it done against the ‘Phins.