Believe it or not, but the Miami Dolphins still have games to play, with the next one coming on Monday night against the only remaining winless team in the NFL, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
And as crazy as it sounds, the Dolphins are still very much alive in the AFC playoff picture at 4-4, are coming off an impressive win over the Bengals at home, and have a favorable matchup against the Buccaneers.
The Buccaneers season has been an epic disaster in all aspects possible thus far and in the teams last game, blew a 21-point lead to the Seahawks at home. Head coach Greg Schiano has completely lost this team, Josh Freeman is long gone, and Mike Glennon is in, but hasn’t changed the teams fortunes.
Doug Martin is out for the season with a torn labrum, and Darrelle Revis according to his twitter account, likes making $16 million dollars more than winning. All that makes for an interesting game to say the least.
What people seem to be overlooking in the Richie Incognito bullying case, is that the Dolphins have now lost the entire left side of the teams offensive line. Jonathan Martin was the starting left tackle, and Richie Incognito was the starting left guard, and now they’re both gone.
The Dolphins were already struggling mightily protecting Ryan Tannehill giving up a sack on every 8.25 pass attempts, good for 2nd worst in the NFL. Miami is currently on pace to set a record for most sacks allowed, and it’s only going to get worse without 2 of the teams starting linemen.
Veterans Bryant McKinnie and Nate Garner will be filling in, and will have a tough task on their hands. If Tannehill has time, he has plenty of weapons at his disposal with Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, Lamar Miller, and Charles Clay.
For the Bucs, Rookie Mike Glennon has held his own for Tampa Bay since taking over for Josh Freeman. He’s completing 60 percent of his passes, has thrown 8 touchdowns to only 3 interceptions, but the Bucs sport the league’s 31st ranked pass offense.
With Doug Martin and Mike Williams now out for the season, Glennon’s job is only getting tougher. Mike James and Brian Leonard will have to step up big time, and Tiquan Underwood is now the teams 2nd receiver, with Vincent Jackson still the number 1. Other than Jackson, Tampa Bay’s offense is filled with unproven players who will be asked to do things they have never been asked to do.
Dolphins – Even though the Dolphins can’t protect Ryan Tannehill, Miami’s weapons are significantly better than Tampa Bay’s at this point.
Through 8 games, the Dolphins defense has underachieved. Miami ranks 22nd in both rushing and passing yards allowed per game. A lot was expected of this unit entering the season, and last week’s game against the Bengals may have been the turning point.
The Dolphins defense registered 4 turnovers, including a Brent Grimes pick six, and had 5 sacks. Cameron Wake had his best game of the season and his sack of Andy Dalton in the end-zone gave Miami the win in overtime.
The key is the secondary playing the way they’re capable of playing. Reshad Jones and Chris Clemons form one of the league’s best safety tandems, and Brent Grimes has all the talent in the world at cornerback. We’ll see if this defense can carry its momentum against a weak Tampa Bay offense.
Tampa Bay’s defense ranks smack dab in the middle. The Dolphins are 15th giving up 240 passing yards per game, and are 12th giving up 107 yards on the ground per game. The Bucs defense though has been especially bad in recent weeks giving up an average of 30 points over the teams last 4 games.
Tampa’s defensive struggles aren’t because of a lack of talent. Mark Baron, Darrelle Revis, Dashon Goldon, and Gerald McCoy all have the talent to be great. The teams offensive struggles haven’t helped the D’s cause.
Dolphins – The Dolphins are starting to get into a defensive rhythm, while Tampa Bay’s defense is on a cold streak.
Kicker: Ryan Lindell vs. Caleb Sturgis
Punter: Michael Koenen vs. Brandon Fields
Return Man: Eric Page vs. Marcus Thigpen
Caleb Sturgis is up there with one of the league’s worst kickers in 2013. Sturgis is tied for 2nd to last with five missed field goals, all coming in Miami’s last four games. Rian Lindell is 11 of 13 on the season, and is one of the more reliable kickers in the league.
In the punting game, Brandon Fields has been superb averaging just under 49 yards per punt. He also has only 1 touchback this year. Michael Koenen hasn’t been as effective as Fields averaging 43 yards per punt and has 4 touchbacks.
In the return game, Eric Page and Marcus Thigpen are both averaging 25 yards per return, and have yet to return a kick for a score.
Even – Tampa has the edge in the kicking game, Miami has the edge in the punting game, and both teams are even in the return game.
The Jacksonville Jaguars got in the win column this week, and with all the distractions currently going on in South Beach, for the Dolphins to go out and play a great game seems highly unlikely. This is a great opportunity for the Bucs to finally get a win.
Buccaneers 21 Dolphins 17