This week’s game against the Rams is one of the most important games the Dolphins will play this season. For starters, the Dolphins are sitting at the 7th seed in the playoff hunt right now. It looks unlikely that they can challenge for the division title as the Patriots are currently 7-2. With the Raiders holding the 5th seed with a 7-2 record and the Broncos with the 6th seed at 7-3, the Dolphins need every victory possible to compete for a wild card spot.
Besides pushing to make the playoffs, this game is also a defining moment for the Dolphins as a winning team. For the past four seasons, this team has surprised us in many ways, winning games they should not won while losing games that were in the palms of their hands. Now, the Dolphins need to prove that this four-game win streak is not just another fluke but rather a true demonstration that this team is becoming a winning organization.
The defense is not much of a concern this week. Despite Miami’s low ranking for defending the run (29th), the Dolphins will be going against a Rams team that is only ranked 29th in running the ball with 82.6 average yards per game. The Dolphins’ run defense also showed improvement last week as they held Chargers’ Melvin Gordon to only 70 yards on 24 carries.
Miami should also fare well against the pass, as the Rams will finally start rookie quarterback Jared Goff. Head coach Jeff Fisher has been reluctant to start Goff this whole season because he felt that the young quarterback was not quite ready. That lack of faith should bode well for the Dolphins’ pass rush attack as defensive end Cameron Wake has been on a rampage snagging 3.5 sacks in the last two games.
What Miami fans should be wondering is how the offense is going look after losing starting left tackle Branden Albert and starting Center Mike Pouncey to injury. Both linemen played a huge role in the turn-around for this offense in the last four games.
Having all five offensive linemen healthy is what helped Jay Ajayi pull in back-to-back 200-yard rushing performances. They also kept a cleaner pocket for Ryan Tannehill which has helped him make better reads throwing the football, as well as giving him time to move around in the pocket.
This year’s first-round pick, Laremy Tunsil, will take over for the injured Albert, moving him out of the left guard slot where he has performed at a high level. Kraig Urbik will then take over at left guard, and as of now, it looks like Anthony Steen will replace Mike Pouncey at center.
This is not the time for Miami to move away from the running game despite a patched-up O-line. The Rams are giving up an average of 103.1 rush yards a game, and this game will not be won through the air but rather on the ground.
That’s not to say that Tannehill cannot have a big game. Even though Los Angeles is a top-ten defense against the pass, Tannehill showed great playmaking ability last week against the Chargers. During that game, Tannehill showed his running ability by converting a long 3rd down with an 18-yard run. He also showed improved accuracy throwing the ball by hitting wide receiver Kenny Stills on a perfect 39-yard touchdown pass.
The Rams may have seemed like a low-tier team this season, but this game is far from a gimme. Miami must find ways to open some running lanes for Ajayi as well as keep Tannehill protected despite losing to starting offensive linemen. If the Dolphins’ offense can move the ball and put up some points, it should be simple for the defense to take care of Goff and the Rams’ offense and come home with the win.
Prediction: Rams-6, Dolphins-10