The Eagles (4-4) face the Dolphins (3-5) in the Eagles first one o’clock game since October 11th. The Eagles are still fighting to stay competitive in the NFC East, where they, the Giants, and the Redskins are currently holding onto hope as they race to the finish line. The Dolphins, on the other hand, are buried at the bottom of their division behind the Patriots (8-0) and Jets (5-3), and, with a 0-4 record in their division, they currently have the worst divisional record in the NFL.
The Dolphins immediate success after Dan Cambell became the interim head coach in Week 6 turned out to be a mirage because the games they won in convincing fashion were against the Tennessee Titans (2-6) and Houston Texans (3-5). However, The Dolphins’ success and overall power ranking in the NFL came to a screeching crash when they met their two division rivals, New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills, the past two games and lost by a combined score of 24-69.
Run/Pass Ratio: Although the Eagles had an even distribution of running and passing last week, their overall tendency this season is to pass the ball 58 percent of the time against 42 percent running. The Dolphins pass the ball the third-most overall this season: 64 percent pass against 36 percent run. However, that tendency has to take into account that the Dolphins did not run frequently until Dan Cambell became head coach for them four games ago.
Pass Defense: Miami allows a 22nd ranked 97.1 opposing passer rating, with opposing quarterbacks throwing 16 touchdowns against 6 interceptions. The Eagles allow a 6th ranked 82.2 passer rating, with opposing quarterbacks throwing 13 touchdowns against 12 interceptions. The Eagles give up an average of 6.9 yards per attempt, ranking ninth in the league, while Miami has given up a 25th-ranked 7.8 yards. The Dolphins, however, have given up less yards and touchdowns overall to wide receivers. In addition, both teams rank low in receiving yards given to running backs: (Eagles, 222 yards, 30th) and (Dolphins, 263, 27th).
Dolphins Quarterback: Dolphin’s offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, who was the Eagles quarterback coach in Chip Kelly’s first year as head coach, has had trouble developing Ryan Tannehill this season after he posted substantial numbers last year in Lazor’s first season as Miami’s offensive coordinator. The Dolphins point production has dropped from 24.3 (11th last season) to 21.4 (21st). Tannehill’s passer rating is down from 92.8 last season to 88.7. He has 13 touchdowns and 9 interceptions this season after just 12 interceptions last season. He has not thrown a touchdown in the past two weeks after throwing six combined against Houston and Tennessee, highlighting the fact that he is definitely not matchup-proof and can be shut down by the better defenses in the league.
Eagles Quarterback: Sam Bradford looked more comfortable in overtime than he has looked in high-pressure situations at anytime this season. The deer-in-the-headlights look was gone, and he seemed confident. He had trouble once again getting started, though. His completion percentage (69.4%) was the second-highest of the season, but he also had just 36 attempts. His one touchdown Sunday gives him two touchdowns over the past three weeks; however, he did not throw an interception for the first time since Week 4. He is still tied for the fourth-most interceptions in the NFL – with 10 – behind Matthew Stafford (11), Andrew Luck (12), and Peyton Manning (13). Although Tannehill, with 9 interceptions, is not far behind. Bradford’s production in the first half of games, 821 yards, is in stark contrast to the second half of games: 1,236 yards. Therefore, I’ll halt in saying that he has turned the corner until he finally shows up at the beginning of a game.
Dolphins Wide Receivers: In the offseason, the Dolphins signed wide receivers DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills, along with tight end Jordan Cameron, in an effort to improve their passing offense. However, it hasn’t worked out quite as planned. Stills had a good year last season, with 63 receptions for 931 yards with New Orleans, but he is a boom-or-bust type of wide receiver this year – with more busts than boom. For example, he had a good 46-yard reception Sunday, but his overall production this season (16 receptions, 279 yards) is below what should be expected of a No. 1 receiver this late in the season. Cameron has had trouble reproducing the output he had in his 2013 breakout season with the Browns (80 receptions, 917 yards), when he ranked among the top tight ends in the league. DaVante Parker has disappeared from the stat sheets since Week 3, and he is questionable to play against the Eagles due to a foot injury. Jarvis Landry, who had the most targets against the Bills last week (12) and goes up against an Eagles interior that was just torched by Cole Beasley, may be the most important wide receiver to watch as he has been the most productive wide receiver recently. Rishard Matthews was a big producer at the beginning of the season and has been producing close to Landry’s output, so he is worth keeping an eye on, too. Greg Jennings is largely an afterthought. The Dolphins do not really have a consistent No. 1 wide receiver, and any one of them could produce.
Eagles Wide Receivers: Bradford targeted Jordan Matthews on 36.4 percent of his routes against the Cowboys, and Matthews had an impressive game, finishing with nine receptions for 133 yards and a touchdown. The question now, however, is whether he can reproduce that performance again this season. The last time he had over 100 yards receiving was in Week 1, when he produced 102 yards, and he has not finished a game with more than 59 yards since Week 2. However, when he had his best game of the season in 2014 – 138 yards and two touchdowns against Carolina – he followed that with 107 yards and a touchdown against Green Bay the next week. Miles Austin, who had the most receiving yards in the two games prior to Week 9, had just one reception for 27 yards. Zach Ertz continues to be a good option for Sam Bradford as he saw six targets and caught five for 44 yards. Josh Huff, however, barely produced (2 receptions, 10 yards), and it’s fair to wonder if he will have a breakout game again this season. Nelson Agholor did not play against the Cowboys, and whether or not he will play will be important to monitor. The Eagles don’t have a consistent No. 1 wide receiver, so the production could come from anywhere. The most important aspect to watch from this position is whether Matthews can have another big game.
Rush Defense: The Dolphins allowed over 100 yards to both Bills’ running backs last week: Karlos Williams (110 yards) and ex-Eagle LeSean McCoy (112). Only the Cleveland Browns have allowed more rushing yards per game than Miami (142.1). The Eagles have allowed an opposing running back to run for more than 100 yards for the second consecutive week, and losing Jordan Hicks for the season, along with the lingering injuries of DeMeco Ryans, Kiko Alonso, and Mychal Kendricks, does not help the situation.
Dolphins Running Backs: Lamar Miller is the clear-cut No.1 running back in Miami, and, since Dan Cambell took over as head coach, Miami has been using him frequently. Before Cambell took over, Miller had 37 rushes in four weeks, and he never had more than 13 attempts in a game or 53 yards. In the four weeks after Cambell took over, though, he has 52 rushes combined and two games with over 100 yards rushing. Against the Titans and Texans, he had two of the best games of his career, but he cooled down considerably the next two weeks, when he faced the Patriots and Bills and ended with a combined 21 rushes for 59 yards. Where the Eagles have to be careful, though – if they are not going to allow they’re third consecutive 100-yard rusher – is Miller’s ability to move the ball as a receiver. Last week, the majority of his production came off receptions (7 receptions, 97 yards), and he had only 44 yards rushing. Miller has seen 18 targets – 12 of which came in the past two weeks when he had trouble rushing – through the four weeks after Campbell became coach, so the Eagles will need to be very cautious about this Sunday.
Eagles Running Backs: The Eagles averaged 70 yards running in their first four games, but, now, they are averaging 173.3 yards over their last four games and have at least 150 yards in each contest. That result has come with an ever-changing offensive line. It’s clearly time to stop talking about who is the lead back between DeMarco Murray and Ryan Matthews because they are both major and generally equal contributors on the offense. The only difference is that Ryan Matthews has more yards and touchdowns with a lot less attempts. Over the past two games, Matthews has 17 rushes for 164 yards and two touchdowns, while Murray has 36 rushes for 148 yards and one touchdown. However Murray has 8 receptions for 83 yards the past two games, with 6 catches for 78 yards against Dallas. The Eagles most likely will not change their approach to utilizing the two running backs against Miami. The only question, though, is where Darren Sproles fits in the mix – if at all. Sproles has disappeared from the offense since a stand-out Week 1 performance.
Score prediction: Eagles 27, Dolphins 20