Can Pack Deal With Miami's Four-Letter Word?Posted:Oct 10th, 2014 3:12 pm
When it comes down to it, the Dolphins are an average football team, capable of looking good one week and lousy the next. They have 8-8 written all over them. They have their share of playmakers: Cameron Wake, Knowshon Moreno, Randy Starks, Mike Wallace. But the four letter word the Packers will be muttering all afternoon is this one: h-e-a-t.
The Pack's ability to handle the steamy weather will go the farthest in determining whether the winning streak reaches three. The forecast is for 90 degrees at kickoff, with 70% humidity. While many Packer players no doubt grew up in warm climates, they haven't played a game at this level in these kind of conditions very often--and certainly not recently. They've been practicing in perfect football weather: 48-50 degrees. They're in for a rude and sticky awakening.
Some of the Florida stats have a Halloween flavor: Aaron Rodgers is 0-3 in the state, with two losses in Tampa and one in Jacksonville. He's managed just five touchdowns to seven interceptions in those games. And when it comes to Miami, it gets even scarier. The Pack is 1-6 all time there.
So the intangibles don't sound great, but the one Miami win came in 2006 with Mike McCarthy at the helm. He's never lost there. So there's that.
Both teams enter the game well-rested--the Fish are coming off their bye (some would say two byes, since they got to play the Raiders in London) and get five starters back for this one, including Starks, LB Koa Misi, center Mike Pouncey (their best lineman) and safety Reshard Jones. They may also get Moreno back, he practiced in a limited fashion, while coming back from an elbow injury.
Offensively, the Dolphins would like to think they found their groove in their blowout of the Raiders. But in the two games prior, they scored just ten in Buffalo in a 19-point loss and then just 15 at home in another 19-point loss to the Chiefs. Head coach Joe Philbin raised some eyebrows following the defeat to Kansas City by not naming his starting QB till late in the week. Whether that woke up or annoyed Ryan Tannehill we'll never know, since, you know, he got to play the Raiders.
The Dolphins know the Pack's defense is susceptible to the run and solid against the Pack. Since the opener, opposing QBs average about a 60 QB rating and they're taking the ball away. Both of their backs are nicked: Moreno may or may not play and Lamar Miller showed up on the injury report midweek with a foot injury, so that might help slow them a bit. Both have averaged 5 1/2 yards per carry this season, so the Pack better be buttoned up. They've been a much better tackling team since the debacle in Seattle. They'll be tested on Sunday.
Mike Wallace is their big play receiver, but he's also been banged up. After him, tight end Charles Clay should demand the Pack's attention--he's also been slowed by injury (we think we always have it bad. The Fish listed 23 players on the injury report during Raiders week).
If the Pack can slow them down on first and second downs, Dom Capers will blitz often in passing situations and that should cause Tannehill to make some mistakes. They turned the ball over three times in their last game. The Pack is tied for the league lead at +6 right now, registering eight takeaways in the last three games. That always translates to wins.
Defensively, the Dolphins' strength is up front where Wake and Starks lead a disruptive unit that will be a handful for the Pack's offensive line. David Bakhtiari's back tightened up this week, so that's something to watch. If Rodgers has time, he'll pick apart the Fish, if he's pressured all day, it will be a struggle. Their linebacker unit is average, led by second year guy Jelani Jenkins and their secondary is just okay. Cortland Finnegan is iffy with a neck injury. If he's out, watch for Rodgers to pick on corners Will Davis and Jamar Taylor. Former Lion Louis Delmas starts at safety and is an upgrade of what they had last year.
The Pack gets the edge on special teams. Miami is last in the league, allowing nearly 15 yards per punt return and their punter is shaky. Mason Crosby has been exceptional all season.
For me, the game comes down to whether the Pack can contain the run and maintain a mostly clean pocket for Rodgers. And mostly, can the Packers keep their cool in the hot glare of the Miami midday sun?
I think so. But just barely.
Pack 28 Dolphins 26