Two teams seemingly headed in opposite directions will meet in South Beach on Sunday as the 4-6 Miami Dolphins play host to the 6-4 Seattle Seahawks. Seattle is surging as of late and all elements of the team are playing high quality football while the Dolphins enter this matchup following three straight losses and their playoff hopes quickly slipping away.
The tilt features two rookie quarterbacks, Ryan Tannehill and Russell Wilson, both of which were not expected to win their respective teams starting jobs this season. Both have exceeded their draft day expectations as they have showed the skill and poise needed to find success at the NFL level. Even more impressive is the fact that Tannehill had the Dolphins in a midst of a serious playoff run seven games into the season and Wilson's Seahawks are currently the 6th seed in the NFC.
For Miami to get a crucial victory and get their season back on track, the Dolphins must repair the offense that has been atrocious for the past three games, scoring a combined 37 points over that span. Since the loss to the Colts, Ryan Tannehill has struggled against two of the worst defenses in the league. In order to rebound this week, Tannehill must regain confidence in himself as well as his wide recievers alhtough they have yet to make life easy for the rookie. Throughout the Dolphins three game win streak that vaulted them to 4-3, Tannehill took control of the offense and kept the team in a position to win despite being outplayed on some occasions. In order for Miami to rebound, Tannehill must regain his early season form. Easier said than done.
The Seahawks defense is near the top in the league in several categories as they have surrendered a mere 16.1 points per game (2nd in the league), 296.8 yards per game (3rd) and 196.2 passing yards per game (3rd). It won't be an easy task for Tannehill to thrive against this stout defense on his own, the run game must take some of the pressure off him. The re-emergence of the run game has yet to happen for the Dolphins as Reggie Bush does not look like the same back from the end of last season to the beginning of this year and Daniel Thomas is hit or miss on a week to week basis. If Seattle has one weakness on defense its their ability to stop the run as they are allowing over 100 yards on the ground per game. Bush must run the ball up the gut as opposed to running east to west as he has a habit of doing. The Dolphins have the NFL's second rated centre in Mike Pouncey which should be enough to overmatch the Seahawks up front. Without the run game though, the Dolphins will be playing right into the hands of their opponents.
Although it has gone relatively unnoticed, the Dolphins defense played well on Thursday Night Football against the Bills. The bend dont break defense was evident following an embarassing loss the week before and held Buffalo to only 19 points, none in the second half and not a single offensive touchdown. That is usually a formula for victory in the NFL. Usually. If the defense turns in another exceptional performance, the Dolphins won't need anything spectacular out of their offense assuming they protect the ball and capitalize on their chances. Putting pressure on the Seahawks will be a point of emphasis in stopping Marshawn Lynch and forcing Wilson into making poor decisions. Lynch is having the best year of his career so far meaning the Dolphins 9th ranked run defense will need to ensure Lynch does not get into open space.
The Seahawks passing game is ranked last in the NFL averaging 255 yards per game. Miami must take away the run and make Seattle one dimensional. While Wilson doesn't post jaw-dropping numbers, he rarely makes mistakes either seeing as he has only thrown two interceptions in the past five weeks. Wilson's biggest asset against Miami could potentially be his speed considering that the Dolphins struggle versus mobile quarterbacks. Its crucial that the 'Phins linebackers keep him contained and force him into making throws to an average at best recieving corps.
Seattle normally is not a good road team and the fact that they are a west coast team travelling to the east coast for a 1pm game will factor in as an advantage for Miami. The Dolphins season is on the line when they take the field Sunday and in order for them to turn their season around, it must start with their offense.