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5 Keys to Dolphins-Patriots in Week 15

The Miami Dolphins (8-5) enter Week 15 with a pivotal matchup with the New England Patriots (6-7). The Dolphins currently hold the final playoff spot in the AFC and may need to win their final three games this season to get into the postseason.

The game stands a rematch of the Week 1 contest between these division rivals. The Patriots defeated the Dolphins 21-11 in the season opener and that stands as Miami’s worst loss of the season. But in Week 15, the Dolphins are a different team.

Here’s a look at five keys to the Dolphins-Patriots matchup in Week 15.

Dolphins-Patriots: Keep Up the Solid Run Defense

The Dolphins sport one of the top defensive units in the NFL, but if there’s a clear weakness with that group, it’s the run defense. Miami allows 120.2 rushing yards-per-game (22nd) and 4.6 yards-per-carry (25th). In Week 14 against the Chiefs, though, the run D played well.

Kansas City managed just 94 yards on 24 rushes, good for 3.9 yards-per-carry. The Dolphins limited explosive rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire to 32 yards on 16 carries (2.0 yards-per-carry) and 12 of those came on one run.

Miami will need a similar performance in Week 15 against the Patriots, a team that ran all over them in the season opener. In Week 1, New England carried the ball 42 times for 217 yards and three touchdowns, good for a 5.2 yards-per-carry average. Those numbers are similar to the 189 yards and 5.7 YPC average put up by the Broncos in Week 11.

But the Dolphins run defense has improved since those losses. They haven’t allowed a team to rush over 100 yards or get over 4.0 yards-per-carry over the last three weeks.

Put Up Points Early

The strength of the Patriots offense is the ground game. New England leads the league in rushing attempts, and they use that attack to control the pace of play. In Week 1, New England hogged the ball, and the Dolphins only had four second half possessions. But the Patriots have a limited passing attack, coming in at 29th in passing (185.4 yards-per-game) and have thrown a total of eight touchdown passes in 2020.

If the Dolphins can get an early lead, it may force New England to abandon their strength to get back into the game. Cam Newton, who was benched in Week 14 after a horrible showing against the Rams, has thrown just five touchdowns this season. He’s thrown twice as many interceptions.

The Dolphins lead the league in first quarter scoring (7.5 points-per-game) and are seventh in first half scoring (15.5). The Patriots, meanwhile, are last in scoring in the first quarter (2.2) and 27th in first half scoring (9.2). And early lead could lead to Miami’s defense turning up the heat on Cam.

Dolphins-Patriots: Limit Newton’s Legs

As stated earlier, the Patriots lead the league in rushing attempts. Damien Harris paces the team with 137 attempts, good for 691 yards and two touchdowns. But second on the team in carries is Newton. His 113 attempts are third-most among quarterbacks.

In Week 1, the Dolphins allowed Newton 75 yards on 15 carries. He scored two rushing touchdowns. On the season, Newton’s piled up 451 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. Miami has historically struggled against mobile quarterbacks like Newton and Arizona’s Kyler Murray. If the Dolphins are to win this game and keep their playoff hopes alive, they’ll need to keep Newton in the pocket.

Miami’s defense must find a way to limit positive gains on first down, forcing the Patriots into second- and third-and-long situations. Miami sports the top third-down defense in the league, allowing opponents to convert just 33.1 percent of the time on third-down. The long down-and-distance will allow the Dolphins to attack Newton. The Patriots surrender 2.2 sacks-per-game (Miami gets 2.6 per). And in Week 14, New England allowed four sacks in their loss to. The Rams.

Snag More Takeaways

This one goes without saying, but we’ll say it here anyway. The Dolphins are tied with Pittsburgh for the most takeaways this season (25). Miami’s streak of at least one takeaway in 19 consecutive games is the longest in the NFL.

And the Dolphins defense was particularly impressive last week, despite the loss to Kansas City. They intercepted Patrick Mahomes three times and forced a fumble. Mahomes had entered the Week 14 contest with just two interceptions all season.

Newton’s 10 interceptions this season are eighth-most in the league. The Patriots 14 total interceptions thrown are fourth-most. New England has lost four fumbles this season, so their 18 total turnovers are middle-of-the-pack. But in their seven losses this season, the Patriots are minus-six in turnover differential.

Xavien Howard will look to extend his personal interception streak to sixth game and push his league lead in the INT department. The Patriots throw 1.1 interceptions-per-game (fourth-most), so he’ll have his opportunities. If Howard snags his 10th INT, it will match the single-season franchise record.

The Dolphins defense has feasted on turnovers this year. They’ve returned a pair of fumbles for touchdowns and consistently set up their offense with a short field. Doing that would certainly help their rookie quarterback.

Dolphins-Patriots: Get Tagovailoa Settled In

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has a long history of dominating rookie quarterbacks. And Week 15’s matchup marks the first time Tua Tagovailoa will face a Belichick defense. Belichick sports a 5-20 record against rookie QBs and most recently put the clamps on Chargers rookie Justin Herbert.

Working in Miami’s favor is the fact that it’s a home game. All five of Belichick’s losses to rookie QBs have come on the road.

Tagovailoa has settled into the offense well over the last several weeks. He’s demonstrated positive chemistry with Mike Gesicki, who could play despite a shoulder injury, DeVante Parker and Lynn Bowden Jr. Tagovailoa spreads the ball around in the passing game and has taken well to the up-tempo, no-huddle attack.

Tagovailoa may need to focus on the short passing game to simulate what would come on the ground. But he’s been good in that range thus far, connecting on 76-of-95 passes for 617 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions on throws under 10 yards through the air.

New England tends to flood the field with defensive backs and doesn’t blitz at an alarming rate (just 24 percent of the time, ninth-lowest). Tagovailoa will need to be patient and take with the Patriots give him.

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Dolphins Loss Chiefs

Week 15 Dolphins/Patriots Odds and Prediction

 

 

The Miami Dolphins face the New England Patriots in Week 15 at 8-5 and in control of their playoff destiny.

 

Miami Dolphins (8-5) vs New England Patriots (6-7)

Sunday Dec. 20th, 1PM EST

Line: Dolphins -2.5

O/U 41.5

 

For the changing of the guard in the AFC East to be complete the Patriots must be eliminated from playoff contention outright, even though Buffalo has nearly clinched the division.

The Dolphins are just a slight favorite despite a better record and being at home. Both teams are in vastly positions after New England beat Miami convincingly 21-11 in Week 1. Cam Newton has struggled and the Dolphins’ defense has become one of the best in the league.

 

Newton has just five touchdown passes against 10 interceptions but his 11 rushing scores are tied for the second highest total in the NFL. In Week 1 Newton was very efficient through the air completing 15-of-19 passes for 165 yards. However it was on the ground where Newton did his most damage with 15 carries for 75 yards and two touchdowns.

Miami is playing much better on both sides of the ball and since Tua Tagovailoa took over at quarterback they are limiting mistakes with the football. Ryan Fitzpatrick started under center in Week 1 and threw three interceptions without a touchdown. Conversely Tua has so far thrown just one pick in seven starts.
New England is the 5th best rushing team in the NFL entering Week 15 averaging 147.5 yards per game, while Miami’s defense ranks 21st in the league allowing 120.2 yards per game. Where Miami excels is in pass coverage and their 16 interceptions are second in the NFL. Xavien Howard leads the NFL with nine picks and has firmly entered the Defensive Player of the Year conversation. Newton will be without wide receiver Julian Edelman which gives him even fewer weapons.

 

Miami will need to be careful as New England still has a solid defense led by Stephon Gilmore, they are right behind the Dolphins with 15 interceptions. Tua will need to take what the defense gives him, and if Mike Gesicki and Devante Parker can go that will give the offense a huge boost.

The Dolphins need to find a running game to help Tua against a tough New England defense, and Bill Belichick will try to take away anything easy. New England’s run defense is worse than Miami’s, ranking 23rd allowing 124 yards-per-game. If Miami can run the ball in this one it bodes well for success to close out the season.

I predict Miami will finally get the ground game going and control a fairly low scoring game. The Dolphins’ defense can force Newton into mistakes and I see that trend continuing in this matchup. Field position will be critical and the Dolphins have perhaps the best kicker and special teams in the NFL.

That could make the difference in a close game.

 

Prediction: Dolphins 24, Patriots 20

 

Related:

Dolphins Loss Chiefs

5 Takeaways from Dolphins Loss to Chiefs

The Miami Dolphins (8-5) took more than one tough loss on Sunday to the Kansas City Chiefs (12-1). Despite battling back from a 20-point second half deficit, the Dolphins dropped a meaningful game to the defending Super Bowl champs. Along the way, the team also lost several players to injury.

Although Miami maintained hold of the last playoff spot in the AFC by Week 14’s end, the path to the postseason has narrowed considerably. The Dolphins still control their playoff destiny, but there’s little margin for error. Miami may very well need to win-out to secure a Wild Card spot at this point.

Here’s a look at five takeaways from the Dolphins loss to the Chiefs.

Dolphins D Came to Play in Loss to Chiefs

The matchup between Miami and Kansas City highlighted a strength-on-strength tug-of-war. The Chiefs feature one of the most potent offenses in the league, while the Dolphins sport one of the NFL’s top defensive units.

Miami’s D held the upper hand early, picking off a pair of Patrick Mahomes passes. The Chiefs entered with only eight turnovers all season long, but by the time the game ended, the Dolphins added four to that tally.

Byron Jones nabbed his first interception as a Dolphin in the first quarter after Andrew Van Ginkel tipped a Mahomes offering. Safety Eric Rowe picked off his second pass of the year later in that quarter. Mahomes had thrown only two interceptions all season entering this one.

Later in the game, Jones added a forced fumble to the tally before Xavien Howard came away with an interception of his own.

All told, the Dolphins defense held the league’s highest scoring offense to just 24 points, six below their season average. (Special Teams surrendered a punt return TD and the offense gave up a safety.) Miami’s 25 takeaways this season now leads the league.

There’s no other offense in the league scarier than that in KC, so this performance should prove, when fully healthy, this defense can play with anyone.

Howard Makes His DPOY Case

Howard’s stellar play continued in this one. Some questioned if he would be up to the challenge, considering Mahomes and the offensive weapons at his disposal. But Howard showed not only that he’s at an All-Pro level but also that he should be the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year.

Consider this: In 2019, Patriots’ CB Stephon Gilmore won the award on the back of six interceptions, 20 passes defensed and 53 total tackles. In 2020, with three games to play, Howard leads the league with nine interceptions and 17 passes defensed, and has 40 total tackles. When targeting Howard, opposing quarterbacks have a passer rating of just 53.4, second-best among cornerbacks with at least 30 pass targets.

Howard’s nine interceptions puts him within striking distance of the single-season franchise record of 10, held by Dick Westmoreland who set the record in 1967. No NFL player has had at least nine interceptions in a season since Chicago’s Tim Jennings in 2012. No one’s had at least 10 since Antonio Cromartie picked off 10 passes in 2007.

Dolphins Exit Loss with Injury Issues

One of the big concerns for Miami in the wake of this loss remains the health of its frontline players. The Dolphins started the game without a pair of starting linebackers in Kyle Van Noy and Elandon Roberts, but the injury list just got longer from there.

DeVante Parker exited in the second quarter of the game with a leg injury and did not return. He did not make a catch on his two targets. Jakeem Grant also went down with a leg injury as well. Parker and Grant, the team’s top wideouts, played just 27 and 31 snaps respectively.

Another huge loss came midway through the fourth quarter when Mike Gesicki sustained a shoulder injury after a short reception. Gesicki, who had five catches for 65 yards and two touchdowns, emerged as Tua Tagovailoa’s favorite target in this one.

There’s a good chance the Dolphins will be without both Gesicki and Grant come Sunday’s contest against the Patriots.

Safety Bobby McCain sustained an ankle injury during the game but was able to return. Unfortunately, his replacements Clayton Fejedelm and Kavon Frazier both gave up big plays in McCain’s absence, including a 44-yard touchdown pass to Tyreek Hill.

Bowden Emerges as Slot Option

One of the positive takeaways from this spate of injuries might be the emergence of Lynn Bowden Jr as a slot receiver. Bowden has earned more playing time over the last several weeks and led Dolphins receivers in snaps in this one. He played 59 of 83 possible offensive snaps.

Bowden led the team with seven receptions for 82 yards, an 11.7 yards-per-reception average. Each of those set a new career-high for the rookie receiver. He was targeted nine times and six of his catches moved the chains. Bowden also carried the ball once for two yards and attempted one pass.

Bowden has emerged as a utility offensive weapon for the ‘Phins and has developed some positive chemistry with Tagovailoa. That chemistry will be necessary if the receiver corps continues to be thinned out.

One reinforcement this week could be the return of Isaiah Ford. Miami traded Ford to the Patriots for a conditional draft pick earlier this season, only to see New England cut the third-year wideout shortly thereafter. Ford has experience as a slot receiver and in Miami’s system.

Tagovailoa Nearly Pulls Off Epic Comeback

Tagovailoa completed 28-of-48 attempts for a career-high 316 yards in this one. He added two touchdown passes and his first career rushing touchdown. As the game unfolded, Tagovailoa lost most of his go-to offensive outlets, but the rookie quarterback still managed to make this interesting in the end.

Missing the top-8 skill position players (in terms of yards-from-scrimmage) by game’s end, Tagovailoa kept the Dolphins within striking distance. The team put up 17 points in the fourth and were an onside kick recovery away from making it even more compelling.

Perhaps the most impressive drive came after Gesicki was lost for the game. Tagovailoa navigated the offense 73 yards for a touchdown with Bowden and Mack Hollins as his most reliable receivers. The first touchdown drive of the fourth went 80 yards, capping with a 29-yard toss to Gesicki.

Dolphins fans can come away from this one that Tagovailoa has that “it” factor absent from Miami’s backfield since Dan Marino.

Dolphins Chiefs

5 Keys to Dolphins-Chiefs in Week 14

The Miami Dolphins (8-4) enter their Week 14 matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs (11-1) coming off the soft section of their schedule. The Dolphins have won seven of their last eight games and now face their stiffest test of the season.

The Dolphins largely hold their playoff destiny in their own hands. Most assume the game against the defending Super Bowl champions is a loss, but if Miami manages a win this week, it will go a long way toward snapping their four-year playoff drought.

Here’s a look at five keys to the Dolphins-Chiefs matchup in Week 14.

Dolphins-Chiefs: Bend, Don’t Break

The Dolphins sport one of the top defensive units in the NFL. Miami allows the second-fewest points-per-game this season (17.7). They’ve allowed the second-fewest points total (212) and have surrendered just 23 points over the last three game. But this week, they matchup against a high-octane offense helmed by former NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes.

The Chiefs are second in scoring offense (30.8 PPG), first in total offense (427.6 YPG) and passing (314.4 PYPG), and 16th in rushing (113.2 RYPG) with the second-best third-down conversion rate (49.0 percent).

Kansas City will move the ball against the Dolphins. For Miami, it will be a matter of locking down in the Red Zone. The Dolphins Red Zone defense ranks ninth this season, surrendering a touchdown 58.3 percent of the time. Over the last three weeks, though, Miami’s Red Zone D is tops in the league, allowing touchdowns only 12.3 percent of the time.

The Chiefs are going to score, but if Miami can manage to hold them to field goals instead of allowing an avalanche of touchdowns, they’ll be in this game.

Keep the Offense Up-Tempo

The Chiefs strength is clearly on the offense, but that doesn’t mean their defense is bad. Kansas City ranks sixth in scoring (21.2 PPG) and 17th in total defense (358.2). They’ve won their last seven games in a row, but in three of their last four, they’ve surrendered 24 points or more.

What this means for Miami is they should have the opportunity to move the ball and put up points. And if they’re going to do that, they need to continue what started to work last week: up-tempo offense.

Miami went up-tempo in the second half versus the Bengals last week. Their first drive in the third quarter covered 70 yards in less than three minutes. Tua Tagovailoa zeroed in during that drive as well, connecting on all four pass attempts for 71 yards at the faster pace. After a touchdown to Mike Gesicki, the Dolphins came right back on their next drive moving in a similar fashion. All told, Tagovailoa completed 9-of-12 attempts for 137 and a touchdown on those two drives.

Another wrinkle could be the empty backfield looks. During Sunday’s win, 10 of Tagovailoa’s 39 passes were out of the empty package. He completed nine of those for 106 yards.

Dolphins-Chiefs: Pressure from the Front Four

The Dolphins defense has made a name for itself this season with big plays. What’s helped that effort is the pressure Miami pass rushers have put on opposing quarterbacks. The Dolphins rank in the top-10 in both total sacks (31) and quarterback hits (83). That pressure has led to strip sacks, fumbles and interceptions.

That pressure, though, largely comes thanks to a blitz-happy scheme. The Dolphins blitz on 41.1 percent of dropbacks, second-most in the league. They’ve masked their extra rushers in a variety of ways and they’ve sent the house, using a Cover Zero look, many times.

Sending extra rushers at Mahomes, though, hasn’t been a good idea this season. He’s faced a blitz on 104 dropbacks, which is the third-fewest among quarterbacks with at least 11 starts this season. What’s more, Mahomes has connected on 12 touchdowns and put up a 138.8 rating against the blitz, best in the NFL. He’s thrown zero interceptions in those situations.

This means the Dolphins should probably approach pressuring Mahomes with just their front four. Kansas City runs at least three wideouts out there more than 70 percent of the time, which will dictate Nickel or Dime packages from the Dolphins. Miami should probably flood the field with defensive backs in an effort to mitigate Mahomes’ weapons.

Generate Turnovers

This will be easier said than done. The Dolphins defense has secured a takeaway in 18 straight games, the longest current streak in the league. Miami’s 21 takeaways this season rank second in the NFL and it’s been the key element to the Dolphins’ success this season. Xavien Howard leads the league with eight interceptions, and he’s picked off a pass in four straight games.

Kansas City, though, takes care of the football. The Chiefs are tied with Tennessee for the fewest giveaways this season (8) and Mahomes has thrown just two interceptions in 463 passes this season. His 0.4 percent interception rate is lowest in the league.

Mahomes’ had some close calls, but Miami will need a takeaway or two to turn the tide in this one. Setting up Tagovailoa with a short field and swinging the momentum in Miami’s favor will go a long way to earning this win.

Dolphins-Chiefs: Don’t Abandon the Run

The Dolphins offense struggles to gain consistent traction on the ground. Miami’s 96.5 rushing yards-per-game ranks in the bottom third of the league. Their 3.7 yards-per-carry average is worst. But even though it’s been a struggle to run, the Dolphins must maintain some semblance of balance against KC.

Myles Gaskin’s return to the lineup helped last week. The second-year back gained a career-high 141 yards from scrimmage, 90 of those on the ground. A similar 4.3 yards-per-carry average would go a long way to helping Miami move the ball against the Chiefs. Last week, Miami gained 110 yards on 28 carries against the Bengals, including an 11-yard run from rookie Lynn Bowden Jr.

A creative approach to the run game, with jet sweeps featuring Bowden or Jakeem Grant, and outside zone runs, which were successful last week, will only help Tagovailoa. And Kansas City can be run on. Their rushing defense allows 132.4 yards-per-game (27th). Against the Broncos in Week 13, Kansas City allowed 179 rushing yards, including a 65-yard scamper from Melvin Gordon.

Keep the clock running and winning time-of-possession will also help Miami’s defense against Mahomes and the potent Chiefs offense. If the Dolphins can establish run and methodically move the ball, that will limit Mahomes’ opportunities to score.

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Dolphins win Bengals

5 Takeaways from Dolphins Win Over the Bengals

The Miami Dolphins improved to 8-4 with their win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. A lackluster first half gave way to a brawling second half. But after managing just six points, the offense came alive in the third quarter.

The win maintained Miami’s position in the AFC playoff race and gave Dolphins fans hope for what’s to come with rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. And while he’ll never admit it, head coach Brian Flores’s heated response to the hit that sparked the brawl also engendered hope and confidence, not only in the fans, but also the players.

Here’s a look at five takeaways from the Dolphins 19-7 win over the Bengals.

Dolphins-Bengals: Despite Ejection, Xavien Howard Remains Elite

In the first quarter, Xavien Howard intercepted a Brandon Allen pass, giving him a career-high eight interceptions this season. Howard became the first Dolphin since 1998 to intercept eight passes in a season. Both Terrell Buckley and Sam Madison had eight picks that year.

He’s now intercepted a pass in four consecutive games, tied for the second-longest streak in Dolphins history. It’s the second time this season he’s picked of a pass in four straight. The team record remains five consecutive games with an interception, and that’s held by cornerback Dick Westmoreland, who did it in 1967. Westmoreland also set the single-season team record of 10 INTs that year.

Howard’s play this season has propelled him into the Defensive Player of the Year conversation. He leads the league in INTs (8), is tied for the league lead in pass breakups (16) and QBs targeting Howard have a passer rating of just 48.9 this season. Great plays in the coming matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs could cement Howard’s DPOY claim.

Up-Tempo Offense Got Going

During Ryan Fitzpatrick’s time at QB this season, the Dolphins called the eighth-most No Huddle plays in the NFL. With Tagovailoa under center, Miami called the seventh-least No Huddle plays. In the second half, though, searching for a spark, the Dolphins offense incorporated the up-tempo style to much success.

According to Three Yards Per Carry podcast host Chris Kouffman, the Dolphins ran 15 No Huddle plays against the Bengals. That’s a major departure from previous games started by Tagovailoa. From Week 8 through the third quarter of Week 11, all with Tagovailoa at QB, the Dolphins ran five No Huddle plays total.

This move to the up tempo helped the Dolphins offense find a much-needed rhythm in the second half. Miami piled up 263 total yards in the second half, more than half of the 406 total yards on the day. Although they only scored 13 points in the second half, the movement and pace provided a tantalizing glimpse at the potential for this group.

Dolphins Defense Dominates (Again) in Win Over Bengals

The Dolphins limited the Bengals to just 196 yards of offense Sunday. It was the fewest yards allowed by a Dolphins defense since Oct. 8, 2017, when Tennessee gained just 188 yards.

Miami’s defense was even more stingy in the second half, surrendering just 25 total yards. It’s the fewest yards allowed in a second half by the Dolphins since at least 2000 and tied for the third-fewest allowed by an NFL team this season.

The Dolphins registered six sacks today, the team’s most in a game since Dec. 23, 2018 vs. Jacksonville. Miami’s 31 sacks this season are tied for 10th in the NFL. It’s the team’s most through its first 12 games of a season since 2014 (33.0).

Kyle Van Noy was particularly disruptive versus the Bengals. He recorded a career-high three sacks, as well as eight solo tackles and three additional QB hits. His tipped pass led to a Nik Needham interception in the fourth.

Interceptions by Howard and Needham pushed the team’s takeaway streak to 18 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the NFL. Miami’s 21 takeaways are second-most this season.

Gesicki and Gaskin Came to Play

The Dolphins have struggled at times to find game-breaking skill position players. The lackluster offense bogs down without those difference makers, but on Sunday, a pair of young performers played a pivotal role in this win.

Mike Gesicki nabbed nine of the the 10 targets that came his way and gained 88 yards in the process. His nine catches tied Randy McMichael’s team record for most tight end receptions in a single game. His 537 receiving yards this season are fourth among tight ends and his 13.8 yards-per-catch rank third. Gesicki’s one-handed grab in the second half provided a highlight-reel moment and if he’s able to develop this positive chemistry with Tagovailoa, the Dolphins really have something.

Myles Gaskin returned to the field for the first time in four weeks during this win over the Bengals. He totaled 141 yards from scrimmage, a season-high for a Dolphins player and a new career-high for him. Gaskin gained 90 yards on 21 carries, good for a 4.3 yards-per-carry average. He also ripped off a 26-yard run, though he did fumble. Gaskin caught both his targets for 51 yards, gaining 39 of those after the catch. He’s clearly the best running back on the roster and it helped the offensive to have him back on the field. He played 71 percent of the offensive snaps in this one.

Tagovailoa Shines in Dolphins Win Over the Bengals

Although the first half left some cause for concern regarding Tua Tagovailoa’s performance, the rookie QB excelled in the second half, helping lead the Dolphins to the comeback win over the Bengals.

Tagovailoa had the most productive game of his career, notching career highs in completions (26) and passing yards (296). His 26 completions tied the Dolphins’ rookie record, which was set by Ryan Tannehill on Sept. 30, 2012 at Arizona.

Tagovailoa improved to 4-1 as a starter and has yet to throw an interception. (He had one called back thanks to a penalty.) He tied a team record for most consecutive starts without an interception, regardless of experience (Jay Fiedler, 2000) and he’s now the third QB in the Super Bowl era to not throw an INT in his first five starts (min. 100 attempts).

Tagovailoa was particularly good against the Bengals’ blitz. He completed 12-of-18 passes for 127 yards and a touchdown against the blitz. He sported pocket presence and maneuverability, particularly on one play where he evaded a free rusher and completed a pass to DeVante Parker in a tight window.

Tagovailoa’s ability to move the offense in the second half provided fans with a glimpse of this team’s potential moving forward. Although he made mistakes (questionable throws, misreads on RPOs), he was able to handle the up-tempo element and was largely on target. Had Jakeem Grant not dropped the perfectly placed bomb in the first half, the game might have unfolded very differently.

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Dolphins Bengals

5 Keys to Dolphins-Bengals in Week 13

The Miami Dolphins (7-4) enter Week 13’s contest against the Cincinnati Bengals (2-8-1) largely in control of their playoff destiny. Miami may have quarterback questions, but regardless of who starts for the ‘Phins, he’ll be better than his Bengals counterpart.

The Dolphins look to build on last week’s successes against the Jets and solidify their postseason position. Here are five keys to the Dolphins-Bengals game in Week 13.

Dolphins-Bengals: Continue Defensive Dominance

The Dolphins sport one of the league’s top defenses. Miami’s D trails only the Pittsburgh Steelers in points-per-game, allowing a paltry 18.6 per contest this season. The Dolphins are tops in third-down D. Opponents convert just 32.8 percent of their those tries. Miami comes in third in takeaways with 19.

The main weakness for Miami has been defending the run. The Dolphins are in the bottom third of the league, allowing 129.9 rushing yards-per-game. But Sunday, their match up is with a Bengals squad missing starters at running back (Joe Mixon) and quarterback (Joe Burrow).

Cincinnati rushed the ball just nine times in their Week 12 loss to the New York Giants. They relied heavily on backup QB Brandon Allen to little affect.

The Bengals manage 96.3 rushing yard-per-game (29th, but the Dolphins allow 4.8 yards-per-carry, tied for second-most. If Miami can limit the Bengal ground game and make them one dimensional, they’ll be in good shape.

The Dolphins should be able to push their takeaway streak to 18 against Cincy. The Bengals’ 17 turnovers, including three last week, are ninth-most in the league this season.

Attack Allen

The Bengals turned to Allen after Joe Burrow was lost for the season in Week 11. Allen’s offensive efforts resulted in just 155 total yards during the loss to the Giants. The offense managed just 10 points.

Allen completed 17 of 29 passes for 136 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He was sacked twice and lost a fumble in the process. The Bengals allow 3.5 sacks-per-game, second-most in the league.

The Dolphins defense, meanwhile, ranks 14th in the NFL, getting 2.3 sacks-per-game. And attacking stationary quarterbacks like Allen has been the team’s bread-and-butter on defense all season.

Consistent pressure on Allen should lead to the fourth year QB, who’s making just the fifth start of his career, to make multiple mistakes.

Dolphins Need to Limit Bengals’ WRs

The strength of Cincinnati’s offense remains their wide receiver corps. Tyler Boyd, A.J. Green and Tee Higgins have played well and managed to stress opposing defenses throughout 2020. Boyd leads Cincy with 72 receptions and 725 receiving yards.

Higgins is having a solid rookie campaign, with 48 catches, 673 yards and a team-leading five touchdown receptions. Green’s bounce back season has seen him make 35 catches (on 80 targets) with just one touchdown.

What helps here is it’s a strength-on-strength matchup. Miami’s secondary remains the top unit on the team. The Dolphins’ 11 interceptions are tied for fifth-most this season, and Xavien Howard’s seven lead the league. Miami comes in fourth in both passer-rating-allowed (84.3) and completion-percentage-allowed (62.3).

The Bengals offense ranks 26th in scoring (20.9 points-per-game), 24th in total offense (331.5 yards-per-game) and 18th in passing yards-per-game (235.2).

Find an Offensive Rhythm

Last week, Ryan Fitzpatrick started in place of the injury Tua Tagovailoa. While there’s been no word yet on who will start Week 13 for Miami, the offense needs to find a rhythm. Against the Jets, Fitzpatrick put up 257 passing yards and threw two touchdowns, but Miami managed just 20 points against the league’s worst defense.

Cincinnati’s D doesn’t scare anyone either. The Bengals allow 26.3 points-per-game (22nd) and 390.5 yards-per-game (26th). They’re 30th in sacks (13) and manage pressure on just 16.4 percent of pass plays.

The Bengals can be run on. They allow 136.7 rushing yards-per-game (30th) and 4.8 yards-per-carry. The return of Myles Gaskin could finally allow the offense to find some balance and rhythm. If Fitzpatrick starts, DeVante Parker may have another busy day. Last week, Fitzpatrick targeted Parker 14 times, resulting in eight catches and 119 yards.

If Tagovailoa gets the clearance to play, hopefully he can demonstrate similar chemistry with the receivers.

Dolphins-Bengals: Keep in Mind the Playoffs

The Dolphins vaulted back into the AFC playoff picture with their win last week. Miami enters Week 13 as the 6-seed and if things break right for the ‘Phins, they could get as high as fifth in the standings. At this point, Miami maintains a hold on their playoff destiny.

The Dolphins need this win, considering the coming slate of games. Miami hosts the Chiefs (10-1) next week, then the Patriots (5-6). After that, they close out the season with pivotal road matchups against the Raiders (6-5) and Bills (8-3).

Miami must enter that final stretch at 8-4. Anything less would jeopardize their playoff chances. The Dolphins are clearly the superior team this week and must dominate Cincinnati. They can’t afford mental mistakes and turnovers. A win this week, and wins against Las Vegas and New England, would all but guarantee a playoff berth.

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Dolphins win Jets

5 Takeaways from Dolphins Win Over the Jets

The Miami Dolphins (7-4) rebounded from a tough loss last week with a resounding defensive effort against the New York Jets (0-11). The Dolphins defense stymied any offensive output from Sam Darnold and Co., romping their way to a 20-3 victory.  The win, coupled with key losses by other teams, propelled the Dolphins back into the AFC playoff picture.

Here’s a look at five takeaways from the Dolphins win over the Jets.

Dolphins Defense Dominant in Win Over Jets

The Dolphins defense returned to its dominant ways Sunday. Miami limited the Jets to just three points, 10 first downs and 260 total yards. In 25 possessions this season, the Dolphins held New York to just 0.12 points-per-possession.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the three total points allowed is the fewest by an NFL team in two meetings against the same opponent since 2009. The three points allowed is the second-fewest by the Dolphins against an AFC East opponent in one season. Miami shutout the Baltimore Colts in both games played against them in 1972.

Miami extended its takeaway-streak to 17 straight games, the NFL’s longest active streak. The Dolphins’ 19 takeaways this season are third-most in the league.

Miami improved its scoring defense to just 18.6 points-per-game this season, which is second-lowest in the NFL. And the Dolphins have the best third-down defense in the NFL after limiting the Jets to just 3-of-13 on third downs. Miami’s 32.8 third-down percentage allowed leads the league, and the Jets’ 10 first downs were tied for the second-fewest in a single game this season.

No QB Controversy

Much of the discourse leading up to this game surrounded which quarterback gave Miami the best opportunity to win. Tua Tagovailoa was coming off of his worst professional outing, but he’s yet to turn the ball over through four games played. Ryan Fitzpatrick, meanwhile, coughs up the ball at an average of once per game.

A thumb injury shelved Tagovailoa against the Jets, robbing the rookie of a bounce-back performance. Instead, Fitzpatrick helmed the offense. And although some argue for the veteran to replace the youngster, there was no Fitzmagic Sunday.

Sure, Fitzpatrick piled up yards (257), but he provided just two touchdowns against the league’s worst defense. He flashed his chemistry with DeVante Parker, who finished with eight catches and 119 yards, but little else. In the absence of Tagovailoa, the Dolphins offense did little to indicate the rookie was the problem.

After the game, Dolphins head coach Brian Flores voiced his support of Tagovailoa going forward.

“If he’s healthy, he’s the guy,” Flores said.

Flores couched the statement by saying: “We’ll see how he does in practice over the course of the week. He’s a tough kid. It was very close to him being able to go, but we have to make good decisions for him as well. We’ll see how he does over the course of this week in practice.”

If he can go, Tagovailoa will face a Bengals defense that allows 26.3 points-per-game and 253.7 passing yards-per-game.

Dolphins Rushing Attack Leaves Much to be Desired in Win Over Jets

While the Dolphins defense continued to shine, the offense’s lackluster rushing attack reared its ugly head as well. Miami’s ground game lacked rhythm and was largely absent in the second quarter. While some of that falls on offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, as well as the offensive line, what’s clear is Miami doesn’t have a difference-making running back.

The Dolphins split 22 carries among three running backs and watched the trio gain 94 yards but cough up two fumbles. Matt Breida and Patrick Laird both saw their chances limited after the third quarter miscues.

DeAndre Washington submitted the best performance of the three, gaining 49 yards on 13 carries. He also caught two passes for 11 yards. He may have earned himself a few more snaps moving forward, even with the eventual returns of both Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed.

What’s become abundantly clear is that Miami needs a difference-maker in the backfield and that player is not currently on the roster. It’s particularly important to add one, considering one of Tagovailoa’s strengths is RPO. The “run” needs to be an option.

Xavien Howard, NFL’s Best Cornerback

Xavien Howard continued his All-Pro play, too. He nabbed his league-leading seventh interception, picking off Darnold in the fourth quarter. Howard matched his career-high with seven INTs and has five games to go. He became just the second cornerback in team history with multiple 7-plus interception seasons, joining Sam Madison (1998-1999).

Howard’s 19 interceptions since 2017 also pace the NFL. What’s incredible about Howard’s ball-hawking prowess is that he missed 16 games over that span. His career 0.37 interceptions-per-game is fourth-highest among players who made their debut in the Super Bowl era, per Elias Sports.

It’s not just interceptions, either. Howard broke up three other pass attempts, giving him 50 pass breakups for his career. He has 15 passes defensed this season, tied for second-most in the league and one behind the league leader.

Darnold was 3-for-10 for 37 yards and an interception when throwing at Howard. Opposing quarterbacks have just a 50.3 passer rating when testing Howard this season.

Dolphins Win Over the Jets Propels Team Back into AFC Playoff Picture

The Dolphins dominated the Jets to the tune of 44-3 this season. Those wins helped the Dolphins keep pace in the AFC. After Week 12, Miami remains just one game behind the Bills in the AFC East. With the win Sunday, coupled with keys losses by Indianapolis and Las Vegas, the Dolphins vaulted to the 6-seed in the conference.

Miami’s move up the standings comes thanks to a superior conference record (4-3) than both the Colts (3-4) and Ravens (4-4). But with five games to go, the Dolphins have a difficult task ahead.

The Dolphins will need to secure another win next week against the floundering Cincinnati Bengals (2-8-1). Minus Joe Burrow, this matchup has been robbed of its potential headline, but it remains as a must-win for Miami.  The final four games lack any easy opponents for the ‘Phins.

A win versus Cincy would put the Dolphins at 8-4 for the home stretch. Then comes the team’s stiffest test yet, a date with the defending Super Bowl Champs, the Kansas City Chiefs (10-1). After that, the Dolphins host New England (5-6), who could be playing for their playoff lives at that point.

What follows is another must-win: a road matchup with the Raiders (6-4). This could be a postseason play-in game. The regular season finale comes in Buffalo (8-3), and, considering the Bills have a stiff remaining schedule as well, it might very well be for the AFC East title.

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Dolphins Loss Broncos

5 Takeaways from Dolphins Loss to Broncos

The Miami Dolphins (6-4) suffered a disappointing 20-13 loss in Denver (4-6). The game itself featured an offensive failure that led to rookie Tua Tagovailoa being benched.

This loss also pushed Miami from the postseason picture. The Dolphins are on the outside looking in at the AFC playoff bracket. They currently hold the No. 9 seed, losing tie breakers to both Baltimore and Las Vegas, the other 6-4 teams.

Here’s a look at five takeaways from the Dolphins loss to the Broncos.

Offensive Line Failure in Dolphins Loss to Broncos

One of the big questions heading into the quarterback switch from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Tagovailoa focused on the ineffectiveness of the offensive line. National pundits panned the move at the time, saying Miami’s line lacked the ability to properly protect their young QB. But local media pointed out that analysis as lazy, and it was.

The Dolphins offensive line had protected Tagovailoa well in his previous three starts. They’d handled pressure and kept Tagovailoa’s pocket relatively clean. Sunday, though, was a different story.

The Dolphins o-line surrendered a season-high six sacks, double the previous high. Beyond just the sacks, the line regularly allowed pressures and failed to open consistent holes for the running game.

The loss of rookie right guard Solomon Kindley in the second quarter hurt. And Tagovailoa also didn’t help his cause by holding the ball for too long.

Rushing Woes Continue

The Dolphins hoped they had something in rookie Salvon Ahmed. After a solid performance against the Chargers, Ahmed’s emergence led, in part, to the release of veteran Jordan Howard. The return of Matt Breida from recent injury also had Miami’s running game trending up. What’s more, they were facing a Denver rushing defense in the lower third of the league.

But against the Broncos, Miami’s ground game remained absent. The team totaled just 56 yards. Ahmed led the way with 43 yards on 12 carries. Breida picked up just four yards on two carries.

This lack of a consistent rushing attack shifted the offensive onus to Tagovailoa. It also allowed Denver to dial up the pressure on a rookie quarterback making just his second career road start. The result? Another anemic performance.

The solution to this issue remains unclear. A return by Myles Gaskin may help, but an ineffective ground game has plagued Miami for two seasons, through two different offensive coordinators. Opening up the playbook to allow the pass to set up the run may be the only way forward at this point.

No Fitzmagic in Dolphins Loss to Broncos

When Dolphins head coach Brian Flores pulled Tagovailoa from the game in the fourth, some speculated injury. Tagovailoa had just suffered a sixth sack, one that wrenched his lower right leg. The rookie had been on Miami’s injury report in the leadup to this game. Flores, though, dismissed that idea.

“Tua wasn’t injured. We just felt like it was the best move at that point of the game,” he said.

Fitzpatrick entered and immediately led Miami’s offense on a scoring drive. The veteran QB marched Miami down the field twice and flashed a chemistry with DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki that Tagovailoa seemed to lack.

But all for naught.

Fitzpatrick maneuvered Miami into scoring position with a chance to tie the game. However, instead of connecting with Parker for a touchdown, Fitzpatrick failed to look off Broncos safety Justin Simmons and threw a game-sealing interception. Simmons secured the pick in the closing moments, though the Broncos had the chance to intercept two previous passes by Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick finished 12-of-18 passing for 117 yards and the interception.

Seemingly Still Tua’s Team

Despite the late quarterback change, the Dolphins seemingly remain Tagovailoa’s squad. Miami made the switch from Fitzpatrick to the rookie after a 3-3 start with Flores citing Tagovailoa’s readiness to assume the role. The Dolphins kept rolling. But on Sunday, the rookie showed his youth.

What’s interesting here, though, is the move to Fitzpatrick implies Tagovailoa isn’t a ready as Miami made it seem.

“We had to get in two-minute mode, and we felt like [Fitzpatrick] gave us the best chance to win the game, and we had an opportunity at the end to tie it,” Flores said.

Tagovailoa went 11-of-20 for 83 yards and a touchdown, but showed little effectiveness moving the ball. The offensive playcalling didn’t help.

“When I was in, we couldn’t really get things going,” Tagovailoa admitted. “I couldn’t get the ball in the hands of our playmakers and our guys consistently to get a rhythm going.”

Sure, offensive line issues submarined Tagovailoa’s efforts, but so too did his ineffectiveness. He needs to develop a stronger chemistry with his receivers and find a rhythm for this offense to take the next step.

That said, Fitzpatrick admitted after the game that the Dolphins were still “Tua’s team.”

He said: “Tua is going to continue to get better and grow. There’s no controversy. This is his team. He’s going to lead this team and continue to lead the team.”

To his credit, Tagovailoa wants to learn from this. He remained engaged in the contest and picked Fitzpatrick’s brain on the sideline.

“For me, it was a great learning experience,” Tagovailoa said. “I felt like I was holding the ball a little too long. Just got to get completions and get the ball in the hands of our guys to make plays for us.”

Dolphins D Didn’t Do Enough in Loss to Broncos

Miami’s defense buoyed the team’s five-game win streak. Over that span, the Dolphins defense ranked first points-per-game allowed (17.2) and second in quarterback pressures (86) and completion percentage allowed (57.0 percent). They put up 10 takeaways, too.

In Denver, though, the Dolphins didn’t make enough stops. Although the defense extended its takeaways streak to 16 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the NFL, it wasn’t a banner day for the D.

Perhaps the biggest failing was the inability to stop Denver’s ground game. The Dolphins allowed a season-high 189 rushing yards and two touchdowns. The 5.7 yards-per-carry average stands as a full yard more than the previous season-high allowed (4.7).

What’s more, the Dolphins couldn’t seem to confuse Denver’s Drew Lock in the same way they did LA’s Justin Herbert a week prior. Lock piled up 270 passing yards, the most Miami’s allowed in more than a month. They also failed to pressure Lock consistently and did not sack him once. It’s the first time this season the Dolphins failed to secure at least one sack.

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Dolphins Chargers Win

5 Takeaways from Dolphins Win Over the Chargers

The Miami Dolphins (6-3) continued their ascent in the AFC with a solid win over the Los Angeles Chargers (2-7). The victory marked Miami’s fifth-straight and propelled them to the 6-seed in the conference.

Touted as a duel between two rookie quarterbacks, the Dolphins signal-caller played an efficient game, whereas his counterpart made a critical error in the fourth quarter. The win over the Chargers puts Miami at 6-3 for the first time since 2001. The five-game win streak is the longest for the franchise since 2016, when they won six-in-a-row.

Here’s a look at five takeaways from the Dolphins win over the Chargers.

Dolphins’ Tagovailoa Steady in Win Over Chargers

In a game where pundits pit Tua Tagovailoa versus Justin Herbert, Tagovailoa came out on top. Football analysts have lauded Herbert for his statistical prowess thus far, but that’s led to very little winning for the Chargers. Miami, meanwhile, saw their rookie quarterback led them to yet another victory.

Tagovailoa’s now 3-0 as a starter and is the first rookie in Dolphins history to win his first three starts. He finished 15-for-25 for 169 yards and two touchdowns. His back-to-back games with two touchdown passes tie him for the third-longest streak of multiple touchdown pass games by a Dolphins rookie quarterback.

Tagovailoa’s the only rookie QB in Dolphins history to not throw an interception in his first three starts. And he’s one of only two quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era (Philadelphia’s Carson Wentz the other) to win all three of his first career starts and not throw an interception.

Tagovailoa also registered the first tackle of his career after a botched snap from Ted Karras led to a fumble. The young signal-caller’s moxie and confidence continue to grow with each start. He’s been accurate and adept at fitting passes into tight windows. It’s clear he has the confidence of the coaching staff and the team.

Ogbah Continues His Great Play

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Emmanuel Ogbah’s been great. He sacked Herbert on the opening play of the fourth quarter. The sack was Ogbah’s eighth of the season and gave him six consecutive games with a full sack. His eight sacks are tied for fourth in the NFL. The six-game sack streak for Ogbah is tied for the second-longest in Dolphins history, trailing just Jason Taylor’s eight-game streak in 2002.

Ogbah also had two passes defensed, including one pass tipped on a fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter that forced a turnover on downs.

His continued productivity has elevated this Dolphins defense. The pressure players like Ogbah generate helps the team’s secondary. It was clearly evident in Xavien Howard’s fourth quarter interception of Herbert. With that interception, the Dolphins defense has now registered at least one turnover in each of the last 15 games.

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Dolphins Special Teams Elite in Win Over Chargers

The first big play of the day came from Miami’s Special Teams. Andrew Van Ginkel got free rushing up the middle and blocked LA’s punt. Jamal Perry recovered the fumble on the one-yard line. It was the first blocked punt by the Dolphins since Brandon Bolden got one on November 11, 2018 at Green Bay.

In addition to that play, punter Matt Haack pinned the Chargers at the five-yard line, flipping field position in a tightening game. Haack is fifth in the league in punts inside-the-20 (17) and eighth in net punt average (42.9). Against the Rams, Haack pinned five punts inside the 20. It was his sixth career game with at least five punts inside the 20, which is a Dolphins record.

Jakeem Grant also helped the team flip field position with his punt returns. His 294 punt return yards lead the NFL. His 14.7 punt return average stands as third-best and he leads the NFL with three punt returns of over 20 yards.

Grant surpassed Tommy Vigorito (830) for fifth place in Dolphins history in all-time career punt return yardage. Grant now has 883 career punt return yards.

Jason Sanders, meanwhile, remains one of the best kickers in the league and arguably the best kicker in Dolphins history. Sanders saw his streak of 20 consecutive makes snapped in this one, but he did net three field goals. His 20 makes are tied for second-most in the NFL so far. His .952 average on field goals is also second-best.

Sanders’ five makes from 50-yards or longer stand as second-most this season. He is 23-for-23 on point-after attempts.

Jakeem Grant Emerges as Offensive Weapon

When the Dolphins lost Preston Williams to the injured reserve, there were questions surrounding who would fill the void. Miami had several options, but Grant stood out on Sunday

Grant caught a three-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter to give Miami a 14-0 lead. It was Grant’s first touchdown reception since he had two in a game on September 23, 2018 versus Oakland. Grant led the Dolphins in receiving on Sunday with four receptions for 43 yards.

His ability to create separation on his routes makes him a reliable go-to for Tagovailoa. In his three starts, Tagovailoa has targeted Grant 12 times, which matches the amount of targets Grant received from Fitzpatrick through the first six games of the season.

Grant’s game-breaking speed adds a layer previously absent from this offense. While they’ve yet to incorporate it, Grant is regularly in pre-snap motion, indicating a jet-sweep could be part of the offensive game plan moving forward.

Dolphins in Prime Position for Playoff Push After Win Over Chargers

The AFC East playoff picture remains a logjam after Week 10. Thanks to Kyler Murray’s Hail Mary heave against Buffalo, Miami stands within 0.5 game of the Bills with seven games to go. A win next week in Denver would pull the Dolphins even with Buffalo because the Bills are on their bye.

The Dolphins currently hold the 6-seed in the AFC standings, one of six teams to sport a 6-3 record. Miami holds the tiebreaker over the Titans and Ravens based on best win percentage in conference games. The division tiebreaker keeps the Dolphins ahead of Cleveland (Baltimore wins tie break over Cleveland based on head-to-head win percentage).

The Colts lead the AFC South. Miami trails the Raiders in the standings because Las Vegas sports a better conference win percentage. The Dolphins travel to Vegas in Week 16.

According to Tankathon.com, the Dolphins sport the 12th-easiest remaining slate of games, based on strength of schedule. Miami final seven opponents have a combined .477 winning percentage. The Bills, meanwhile, face a slightly tougher slate, as their final six opponents have a .509 winning percentage.

Three of the other teams vying for an AFC playoff spots hold easier roads ahead: Baltimore (.461), Cleveland (.445) and Las Vegas (.444).

What this means is, Miami needs to win the games in which they are favored and knock off, at the very least, the Raiders in Week 16. The Week 17 matchup against the Bills could very well be for the AFC East division title.

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Dolphins Chargers

5 Keys to Dolphins-Chargers in Week 10

The Miami Dolphins (5-3) enter their Week 10 matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers (2-6) coming off perhaps their best win of the last several seasons. The 34-31 victory over the Cardinals, coupled with the breakout performance from rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, has most Dolphins fans excited for not only this season but also the future.

Tagovailoa and the Dolphins return home to face another up-and-coming AFC team in the Chargers. LA has Justin Herbert, who they selected with the No. 6 pick in April’s NFL Draft, manning the helm. Although their record doesn’t show it, this Chargers squad is a good team.

Here’s a look at five keys for the Dolphins against the Chargers in Week 10.

Dolphins-Chargers: Deal with Injuries

The Dolphins lost Preston Williams to the injured reserve this week. Miami’s wide receiver room took the loss and will pivot to young players to fill the void. Lynn Bowden Jr. returned from the COVID-19 list. Kirk Merritt remains an option from the practice squad.

Antonio Callaway seemed to be an option, too, but he’s reportedly not performed well in practice. Callaway is coming off a knee injury and may not be ready to contribute.

Matt Breida missed last week’s game with a hamstring injury. He’s been limited in practice throughout the week. Jamal Perry (foot) and Durham Smythe (concussion) were limited participants as well.

The Chargers, meanwhile, officially ruled South Florida native Joey Bosa out for Sunday (concussion). They’ll also be without RB Justin Jackson. OG Trai Turner (groin) and OT Bryan Bulaga (back) are questionable for Sunday.

LA is already without a number of stars, including RB Austin Eckler, CB Chris Harris Jr., S Derwin James and former Dolphin C Mike Pouncey.

Manage COVID Concerns

COVID-19 continues to complicate matters for the Dolphins. Kyle Van Noy and Christian Wilkins, two starters on the defense, landed on the COVID-19 list on Thursday. According to reports, Van Noy’s move to the list comes from contact tracing. It’s unclear with Wilkins

NFL’s contact tracing protocols force players to isolate for five days from the time he was in close contact with an infected person before he’s eligible for return. The five-day count doesn’t start from the day the player is put on the list, so there’s a chance both Van Noy and Wilkins can play.

Miami elevated defensive tackle Benito Jones from the practice squad. Rookie defensive end Jason Strowbridge could see additional time on the field.

Matt Cole, who would’ve been an option at wide receiver off the practice squad, landed on the COVID list as well.

Miami also announced quarterbacks coach Robby Brown, defensive line coach Marion Hobby, quality control coach Kolby Smith and outside linebackers coach Austin Clark will miss their second game in a row due to COVID protocols. Last week, the Dolphins were without five assistants in Arizona.

Defensive backs coach Gerald Alexander seems to be on track to return to the sideline for Sunday.

Dolphins-Chargers: Pressure Herbert

Justin Herbert has been impressive in his seven starters despite winning just one game. He’s piled up stats and excels in the vertical passing game. Herbert’s arm allows him to attack downfield. When he’s protected well, Herbert completes 71 percent of his passes for 8.1 yards-per-attempt, with 10 touchdowns and just three interceptions.

When pressured, though, his numbers drop. He completes 59 percent of passes under pressure for 7.7 yards-per-attempt. He’s thrown seven TDs and two INTs under pressure.

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LA’s o-line has allowed 111 pressures in 2020 and they may be without Bulaga, who’s only allowed four of those. Herbert faces pressure on 29.1 percent of drop backs, which is third most in the league. He’s been blitzed 65 times, hurried 52 times, hit 21 times and sacked 14 times.

The Dolphins, meanwhile, blitz on 41.6 percent of pass plays, which is the fourth-highest rate in the NFL.

Miami’s 20 sacks are 13th-most, and their 75 pressures are 14th-most. Hurrying Herbert seems to be the plan heading into this one, however, the Dolphins may flip the script and force Herbert to show his patience against zone coverage.

Emmanuel Ogbah leads the Dolphins with 34 quarterback pressures. His seven sacks are tied for fourth-most in the NFL. His 13 QB hits are tied for seventh-most and his three forced fumbles are tied for second-most this season.

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Handle LA’s four-man rush

While the Dolphins send extra men at the fourth-highest clip in the league, the Chargers blitz the least in the league. LA blitzes on only 13.6 percent of the time. The Chargers deploy three deep defenders on most pass plays.

LA relies on a four-man rush to generate pressure. Normally, the Chargers sport a pair of elite edge rushers in Bosa and Melvin Ingram, but Bosa’s been ruled out. That’s a huge loss for LA, considering Bosa’s generated 37 QB pressures. Ingram, meanwhile, has generated 23 pressures, but he’s missed three games this season.

Miami’s offensive line has done well protecting Tagovailoa over the last two weeks. He’s been pressured just 8.3 percent of the time. He’s been blitzed 27 times in his two starts. When not facing a blitz, Tagovailoa has completed 72.7 percent of his passes, connecting on two touchdowns.

Ereck Flowers and Ted Karras have played particularly well this season. They’ve played a combined 604 pass-blocking snaps this season and have allowed with just 15 pressures.

Dolphins-Chargers: Sort out RB

The Dolphins lost Myles Gaskin to the injured reserve last week. Breida then missed the Cardinals’ game with a hamstring injury. So Miami turned to Jordan Howard and rookie Salvon Ahmed.

Howard underwhelmed, gaining just 19 yards on his 10 carries, though he did score a short touchdown. Ahmed played the majority of the snaps and picked up 38 yards on his seven carries. Tagovailoa gained 35 yards on seven scrambles.

The Dolphins could add DeAndre Washington to the mix this week. He sports a 4.0 career yards-per-carry average and has reliable hands out of the backfield. He’s a shifty back who could fit what the Dolphins do well with Tagovailoa.

Miami may need the pass to set up the run. The return of Bowden and the activation of Malcolm Perry affords Dolphins offensive coordinator Chan Gailey with versatile playmakers to incorporate. Jakeem Grant could play a role in the running game as well with jet sweeps.