What: Miami Dolphins (5-7) vs. New England Patriots (10-2)
Where: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens
When: 8:30 p.m.
Latest line/Over-under: Dolphins +11.5/48.5
Why you should watch
Forget about Dan Akroyd Chevy Chase and John Belushi. The real Not Ready for Prime Time Players are the Miami Dolphins. They are 0-3 in the prime time games they’ve played already this year, which begs the question, who ever thought they were worthy of so much prime time exposure in the first place? Sure, the Dolphins made the playoffs last year but only as a wild card team that got knocked out in the first round. It’s apparent that someone envisioned this game being a key battle in the fight for the AFC title, and it might have been had Ryan Tannehill stayed healthy, Hurricane Irma not struck Florida and Lawrence Timmons not gone off the reservation. All that contributed to a horrid start for a Dolphins team that has never recovered, but this game is sort of like their playoff game. This is a chance for the Dolphins to deal a bit of a blow to the Patriots hopes of securing home-field advantage and prove they still have it in them to go toe to toe with one of the league’s heavyweights. Don’t be surprised, though, if like a lot of the sketches you see on Saturday Night Live these days, they fall flat.
Key on: Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard.
NFL types will tell you that takeaways come in bunches and Howard can certainly attest to that. After going 19 games across two seasons without picking off a pass, Howard snared a pair of them against the Broncos last week. If he can keep up the pace against the Patriots tonight it will be a sign Howard may indeed have what it takes to be the No. 1 corner the Dolphins drafted him to be. A second-round pick out of Baylor in 2016, Howard still has a lot of flaws in his game and Tom Brady will expose them if Howard isn’t on so this is a good test for a young player who is starting to show signs of substantial growth. The Dolphins may very well be without fellow corner Cordrea Tankersley tonight and if they are a lot of the responsibility for keeping the Patriots contained will fall to Howard. How he responds will say a lot about whether the Dolphins are on the right track in the secondary.
The Dolphins would be wise to lean hard on Jarvis Landry in their passing game tonight. For starters, the fact that five of the last 16 passes Dolphins quarterbacks have thrown to DeVante Parker have wound up in their opponent’s hands should be enough to scare them off throwing Parker’s way. But there is also the fact that in the first meeting between these two teams, Landry had a very successful day working from the slot, catching five of six passes passes for 46 yards. Not only that, but Landry currently ranks 14th overall among slot receivers in catch rate (75.4), according to Pro Football Focus. Landry will likely be matched again against cornerback Jonathan Jones, who ranks 12th in passer rating allowed in the slot with an 81.7 mark, but Landry has already proved he can win a matchup between the two and he very well may prove it again.
Gameday- Dolphins host Raiders looking to remain unbeaten
Who: Dolphins (2-0) vs. Raiders (0-2)
Where: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens
When: Sunday 1 p.m.
Spread: Dolphins by 3 (Courtesy Vegasinsider.com)
Miami has opened by winning the first two games for the first time since 2013 and now has a golden opportunity to get to 3 – 0 today. Here’s what we’re watching
Progression of Ryan Tannehill
Coming off a solid start by spreading the ball around to numerous receivers, Ryan Tannehill will look to keep it up. The Raiders defense is obviously reeling after the trading of Khalil Mack on the eve of the season, and Tannehill may be able to take advantage of the Oakland secondary.
Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson as the deep threats could do significant damage later today. Look for coach Adam Gase and coordinator Dowell Loggains to test them early.
Does Derek Carr follow up last week’s performance?
Oakland’s 5th Year quarterback was tremendous for much of the Denver game a week ago, completing 23 of his first 24 passes. With the Raiders getting acclimated to Jon Gruden’s new offense and terminology, it’s still obvious they want to get the ball out of Carr’s hand quickly with short throws.
Another part of Oakland’s offensive success is the early running of Marshawn Lynch, who is questionable for this game with an injured shoulder. They would like to set up play action with Lynch or backup running back Jalen Richard. If Miami can stuff the run, it will help greatly in stopping the Raiders attack.
Dolphins defense continues its optimistic play?
Whether it was surviving the two lengthy weather delays two weeks ago against the Titans with key sacks and takeaways, or last week in New York with frustrating rookie quarterback Sam Darnold, Miami has been able to make plays at times.
That needs to continue on Sunday. Safety Reshad Jones will be a game-time decision with his injured shoulder and that could affect their defensive scheme for coordinator Matt Burke.
If Miami’s pass rushers, Robert Quinn, Cameron Wake, Charles Harris, Etc can get to Carr it will make life easier at Hard Rock Stadium.
Jon Gruden’s returns to Florida already in coaching turmoil
It may be premature to say that the “second honeymoon” for Jon Gruden with the Oakland Raiders is already over, but another defeat Sunday, and it likely is.
The Raiders are clearly struggling after dropping their second straight game last week in heartbreaking fashion against the Broncos in Denver. Oakland controlled most of the game and Derek Carr was outstanding, completing 23 of his first 24 passes on the day.
However, in the end Case Keenum rallied the Broncos and when Brandon McManus’ last-second field goal went through, the smirking critics of “Chucky” were already “sticking their chests out” about his NFL return.
Without question, some of this is self-inflicted, as Gruden clearly did not want to pay and therefore keep, linebacker Khalil Mack for the Raiders. And yes, they got a bounty of draft picks in return, but Mack has been nothing short of sensational as a pass rusher in two games in Chicago, and the Raiders defense is again mediocre-at-best.
So, that brings us to Sunday. And even though Gruden has been living in the Tampa Bay area while doing Monday Night Football for ESPN, this is the first time that he’s back coaching a game in the state since the final regular-season game of 2008. That day, ironically his Buccaneers lost to the Raiders completing a four-game losing collapse and costing his team a playoff spot-ultimately Gruden his job with the Bucs.
Now, the Raiders have come all the way East to Miami to play the 2 – 0 Dolphins. And while Gruden is in absolutely no jeopardy of losing his job, at least not until year 3 or 4 if it’s not working, owner Mark Davis didn’t make this shockwave multimillion-dollar hire to have the Raiders be one of the worst teams in the NFL.
Clearly, there was going to be some learning curve for Gruden with his new staff and new players. However, with a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback like Carr the belief was the Raiders would be solid, if not a wild card playoff contender.
It hasn’t shaped up that way as of yet.
The good news for Raider fans is: no one is going to outwork Gruden at trying to get it right.
The bad news is: the Raiders may not have enough overall talent to overcome that above-mentioned learning curve and digging themselves an 0-3 hole start 2018.
And the Fins, may be about to deal “Raider Nation” their latest lost Sunday.
Dolphins got contributions everywhere in Sunday win
There were a lot of questions and plenty of reasons to doubt the Dolphins roster makeup, as 2018 was getting underway.
However, two games in, the Fins have been impressive, and earned their way to an unbeaten start. Their latest effort Sunday at The Meadowlands against AFC East rival Jets saw numerous players new and old step up.
Whether it was TJ McDonald’s early interception of New York rookie QB Sam Darnold, or Kenyan Drake weaving through the Jets front seven for the early score a short time later, Miami set the tone.
And then, when Kiko Alonso knocked the ball free from Jets receiver Robby Anderson and Raekwon McMillan recovered it, it was new free agent receiver Albert Wilson capitalizing here:
Can't catch @iThinkIsee12
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) September 16, 2018
It went for a 29-yard touchdown from QB Ryan Tannehill and Miami had command at that point at 14-0.
Tannehill spread the ball around to seven different receivers, and even found reserve A.J. Derby for a 19 yard touchdown, as the lead ballooned to 20-0 nothing.
Darnold ended with some decent yardage and a couple of second-half touchdowns, but the Dolphins registered four sacks and had three total takeaways to help put this one away.
Even ageless veteran Frank Gore got into the act. This as, the 35 year old moved into fourth place on NFL all-time rushing list trailing only Hall of Famers Barry Sanders Walter Payton and Emmitt Smith.
And late in the game caught a dump off pass from Tannehill and weaved through the Jet defense to pick up 3rd and 19, move the chains and allow Miami to run the clock out.
So the 2018 Dolphins don’t have Jay Cutler, Jarvis Landry, Ndamukong Suh and some of the others from a team that struggled last year.
However, their new faces stepped in and stepped up Sunday on the road.
And Miami is now 2 – 0 for the first time since 2013, and in sole possession of first place in the AFC East.
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