The Miami Dolphins take on the Oakland Raiders Sunday as Miami looks to move to 3-0 on the young season. Stacking up early conference wins is crucial for a successful year. The Dolphins will need to maintain their early season discipline and consistency against a hungry Raiders squad already facing adversity under Head Coach John Gruden.
Miami fans have to be happy with the early record and there are many signs this can be maintained over the course of the season. Against the Jets in Week 2 the Dolphins were only penalized twice for 10 yards on the day. Last year they were plagued by penalties, especially drive killing pre-snap infractions. When the Dolphins offense can stay ahead of the chains on early downs, it leads to drives ending in touchdowns instead of field goals.
Keys to the game
So far this year Oakland has been awful against the run, allowing over 150 rushing yards per game. A 1PM kickoff in the South Florida heat suggests an early dose of Kenyan Drake and Frank Gore may be in order. Adam Gase has emphasized the run so far, Miami ranks tied for fifth in the league in rushing attempts (60) and sixth in yards per game (127.5). This balance allows play action to be incredibly effective, one weakness of the Raiders thus far has been their lack of a pass rush.
So far, the Khalil Mack trade is looking like a disaster for the Raiders. https://t.co/u4Ql7b0sLU
— USA TODAY Sports (@usatodaysports) September 18, 2018
The Raiders offense does not strike fear in the hearts of many, as evidenced by their scoring offense ranking fifth worst in the NFL. Stats are misleading as they rank in the top ten in both passing yards and total yards per game. They only average 93.5 yards per contest on the ground so it may not be long before Derek Carr starts airing it out. That could spell disaster for the Raiders against an opportunistic Dolphins defense, especially if Reshad Jones is able to play. Jones has been nursing a shoulder injury and is a game-time decision. Miami will really need to generate a pass rush against a potent Raiders air attack that can move the ball between the 20’s. Where Carr has struggled is with turning the ball over, he’s already thrown three interceptions against only one touchdown this season.
A top priority for the Dolphins defense has to be slowing down Raiders’ tight end Jared Cook. We all know the difficulties that Miami has had defending tight ends for what seems like years now. Oakland has a deep and talented receiving corps and Carr doesn’t lock into just one target. Ten different players have caught a pass through two games. Again the pass rush will be key to stopping the slower developing plays over the middle of the field which have been a struggle for Miami. Oakland also likes to get the running backs involved in the passing game, their three main backs have caught 16 passes already with Jalen Richard hauling in nine of those receptions.
Run for it run
Oakland is a middle of the pack defense but is weaker against the run. Miami should have no problem moving the ball on the ground, and big plays will be there for the taking. The Raiders give up a league worst 5.7 yards per carry and if Miami can dictate the pace of the game they should be able to wear Oakland out in the second half. This game should not require an overly exotic game plan, like the Raiders Miami should also look to involve Gore and Drake in the passing game.
An effective running game opens up Adam Gase’s offense exponentially. Mike Gesecki could finally make an impact in the red zone, especially against an Raiders’ defense which is one of the older units in football. Miami’s athleticism at the skill positions should be a huge advantage.
This and that
At home Miami has been very impressive under Adam Gase, and the buzz is building for this team early in the season. Meanwhile the Raiders are already spiraling after an 0-2 start, and the decade long Gruden contract is at the very least being questioned. Expect no mercy from your Miami Dolphins. There is no reason for Gase to get too cute with the game plan. Feed the backs early and often. Take some shots down the field, mix up play action and some Tannehill rollouts to keep them honest. Wear them out in the second half. Pretty easy blueprint for success in my opinion.
Prediction: Dolphins 31, Raiders 17