Following two losses to open up the 2020 season, prospects for this Miami Dolphins team looked bleak heading into last week’s match-up. To the surprise of many, the Fins left Jacksonville with their first win of the year, thanks to a dominating performance in all three phases of the game.
Miami fans would love to see a similar performance this week as they welcome the undefeated Seattle Seahawks to town this Sunday afternoon. It’s time to put last week’s victory in the rear view mirror and explore what needs to happen for the Fins to pull off the upset.
As always, questions or comments? Let me know on Twitter – @Donny_Diablo7.
When, Where, What Else?
The Seahawks will be flying across the country from the Pacific Northwest to visit the Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium, with kickoff slated for 1:00 PM EST. At press time, it seems as if the weather will once again be a factor. Forecasts show a 50% chance of rain, cloudy skies with scattered thunderstorms, a high of 84 degrees, an 82% humidity index, and winds between 10-20 MPH.
Miami is 0-1 when playing at home this season, while Seattle won its only road contest of this season thus far, besting the Atlanta Falcons, 38-25, in Week 1.
These teams have met twelve times in the regular season since 1977, with Miami holding the edge in the all-time series with an 8-4 record. The Dolphins have had the pleasure of facing against Seahawks QB Russell Wilson just twice since he entered the league in 2012.
Miami won the first match-up at home during Wilson’s rookie year, prevailing 24-21, while Wilson and the Seahawks came out on top in the most recent bout between the clubs, winning by a score of 12-10 during the 2016 season in Seattle.
Tale of the Tape
Miami Dolphins (1-2):
Coming off their Week 2 loss, Miami had to regroup quickly ahead of their match-up with the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday Night Football. The Fins did just that, as they dominated the affair wire-to-wire to the tune of a 31-13 victory.
The star of the show was QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, who played a masterful game completing 90% of his pass attempts for 160 yards and two TDs through the air, while adding 38 rushing yards and a score. Fitz spread the ball around beautifully all night, as eight Dolphins (including Fitzmagic himself) recorded at least one reception. The night also saw two different Dolphins pass catchers reach the end zone, WR Preston Williams and TE Mike Gesicki.
Heading into the contest, Fitzpatrick had completed his last nine pass attempts in garbage time against the Buffalo Bills. Fitz then started week 3 completing his first 12 passes to extend his total to 21 straight completions. The team completion record is 25 set by Ryan Tannehill in weeks 6 and 7 during the 2015 season.
The ground game was much improved as a whole, as the team finished with 138 total yards and two touchdowns. Myles Gaskin continues to produce, and is making the offseason additions of Jordan Howard and Matt Breida look like afterthoughts.
Gaskin was the primary beneficiary of offensive coordinator Chan Gailey’s desire to run the football, receiving a generous 22 rush attempts and parlaying those touches into 66 yards. It was, by far, the most touches any Miami running back has received all year, and the most since Kenyan Drake (25) in 2017, according to Pro Football Reference.
Defensively, the Dolphins turned in their best performance of the season. After two lackluster performances getting after the quarterback, an early 14-0 lead allowed Miami defense to pin their ears back and get after Jaguars QB Gardner Minshew II.
Minshew was under duress all night, taking four sacks and hit ten times throughout the game, and rarely had time to scan the secondary for deep passing plays. Making prospects more difficult, when Minshew did have time to throw, the Miami secondary typically did a great job of blanketing the Jaguars’ receivers.
The defense was opportunistic in forcing two turnovers, and both were crucial to the result of the game. The most notable was a Kyle Van Noy sack, forced fumble, and recovery inside Jacksonville’s own 10-yard line, setting up a Ryan Fitzpatrick rushing touchdown to stretch the Miami score to 28-7.
Seattle Seahawks (3-0):
The Seattle Seahawks are coming off yet another close victory, defeating the Dallas Cowboys at home last week, 38-31. The Seahawks have scored at least 35 points in all three games this season, with much of the offensive success credited to Russell Wilson.
Despite working behind an O-line allowing four sacks and pressure throughout the afternoon, Wilson still threw for 315 yards and five touchdowns. Although Dallas was depleted in the secondary, this performance still wasn’t a surprise. Entering the contest, Wilson had thrown nine TDs and just 11 incompletions through two games, absolute video game numbers.
The game featured two great offenses and two poor defenses which made for the shootout everyone wanted to see. Wilson was heavily intent on getting top receivers Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf the football as both receivers accounted for almost half of Wilson’s pass attempts.
Both wideouts were extremely productive as Lockett parlayed his 13 targets into 9 catches for 100 yards and three first half touchdowns. Metcalf had a big day as well, leading the team in receiving yards with 110 yards with just four receptions, and tallying the decisive score with a little under two minutes left in the game.
The Seahawks were bit badly by the injury bug over the weekend as well as they will for sure be without 2020 first-round pick LB Jordyn Brooks (sprained knee) this week. The availability for RB Chris Carson (sprained knee) and S Jamal Adams (groin), and G Damien Lewis (sprained ankle) is up in the air as well, but head coach Pete Carroll seemed a bit more optimistic about their chances.
Head to Head
Russell Wilson vs. DC Josh Boyer: After a brutal first three matchups regarding quarterback play to start the year, it’s time for the toughest test yet in the form of Russell Wilson. Boyer and the defense played extremely well last week limiting Gardner Minshew’s deep-passing prowess, but Wilson has just been electric to this point (925 passing yards, 14 TD’s, 1 INT) while playing almost mistake-free football. Wilson is in a different stratosphere than anyone Miami has faced thus far. Edge: Seahawks
Seahawks Offensive Line vs. Dolphins Defensive Line: The Miami defensive line played well as a whole last week, keeping Minshew under duress and clogging up rush lanes. The Seattle O-Line has typically been the achilles heel for recent Seahawk teams in the past and they have been as advertised, already allowing nine sacks in three games. Throw in the injuries to the interior linemen G Mike Iupati (knee) and Damien Lewis (sprained ankle) and the Fins are set for a nice match-up in the trenches. Edge: Dolphins
Seahawks Skill Positions vs. Dolphins Coverage: Seattle boasts the ability and weapons to attack defenses anyway they see fit, but their bread-and-butter is the deep-passing game. Miami was much improved in this area last week against the Jags, but this is a totally different animal with the trio of Wilson, Metcalf and Lockett coming to town. The likely absence of RB Chris Carson will force Seattle to pass more as well, putting more pressure on the Dolphins secondary. Edge: Seahawks
What Must Happen
- Limit the deep ball: Is anyone really surprised this made it again? Although the Fins accomplished this last week, it was just one game, and Russell Wilson presents a much bigger challenge with superior weapons. Wilson’s 149.3 passer rating on passes over 20+ yards is second among all NFL quarterbacks, per Pro Football Focus.
- Gas me up: Myles Gaskin needs to be fed touches early and often throughout the game. Establishing the run will allow Miami to maintain a balanced attack, keeping the Seattle defense on its toes while also limiting the amount of time Russell Wilson is on the field.
- Mix it up on defense: DC Josh Boyer did a great job last week utilizing a plethora of different looks on defense, while getting more defenders involved in blitz schemes, yielding great results (10 QB hits, 4 sacks). Boyer can’t be afraid to dial up pressure in this game, especially with the injuries to the Seattle O-line; he must be aggressive and try to knock Wilson off his game in order for Miami to have a shot.
- Attack Seattle’s secondary: Seattle’s offense has been spectacular to this point but their defense has left a lot to be desired, mainly the secondary. The Seahawks have allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 67% of pass attempts and are dead-last in the NFL, conceding 1,292 passing yards in three games, according to Pro Football Reference. This sets the stage for receivers Devante Parker and Preston Williams to have big games this week.
- Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Bobby Wagner
- Devante Parker/Preston Williams vs. Quandre Diggs
- Russell Wilson vs. Dolphins Coverage
- Tyler Lockett/D.K. Metcalf vs. Xavien Howard/Noah Igbinoghene
- Myles Gaskin vs. Seattle Front Seven
The Dolphins schedule has not been forgiving early in the year, and this is the best team Miami will face thus far. Miami is going to need to play at an extremely high level, with minimal mistakes in order to upset a much more talented Seattle Seahawks team that has been together for years.
The Fins are the second-youngest team in the league, with an average age of 25 years old. This will be the big test for many Dolphins still early in their careers.
While Miami performed well last Thursday and will carry that momentum into this Week 4 bout with Seattle, I have a hard time believing they’ll be able to neutralize Russell Wilson for four quarters the way they did Gardner Minshew last week. Wilson has been arguably the best player — not just quarterback — in the NFL this season, and there’s no reason to believe he’ll slow down this week.
Prediction: Seahawks win 34-27
(Featured Image Credit: Miami Dolphins)