WHEN THE DOLPHINS RUN THE BALL
This is getting ridiculous. The Dolphins have gone seven weeks without a 100-yard rushing game. They were supposed to feast on poor rush defenses such as Tennessee’s and then Buffalo’s but were stuffed instead. The most troubling thing? These guys don’t sound like they know what’s happening. Last week, quarterback Ryan Tannehill suggested the Bills didn’t sneak extra players into the tackle box to stop Miami. Reggie Bush this week said the Bills had a safety coming down to help on running plays. Offensive linemen say they must win one-on-one matchups while offensive coordinator Mike Sherman dismisses that and counters that it’s about “displacement vertically or horizontally.” Puzzling. The Seahawks might be the quickest front seven Miami sees all season. If Miami is going to win this matchup, it will be by plowing the Seahawks, not running around them. ADVANTAGE: Seattle.
WHEN THE DOLPHINS PASS THE BALL
The Dolphins have scored one offensive touchdown the past 10 quarters. One reason seems to be the inability to get over the top of defenses through the air. It has something to do with defenses catching up to Miami’s offense because the Dolphins had pass plays of 30 yards or more six times in September. That was cut in half to three in October and it has happened only twice in November. Some teams get a couple of 30-yard pass plays per game. The Dolphins have needed practically a whole month to reach that figure. The Seahawks have the third-ranked pass defense in the NFL because corners Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner are very physical and the team puts good pressure on quarterbacks, particularly with defensive end Chris Clemons and Bruce Irvin. ADVANTAGE: Seattle.
WHEN THE SEAHAWKS RUN THE BALL
The Bills, with C.J. Spiller, and Titans, with Chris Johnson, were about running the ball to the edge with great speed. The Seahawks aren’t going to mess around with attacking the edge nearly as much. This game will be a “slugfest,” as Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. The Seahawks put a premium on running the ball and do it in physical, punishing, between-the-tackles fashion. Marshawn Lynch is already at 1,005 yards this season. That means he’s averaging 100 yards per game and 4.7 yards per carry. Oddly, this kind of attack might be better suited for the Dolphins to stop. Miami is not necessarily comfortable running sideline to sideline and maintaining lane discipline, but when it comes to bulk and strength and no-frills physical football, the defense is well suited for that. ADVANTAGE: Even.
WHEN THE SEAHAWKS PASS THE BALL
Pete Carroll believes the Dolphins pressure the quarterback better than any team the Seahawks have faced this season. Strike One against Seattle. The Seahawks are 32 32nd in the NFL in passing offense. Strike Two. And Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson is excellent at home (11 TDs and zero INTs) but has struggled on the road (4 TDs and 8 INTs). Strike Three. The Dolphins nonetheless have to tighten up on the corners because Nolan Carroll is coming off a terrible game at Buffalo in which he was flagged four times. He will no doubt be targeted by Seattle. Reshad Jones has been the lone shining light in the Miami secondary during the three-game losing skid. He is around the ball. He is excellent in run support. All he needs is to find a turnover here or there and he would be playing at a Pro Bowl level. ADVANTAGE: Miami
The Dolphins’ special teams set the tone in exactly the wrong fashion against Buffalo when Leodis McKelvin returned Miami’s first punt of the day for a touchdown. But as has been the case so far this season for this unit, the Miami special teams fought back with a touchdown of their own on a Marcus Thigpen return. That speaks to the Miami unit’s season, in which it has often fought to a draw or gotten the better of the opposing special teams. The Seahawks are excellent on kickoff coverage, which is one reason opponents’ average drive starts at the 20.4-yard line. Meanwhile, thanks largely to Leon Washington, the Seahawks are fourth in the NFL with an average starting position of the 23.8. ADVANTAGE: Miami.
The Dolphins are on a three-game skid and the coaching staff had better figure something out before the season gets totally away from them. No, the Dolphins aren’t going to the Super Bowl or even the playoffs, but it is up to this staff to milk progression out of the players. The past three weeks, there has been no collective progression. That’s problematic. The Seahawks’ coaching staff, meanwhile, has to figure out why its team is so much better at home than on the road. Seattle has lost four of five road games this season but is 5-0 at home. Yes, the team is young. But the Seahawks fancy themselves a playoff contender. Until they can start winning on the road, being successful in the playoffs is just wishful thinking. ADVANTAGE: Even.