When the Dolphins pass the football
There's always something that just doesn't click. One week, it's an untimely interception (New York Jets game). Another week it's the failure to move the football through the air (Baltimore game). Another weeks it's drops by receivers (too many to name). Last week, the Dolphins got solid production from the passing game but, given the chance to tie the game late, quarterback Ryan Tannehill missed a throw to Jarvis Landry that he later said haunted him for a couple of days. The Dolphins are coming off a game in which they targeted Landry 18 times. The week before he was targeted five times. As Vince Lombardi asked, "What the hell is going on out there?" Can't this team strike a happy medium? Kenny Stills remains Miami's most explosive deep threat and DeVante Parker, who promised great things two weeks ago, showed last week he still isn't always in the right spot. And until he figures it out and runs to the right spot, he cannot be a good player. The Chargers have tightened up their defense the past two weeks but before then they gave up 24 or more points in 10 of 11 games, with much of the damage happening through the air.
When the Dolphins run the football
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Who knows anymore? Even when Lamar Miller is going great, as he was last week, and the game is close, as it was last week, the Dolphins find a way to not give him the football with consistency. And then they wonder why he's not consistent? The team intends to make wide use of Miller and Jay Ajayi against the Chargers. Of course, the team intended to make the playoffs this season. The team intended to compete for championships this year. The Chargers have a bad run defense made worse by the loss of defensive lineman Corey Liuget to a foot injury and the injured reserve list.
When the Chargers pass the football
If the Dolphins' secondary thought it got a workout against the Giants last week, wait until Phillip Rivers gets warmed up. The Chargers are a passing team because, well, you just read they're not a running team. Rivers had thrown 35 passes or more in nine of his last 10 games. In one game against Green Bay, he threw 65 passes. And usually that's not a bad way to go for San Diego, because Rivers has been an elite quarterback. But the last couple of weeks he's completed just slightly over 52 percent of his passes with no touchdowns and two interceptions. the Miami secondary, fresh off an Odell Beckham Jr. toasting, needs more help from the defensive front in pressuring Rivers. Olivier Vernon has been playing hard but his production needs to increase as he still trails Cameron Wake in the sack department and Wake, the team leader with seven, hasn't played in two months.
ADVANTAGE: San Diego
When the Chargers run the football
This is going to be awesome. The worst run offense -- the Chargers are 32nd in the NFL in rushing average and 31st in rushing yards per game -- against one of the worst run defenses. Yeah, the Dolphins have been last against the run at times during 2015 but improved to 30th a couple of week back. Folks, there is a reason neither of these teams are going to the playoffs. Rookie Melvin Gordon promised a lot of good things early on, especially when he gained 88 yards and averaged 5.5 yards per carry against Cincinnati the second week of the season. But be it as a result of injuries to the offensive line or his potential being unmet, Gordon's best game since that optimistic start was 60 yards on 14 carries against Jacksonville two weeks ago.
Dolphins punter Matt Darr continues to have an excellent rookie season and, hey, rookie kicker Andrew Franks got a shot to kick a field goal last week for the first time in nearly a month. And he made it! The issue with Miami's special teams is Jarvis Landry remains its best returner and he's been nursing a knee injury for several weeks, which could continue to limit his availability. The Chargers are last in the NFL in punt return average, 30th in net punting and their special teams coach was fired two weeks ago. Tough times for the 3-10 Chargers. Tough times.
What we have here is two men who may be looking for work after the season. Both good men. Both solid football coaches. But neither has milked more out of their team than the talent suggests is possible.