Armando Salguero

Ajayi and Gordon in duel of second-year running backs Sunday in Dolphins-Chargers game

Miami Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi is shown at left, and San Diego running back Melvin Gordon is at right.
Miami Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi is shown at left, and San Diego running back Melvin Gordon is at right.

1 Which second-year running back has a better day? Dolphins fans are aware running back Jay Ajayi is on a tear, having gained 529 yards the past three games. But San Diego running back Melvin Gordon is having an outstanding showing in his second season as well. He rushed for 196 yards against Tennessee last week, the most yards by a Chargers running back since 2007. Gordon is the NFL’s third-leading rusher with 768 yards and his three runs of over 40 yards are tied for the league lead with Jeremy Hill.

2 Game-manager vs. Elite quarterback: The Dolphins have enjoyed good success lately behind their running game as Ryan Tannehill and the passing game have taken a secondary role. Tannehill has been managing games and doing just enough to help the Dolphins win. This week he’s matched against Phillip Rivers, who is on a Hall of Fame path. He is San Diego’s all-time leader in touchdowns and needs just two more TDs to tie John Elway for eighth all-time with 300. Rivers has completed 10 passes of 40 yards or more this year — second only to Atlanta’s Matt Ryan. Rivers is fifth in TDs and fourth in pass yards this season. Tannehill has a better completion percentage — 64.7 to 63.2.

3 Can the Chargers stop the Dolphins run game? The Dolphins have enjoyed great success running the football of late and have done so against top run defenses — Buffalo, Pittsburgh and the top-ranked New York Jets. The Chargers own the NFL’s fifth-leading rush defense, allowing only 85.3 yards per game and have held eight opponents to fewer than 100 yards rushing. The Dolphins are fifth in the NFL rushing the ball and have gained more than 100 rushing yards in four of their past six games, including 200-yard games against Pittsburgh and Buffalo.

4 Can the Dolphins win on the road? The Dolphins have played three road games this season and lost all three. The team has also lost three consecutive games in San Diego. The Dolphins haven’t won in San Diego since 2005, and if you think that’s because the teams don’t play often, consider they played at San Diego in 2009, 2011 and 2015. So did the Dolphins lose at San Diego because they simply aren’t as good as the Chargers? Nope. The Dolphins beat the Chargers at home in 2014, 2013 and 2008. In other words, the home team has dominated this series for a decade.

5 Time of possession wins: The Dolphins have won the time of possession stat the past three games — all wins. The Dolphins have averaged 30:22 in time of possession in their four wins this season but only 23:29 in their four losses. This is big because the Chargers are 3-1 this season, including three consecutive victories in which their time of possession is at least 34 minutes. Truth is the Chargers have had great success under coach Mike McCoy when they play ball-control. Their record in games under McCoy in which they’ve kept the football 34 minutes or more is 18-4.

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