The Miami Dolphins are up in sunny Minnesota today prepping for their 1pm kick-off tomorrow. The team is fresh off it’s first opening season win since 2006 and their first road opening win since 2003. That means nothing anymore. Squat. It may as well had been pre-season. The Minnesota Vikings are all that matter right now.
The Vikings and Dolphins have a little history going on here, Rick Spielman is the General Manager for Small Pop (minny soda) and in most circles reviews on his tenure this far are favorable. Of course there is also the Greg Camarillo trade that brought in Benny Sapp. So both sides should have a little dope on the other when the brain picking started earlier this week.
But what of the match-ups? Here is our week 2 look at the Miami Dolphins/Minnesota Viking game. Page 2 has this weeks “Predict the Score” voting.
The Dolphins are going to have a long day. It’s true. Whether they come out on top or not, the interior line battle is going to be a taxing chore for Miami’s under-performing unit. Jared Allen is a Pro-Bowl DE that will match-up in a battle with LT Jake Long. Long will take on the task of keeping Allen out of Chad Henne’s face. Honestly, if I were the coach of the Vikings, I would put Allen up on Vernon Carey where I stand the best shot of getting to the QB.
The Dolphins will likely play a lot of two TE sets that will allow the tackle and the TE to double on the DE’s. Look for Anthony Fasano’s day to be spent blocking at the line instead of getting into routes. The Vikings managed to hold Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints to 227 yards (roughly) and Brees threw only 1 TD. Henne is going to find a long day in front of him if the Dolphins offensive line can’t hold their blocks.
The other problem for the Dolphins is thus far they have shown no propensity for opening running lanes and that would be virtually disastrous for the offense’s passing game. Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams are both healthy and ready for a solid year but so far the offensive line is not opening holes. This based on both the Buffalo game and the pre-season games as well.
The Phins must find a way to get the two runners involved in the game so they can make plays. The offense for the Dolphins has playmakers but if the Oline can’t do their job, it doesn’t matter who they have on that side of the ball. Brandon Marshall is going to face a solid secondary who do not give up the long ball to number 1 WR’s all that often.
Marshall has primarily been used more like Anquan Boldin was used in Arizona, a possession WR who can get YAC stats. The Dolphins need to use Marshall as the number 1 WR and that means they use him more than simply as a target 10 times a game. They must get him the proper routes to get separation and then hit him in stride so he can make plays. Marshall uses his body well to shield out opponents. Brandon Marshall needs to start scoring TD’s and not just first downs. Moving the changes is Davone Bess’ job.
A lot has been made of the play on the opposite side of Marshall. Coaches and the media alike appear to have soured somewhat on the play of Brian Hartline. I have read everything from he isn’t playing with the same enthusiasm and that he is going through the motions. I don’t buy it. Nothing on the Dolphins offense has really been clicking so far this season and Hartline tends to run routes that take longer to progress. That means Henne needs more time. The few balls I saw last week to Hartline were hardly in the basket throws but instead rather low. Still, if the coaches believe he isn’t up to par, Marlon Moore will be taking over for by the end of the game.
It all comes down to whether the Dolphins want to get physical and nasty. They need to out-muscle the Vikings front 7 or 8 and keep Henne off his back. The key will be getting anything going in the running game. If they can do that, they can stretch out the game. The Dolphins will need TD’s though. 3 points will not beat Brett Favre.\
The Miami Defense will not find it any easier than the offense but if last weeks game is an indication, the defense may be further along that any of us really thought.
The key to stopping Brett Favre is to stop Adrian Peterson. That is not an easy task, but it can be done. AP is a monster to bring down but good gang tackling will keep him in check. Koa Misi will have to do another great job on the outside keeping containment, he did that last week against C.J. Spiller, but CJ is no AP. Peterson is strong in the passing game as well and the Dolphins have to make sure they don’t let him float to the flats for easy screens that will net huge yards.
Mike Nolan may want to play a shadow player, perhaps Bobby Carpenter. Carpenter isn’t a great or even a better than average middle linebacker given his draft slot but he is excellent on special teams and allowing Carp to play AP like a special teamer could get Carp involved easily with shadowing the speedy runner.
All of that culminates in one person. Brett Favre. Favre is not the same gunslinger he was two years ago or for that matter last year. Why he is still playing is anybody’s guess but know this, he can still sling the football.
Stopping Favre is actually easier than it was when the Phins beat him and the Jets 3 years ago to end the season. Favre still takes chances downfield and so long as the Dolphins secondary of Yeremiah Bell and Chris Clemons can play center field they have a shot at bringing in the turnovers as Favres’ balls tend to float a lot more than they used to. Where Favre beats you however is with his feet.
Favre finds ways to give himself time and if the Dolphins defense can’t pressure him on every passing down, Favre will wait until one of his targets finds an opening and then hit them. His favorite target is TE Visanthe Shiancoe and the way to beat him is to put the Vikings in a position to keep him in blocking and that is not an easy task.
Karlos Dansby will find himself covering Shiancoe with help over top from Yeremiah Bell. Bernard Berrian can get deep but he hasn’t played up to his billing in Minnesota. Percy Harvin is expecting a lot of looks this week and the team said that he would see time at WR, H-Back, and in the slot. So look for Harvin to try and get matched up in situations that will allow Favre to get the ball in his hands.
When all that is said and done, Greg Camarillo will come into play. A slot/number 3 wide-out at present, the Vikings will look at a lot of 3 WR sets to get Camarillo into the game and use his knowledge of the Miami defensive player abilities to his advantage. The Dolphins will need to keep him shut down and use their knowledge of him to stop him.
The key on defense may very well be the play of acquired nickel back, Benny Sapp. Sapp had his shot at a pick 6 last Sunday and Favre has been known to throw them. Sapp played with Favre last year so he knows his tendencies. I look for Sapp to be involved a lot in Miami’s Sunday game plan.
For me, I don’t need a win to make me happy this weekend. It would be nice, but let’s be honest, the Dolphins have a tough road game this week and if they can keep the game down to the wire without blowing a lead then I think there is something there when it comes to this team. A tough battle on the road is never easy but a very close game could have the same confidence build as a win. I want to see solid progression and a solid performance all around. Win or lose. Hopefully the former.
Predictions are tough because I don’t like being a homer. Last week I predicted a 20-16 victory and we got a 15-10 win. This week, I don’t think Miami will put up 15 points if they can’t get the running game in play.
Prediction: Minnesota 21 – Miami 13
Sorry folks, I just don’t think our offensive line matches up well with the Vikings front 7, but if they get the running game going, then that means the Oline is alive and kicking…then, all bets are off.