This was a difficult week if you are a Miami Dolphins’ fan. Miami gave a game away to their dreaded rivals, the New York Jets. The good news is that the Dolphins were the better team last Sunday and, while they have exceeded the expectations of many NFL fans, those, who really know the Dolphins, know Miami has a very competitive team. A sneaky playoff run is still in play as the schedule is lined with potential wins.
The Arizona Cardinals are undefeated with victories against the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles. The most recognizable player on this team is wide-receiver Larry Fitzgerald and he deserves the hype. Fitzgerald is, arguably, the best receiver in the game and he continues to produce, regardless of who is at the helm, in Arizona. Casual fans might think Kevin Kolb has risen from the dead and the Cardinal offense is soaring. The truth is Kolb has been better than expected but Arizona still ranks 31st in the league in total yards. Kolb is only in because John Skelton was injured. Other than Fitzgerald, this is not a good offense. The Cardinals’ offensive line is among the worst in the league and starting running back Beanie Wells will not play versus the Dolphins.
The Cardinals are winning with defense. Arizona currently ranks 10th in the NFL in yards allowed and are 2nd in the league in points allowed. The Cardinals defense boasts known names like DE Calais Campbell, DT Darnell Dockett, and SS Adrian Wilson but, this year, their best players have been young studs CB Patrick Peterson and ILB Daryl Washington.
The 2011 fifth-overall pick, Peterson is always a threat to score on special teams, returning four punts for touchdowns last year. Despite his success on special teams in 2011, Peterson was exploited as a defender. His improvement in 2012 has been remarkable and, so far, Peterson’s production is matching his immense potential. According to a tweet by Pro Football Focus, “Peterson has given up just .38 yards per snap in coverage, the lowest # of any CB with 100 coverage snaps.” 2010 second-rounder Daryl Washington has wreaked havoc upon the first three offenses the Cardinals have faced, compiling a team-leading 29 tackles and 3 sacks.
The Arizona defense is also producing turnovers, as they are tied for the league lead in defensive fumble recoveries with 4 and even scored through one of these fumbles.
MATCHUP: DOLPHINS vs CARDINALS
The truth is the Cardinals are good on defense but terrible on offense. This is no powerhouse. In fact, they are very similar to the New York Jets, who the Dolphins limited to 13 offensive points in regulation. Miami is strong in the trenches as they are 3rd in the NFL in rushing yards allowed (66.3 per game) and 4th in rushing yards gained (175.7 per game). Conversely, Arizona is 18th versus the run and 26th in rushing. This points toward a Dolphin smash-mouth win.
Reggie Bush, Daniel Thomas, and maybe Lamar Miller will be key players this weekend. Ryan Tannehill and the no-name receiving squad have to improve. The Miami defense must simply maintain their level of play.
While it will be close, the Dolphins will prevail 20-17.
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