Buccaneers-Dolphins preview: Tampa Bay needs to stop the run
The running game is key to Sunday’s game.
The 3-6 Tampa Bay Buccaneers play the 4-5 Miami Dolphins today, a game that was originally scheduled for week one of the 2017 NFL season, but had to postponed due to Hurricane Irma. No hurricane this time, nor any other natural disasters affecting Miami, so the game can finally be played.
The Buccaneers are basically done for the season, with Ryan Fitzpatrick starting as Jameis Winston recovers from a shoulder injury. That won’t stop them from trying to beat the Dolphins, though, which should at least make tomorrow’s game competitive.
Let’s go to the preview.
Reviewing the Dolphins’ last four games:
NYJ 28, Mia 31 W
Mia 0, Bal 40 L
Oak 27, Mia 24 L
Mia 21, Car 45 L
The Bucs are facing another 4 – 5, AFC East team. Last week it was the NY Jets. This week it is the Miami Dolphins, who are in a slump. There’s an easy pattern to spot why the Dolphins are losing and it appears they are more erratic than the Bucs on both sides of the ball. Maybe we can find out with a few more stats.
Miami’s basic stats reflect a below average defense. They were 4 – 2 before losing three straight. Yet looking at their last four games, their defense seemed to have plummeted. The Fins have given up an average of 35.0 points per game on these last four games. Is there a pattern in that set?
If the Bucs can establish the run game, then there is an increased chance of winning the game. We know now that the offense will not abandon the run game like it usually has when QB Jameis Winston is under center. But that run game can also be bolstered with QB Ryan Fitzpatrick scrambling for positive yardage like QB Cam Newton did last week against the ‘Fins for 95 yards on five runs. Please do not expect Fitzpatrick to earn a total production like Newton.
In my search to find any information about the Dolphins free fall, I inquired my brother, a Dolphins fan. He informed me that Miami’s linebacker corps cannot cover the middle of the field. If a team can execute the short passing game, especially when including the TE’s, then the middle of the field can be exploited.
With that information, I smirked. I replied to my brother that Winston is allergic to dumpoffs and the short passing game. But Winston is not playing Sunday, it will be Fitzpatrick, who does look at dumpoffs and the short passing game.
Although the Dolphins’ overall stats look pitiful for an offense, they have been putting up points recently. The ‘Fins were shutout against the Ravens, but that game was played on a Thursday night. Aside from that game, Miami averages 24.3 points per game in their last 3 out of 4 games.
The Bucs defense must stop the run to give its defense and team a chance to win. In the previous two games, Miami averaged 4.8 ypc against Oakland and 5.9 ypc on Carolina. Carolina ranks 2nd best against the run. With a fully healthy linebacking corps for Tampa back again, we saw some signs two weeks ago of improved run defense for a half. Last week, we saw it for both halves. Can the Bucs’ defense make it both halves for two consecutive games?
Game 8 vs New Orleans
Game 9 vs NY Jets
Miami’s defense is reeling, but their offense is still kicking.
Should the Bucs’ defense continue its dominant play against the run, then we can see a repeat of last week’s game. The offense needs to continue to play like it was 2016 and still rely on the run despite not generating 4.0 yards per carry.
Bucs 24, Dolphins 13
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