Oakland Raiders vs. Miami Dolphins: 5 Reasons Why Miami Will Prevail
We can either Monday morning quarterback to death Miami's loss to Houston, or we can look forward to next Sunday's game against Oakland.
I'll choose the latter, much like the Dolphins organization is in the process of doing.
Oakland (0-1) visits Miami for the second consecutive year and plays the Dolphins for the third straight season. The Dolphins have won all three of those games, and the Raiders are coming off a 22-14 loss to the San Diego Chargers.
So why do I see Miami coming out with a victory and moving to 1-1 this week? What will change, other than the opponent?
Let's take a look.
1. Miami's Pass Rush Will Devour Carson Palmer
Carson Palmer looked decent against the Chargers, however, he was sacked three times and hit another two times.
Keeping Palmer upright will be a challenge for the Raiders offensive line, as it proved to be last season in Miami when the Dolphins sacked Palmer twice while prowling the backfield constantly. As seen above, Palmer was under a constant barrage from San Diego's pass rush Monday night.
With Starks, Wake and co., Miami's current defense is even better equipped to exploit Oakland's anemic pass protection.
Of course, the constant pressure on Palmer will lead to something better than just sacks and loss of yardage in the running game...
Sean Smith will have an interception in this game, and he will return it for a touchdown.
This isn't wishful thinking, but a prediction. With Miami's pass rush terrorizing Palmer, he will be forced to make quick decisions, which has never been Palmer's forte. The Dolphins secondary will be the beneficiary.
And it will be Sean Smith who is main beneficiary. He will be covering Darrius Heyward-Bey, a speedy receiver—and normally this would be a bad thing. But with Palmer underthrowing the mercurial Heyward-Bey, an interception will find its way into Smith's hands, and he will find his way into the end zone.
But Oakland will have other turnover issues, too: they will have someone new snapping the ball on special teams after their starting long snapper, Jon Condo, suffered a head injury against San Diego. His replacement, Travis Goethel, grounded two snaps to All-Pro Shane Lechler and a third punt attempt was blocked.
A second week together might not lead to as many disastrous results for the Raiders, but it is a possibility.
The Raiders also had a hint of fumblitis against San Diego, with wide receiver Rod Streater and fullback Marcel Reece putting the ball on the field. Oakland finished last season with a -4 turnover differential. The Raiders showed few signs of reversing this habit in their first game of the 2012 season.
Expect at least two Oakland turnovers and for Miami to win the turnover battle.
3. The Raiders' Running Game (or Lack Thereof)
You wouldn't expect a team with Darren McFadden to have problems running the football.
But in Week 1 that's exactly what we saw, as McFadden was better as a receiver (13 catches for 86 yards) than as a rusher (15 attempts, 32 yards).
Miami's run defense is slightly better than that of San Diego's young defense. Bottling up McFadden will be a priority regardless of whether he runs the ball or catches passes out of the backfield.
But on the ground, Miami should contain him—maybe even better than the Chargers did.
But as a receiver...here's where McFadden scares me a bit, especially since the Dolphins do seem to have a problem defending the short and intermediate passing game.
4. Ryan Tannehill Will Be Kept Upright, Throw His First Two Touchdowns
Am I the only one who thinks we're making too big of a deal about Tannehill's poor performance against the Texans?
It was his first NFL game, and it was against an elite defense. Two of his interceptions were the result of bad luck, and his flaws were fixable.
This was a player who only had one bad quarter (an atrocious one to say the least), yet looked somewhat effective the rest of the game.
Now he's facing a team that doesn't have as good of a pass rush, and the tipped balls will be worked on (having the offensive line adjust its blocking to keep the defender's hands down will help).
Philip Rivers had a good day against the Raiders defense (24-of-33 for 231 yards and one touchdown) and a day that Ryan Tannehill will be likely to emulate (I'm thinking 22-of-35 for 245 yards and two touchdowns).
Add to this the fact that the Raiders—who had problems against San Diego rushing from the left side against a rookie left tackle—will this week face Jake Long. Oakland only sacked Rivers once, and only hit him three times.
Expect the Raiders to get two or three sacks against Tannehill, but they won't hamper his play.
5. West Coast Team at 1:00pm Wearing Black in Miami
The silver and black of the Oakland Raiders remains one of the coolest color combinations in all of professional sports.
Raiders colors signify a sense of rebellion, toughness and even a hint of anti-authority. They're as much a part of the NFL's folklore as the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field and Cleveland's Dawg Pound.
But these colors are also extremely uncomfortable in the hot Miami sun at 1:00 on a September afternoon. That's when they lose their cool. I don't have to explain how darker colors retain heat, a principle learned in middle-school science, but it does have an effect on the players in the game.
The double whammy: it's a 1:00 p.m. start on the East Coast—and it's on a short week for the Raiders who played on Monday night.
Yet, despite having those two things going for them, the Dolphins are 2.5-point underdogs.
Add in the other factors mentioned earlier, though, and I'm feeling very confident about the Dolphins coming away with a victory against the Raiders. These two teams match up a lot more equally than you would think.
Throw in the venue and Oakland's lack of discipline (getting six penalties for 35 yards is considered an improvement), and you have the recipe for a Miami Dolphins victory in their home opener as they honor the Perfect Season of 1972.
Prediction: Miami 27, Oakland 20.