For the second time this season, the Dolphins found themselves in a “do or die” situation, one game below .500 and facing the reality that one more loss ends the team’s season prematurely. And for the second time this season, the team responded by claiming a victory in front of the home crowd. The Dolphins beat the San Diego Chargers in Week 11 thanks to a combination of strong defensive coverage and a sloppy performance by Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers.
The team will face a much tougher challenge in Week 12 as the 7-3 Carolina Panthers led by wunderkind quarterback Cam Newton come to Miami to try and claim its seventh consecutive victory of the season. Here we will look at everything you need to know heading into the Week 12 matchup. We will update you on the division standings and injuries. We will take a look at what the Dolphins must focus on improving in order to fend off one of the hottest teams in the NFL.
|AFC East Division Standings|
|New York Jets||5-5||183||268||at Baltimore|
Miami chose a good week to emerge victorious. The New York Jets were destroyed by the Buffalo Bills 37-13. The Jets had been the sole claimant to the sixth seed in the AFC playoff picture. Now with both teams tied at 5-5, the Dolphins and Jets have equal claim to the final playoff seed, pending the outcome of the teams’ two games against one another.
Meanwhile, the Dolphins’ upcoming opponent just did Miami a favor by beating the New England Patriots on Monday Night Football. The good news coming from the game was that with the Patriots dropping to 7-3, with upcoming games against Denver, Baltimore and Miami, there is a potentially clear path in sight for Miami to lay claim to the division crown. The bad news is the team that dropped the Patriots on national television now has their sights set on doing the same to the Dolphins.
Though it does not concern the AFC East division, Miami got some help elsewhere in Week 11. The Tennessee Titans, Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens all went into Week 11 along with the San Diego Chargers and Miami Dolphins with 4-5 records, only one game behind the New York Jets for the second wild-card playoff spot. All but Miami added to their loss column this week.
With the Dolphins having the ability to directly deal the New York Jets two losses during the remainder of the season, this means that the Dolphins have their playoff destiny firmly in their own hands. Can a team embroiled in locker room controversy handle such pressure?
|Week 12 Injury Update|
|Dimitri Patterson||CB||Groin||Left Game|
Center Mike Pouncey surprisingly missed the game against the Chargers over the weekend, after having checked into a hospital Friday before the game with kidney and gall bladder issues. There have been no updates on his condition and his availability for the game against the Panthers is unknown.
Linebacker Koa Misi (knee) played in Week 11 after having missed the Week 10 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. However, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Misi only played a total of 15 snaps during the game.
Corner Dimitri Patterson entered the Week 11 game against the Chargers listed as questionable on the official injury report after having missed the Week 10 game against the Buccaneers with yet another re-aggravation of the same groin injury he has battled since midway through Week 1. Though he played against the Chargers, he left the game very early after injuring his groin again.
At this point, the Dolphins would be wise not to take any more chances with Patterson. Though he has only played one full game in 2013, along with four other partial games, his performance level has been through the roof. Miami has to begin thinking about the long-term picture with Patterson, who will turn 31 years of age in a few weeks.
The team has Patterson signed through the 2014 season at a relatively expensive price tag. He would easily be worth that price if he could play a full season at the same level he has played in 2013. However, according to Pro Football Focus Patterson has only participated in about 31 percent of the team’s defensive snaps in 2013. The Dolphins need to be confident he can do better than that in 2014 in order to justify carrying his salary on the books.
Shutting Patterson down for the remainder of the season may become the most appropriate answer to the above dilemma. At the very least, the team should think about shutting him down for a number of weeks with the hope that he could be available to play if the team makes a playoff run.
What Must Improve
Dolphins fans are growing tired of excuses as to why quarterback Ryan Tannehill and star free-agent acquisition Mike Wallace are failing to hook up on the deep passes that were promised when the team signed Wallace’s $60 million contract.
After being ranked seventh among qualified passers in deep accuracy by Pro Football Focus in 2012, Tannehill’s deep ball accuracy has taken a turn for the worse in 2013. For this season, Tannehill currently ranks 15th out of a crowd of 22 qualified passers. The measure simply tracks the number of completions and dropped passes on balls thrown more than 20 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.
Combining the two seasons, we find that Tannehill is one of 31 passers that have thrown at least 50 total deep passes during the period. Among them, Tannehill is tied with Robert Griffin III for 17th in the rankings.
The interesting phenomenon in Miami is how Tannehill’s inaccuracy on deep patterns seems so strongly tied to free-agent acquisition Mike Wallace. Only four of Tannehill’s 17 deep attempts to Wallace have either been caught or dropped.
What this means is if one were to exclude balls thrown to Wallace in 2013, Tannehill has had 30 of 68 deep attempts caught or dropped by his receivers in 2012 and 2013 combined. The resulting percentage (44.1 percent) would rank him sixth among the same group of 31 qualified deep ball throwers.
Apparently Tannehill has a very accurate deep ball, so long as he’s not throwing to Mike Wallace.
While more technical examinations of the reasons behind the disconnect with Wallace could be appropriate for other pieces, here we will just draw attention to the problem and suggest that Miami must find a way to fix the issue if they want to make a legitimate run at the playoffs over the next six games.