The Miami Dolphins (2-8) travel north to face the Cleveland Browns (4-6) in Week 12. The Dolphins are coming off a painful 37-20 loss at home to Buffalo. But they’ve won two of three, including a road game at playoff-hopeful Indianapolis.
Miami has used a little luck and a little Fitz-magic in their two wins this season. And they’re hoping for more.
Dolphins Secondary in Shambles
The Dolphins secondary has struggled all season long and took another blow this week when Pro Bowl safety Reshad Jones landed on the season-ending IR. He wasn’t the only one. Safety Bobby McCain was also placed on the injured reserve, joining Pro Bowl corner Xavien Howard.
The Dolphins start three undrafted free agents in the secondary, and a fourth player who moved from corner to safety. Nik Needham, Steven Parker, and Jomal Wiltz, along with newly-minted safety Eric Rowe, will contend with one of the most explosive receiver duos in the league.
Miami will need to corral former Dolphin Jarvis Landry, as well as Odell Beckham Jr. and perhaps a returning David Njoku, former tight end star at the University of Miami.
The Dolphins secondary has given up 4th-most passing touchdowns this season (23).
Dolphins Dismal on the Ground
The Dolphins sport the worst rushing offense in the NFL. They’ve gained only 603 yards this season.
Last week, Miami managed a meager 23 yards rushing. Starting running back, Kalen Ballage gained nine yards on nine carries. Rookies Patrick Laird and Myles Gaskin combined for seven yards on two carries. The only other running back on the roster, De’Lance Turner, has yet to receive any carries with the Dolphins.
Miami’s only success in the run game last week came from the Wildcat formation. Ballage’s best run (seven yards) came from that formation, as did receiver Jakeem Grant’s seven-yard touchdown run.
Earlier this season, the Dolphins traded away their best running back, Kenyan Drake, and cut his replacement, Mark Walton, after a recent arrest while he was serving a four-game suspension.
If the Dolphins stand any chance in this one, they’ll need to establish something that resembles a running game. Ryan Fitzpatrick completed 32 of 45 passes for 323 yards, and that’s unsustainable.
Miami’s offensive line will need to open holes for its runners, as well as keep its quarterback upright. The Dolphins have allowed a league-high 42 sacks this season. Cleveland, though, will be without their two best pass rushers Myles Garrett and Larry Ogunjobi, thanks to league suspensions.
Dolphins Need to Generate Turnovers
Miami has the worst turnover differential in the league (minus-13). And they’re 32nd in takeaways. In their two wins, the Dolphins had four interceptions. In their eight losses, they have a combined three.
While Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield has been turnover-prone at times this season, he’s been careful with the ball of late. Mayfield’s 17 of 32, 193 yard, two-touchdown performance against Pittsburgh marked his third-straight week without a turnover. On the season, Mayfield has thrown 12 interceptions to 11 touchdowns.
Cleveland’s recent two-game winning straight has come in large part because of their lack of turnovers. Head coach Freddie Kitchens leaned more on the running game last week than on Mayfield. The Browns ran the ball 35 times versus Pittsburgh and threw 32 times.
Leaning on Nick Chubb and the run game should prove fruitful for Cleveland against the Dolphins. Miami allows the 24th-most yards-per-carry this season (4.7).
Prediction: Cleveland 30, Miami 21
Miami has been scrappy of late, but the talent disparity in this one, coupled with it being a road game, should prove too steep a hill to climb for the Dolphins.
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