- Match-up: Miami Dolphins (5-3) @ Detroit Lions (6-2)
- Location: Ford Field, Detroit, Michigan
- Date: Sunday, November 9th, 2014
- Time: 01:00 PM
- TV: FOX
The Detroit Lions begin a crucial three game stretch by facing off against the Miami Dolphins. The Lions’ next three opponents are a combined 19-6. The Dolphins are riding a hot streak right now that includes a three game win streak as well as a three game road winning streak. Both teams feature top five defenses in the league, so get your popcorn and beer ready, this will be an old-school defensive struggle.
Hallelujah, praise the Lord, Calvin Johnson is back for Detroit! Johnson has said that his body “Feels better than it ever has at this point in the season” and that he’s “Extremely, extremely motivated, especially with where we are as a team right now”. Also of note is that Reggie Bush will return after missing the Atlanta Falcons game and being hampered by a sore ankle in much of the New Orleans game. What remains to be seen though is whether the top three tight ends will play for Detroit. Joseph Fauria practiced for two straight days, but was the third tight end out in team drills behind Kellen Davis and Jordan Thompson. Brandon Pettigrew and Eric Ebron returned to practice in limited fashion as they participated in individual drills. Ebron was quoted as saying “You’ll see me when you see me.” Thanks for the update there Ebron.
For the Miami Dolphins, Lamar Miller was a full participant in practice. Miller has played very well this year as a replacement for Knowshon Moreno, who is out for the year with a torn ACL. Miller has 518 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 106 carries, good for 4.9 yards per carry. Guard Daryn Colledge, who missed the game against the Chargers last weekend, went from being a full participant in practice on Wednesday to a limited participant on Thursday.
In a battle of two great defenses, it often comes down to which quarterback handles the pressure better. So the key match-up for this game is going to be Matthew Stafford and Ryan Tannehill.
The Dolphins faced a similar defense to the Lions in week 2 against the Bills and got shellacked 29-10. In that game, Tannehill completed 31 passes against the Bills, but for just 241 yards and one touchdown. The Bills also contained the running game of the Dolphins, holding Lamar Miller to 46 yards rushing on 11 carries. The Dolphins are a different team now than they were in week 2, and are the existential team that gets better each week. If Tannehill can make enough plays with his legs and handle the pressure better than he did in week 2, the Dolphins have a great shot at winning.
On the flip side, Matthew Stafford will face one of the best (if not THE best) defense he has faced all year. The Dolphins defense has been playing extremely well the past four weeks, and come in ranked fifth in the league in sacks. Because of this, the Dolphins have the third ranked pass defense in the league behind San Francisco and Detroit. While the Lions pass protection has been better as of late, they also haven’t faced the most dominant defensive units in the NFL the past two games. Expect the Dolphins to get a ton of pressure on Stafford. Like, Tannehill, how Stafford handles this pressure will be the key. The difference is that, while Tannehill can run, Stafford is not the fleetest of foot.
Ultimately, this game will come down to the quarterback that turns the ball over less, because it should be tight game with these two defenses on the field.
Players to Watch
Since I just mentioned Stafford and Tannehill, two players to watch on the defensive side of the ball are Deandre Levy for Detroit and Brent Grimes for Miami.
Levy is going to be key in stopping the Miami run attack. Miami’s offense is set up to establish the run first and open up the field for Mike Wallace to use his speed. The easiest way to prevent this is to not allow the running game to get started, which is something the Lions had a bit of trouble with in their previous game against Atlanta. The defense simply can’t afford to give up 21 points in the first half of this game because Miami’s defense is just too good for the Lions to make a comeback like they did against Atlanta. Levy needs to have another big game for the Lions to be successful on Sunday.
Grimes, along with teammate Cortland Finnegan, will be tasked with stopping Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate. Grimes leads the Dolphins with four interceptions, but has yet to face a wide receiver of Calvin Johnson’s skill. It’s not only Johnson that the Dolphins must worry about though, as Golden Tate has been a godsend for the Lions. Since Johnson twisted his ankle against the Green Bay Packers, Golden Tate has picked up the slack. Tate ranks fourth in the NFL for receiving yards and fifth in the NFL for receptions. The Grimes/Finnegan combination will have to find a way to slow Johnson and Tate down.
Expect a very tight football game (for today’s standards anyhow) and a turnover could be the thing that decides this game. The Dolphins are on fire right now, while Detroit is coming off a bye. The team with the momentum wins.
Detroit Lions: 17
Miami Dolphins: 24