Early Bird Breakdown Week 16: Green Bay Packers @ Miami Dolphins
Almost a week and a half ago, Green Bay thrashed Minnesota 42-10. Rodgers only played three quarters and sat the entire fourth. Eddie Lacy finally looked like the pro bowler Packers fans (and fantasy owners) expected. The offensive line finally had a good push and makes back-to-back good pass blocking weeks. The defense showed a lot of intensity, and Julius Peppers became the first player in NFL history with 10 picks and over 100 sacks. Outside of the run defense that has plagued them all season (giving up 158 yards to the Vikings), the team performed well in all phases and dominated from start to finish.
Last week, Miami was on a bye after traveling to England to play Oakland the week prior. The easily beat Oakland 38-14 to move to 2-2 on the season. The biggest key was Miami’s domination in the rushing game. Miami ran all over Oakland, while on the flip side Oakland couldn’t move the ball at all on the ground. Miami had 157 yards on the ground, 104 more yards than Oakland, nearly tripling the Raiders’ rushing yardage total of 53.
Packers’ Offense vs. Dolphins’ Defense:
After playing one poor defense in Chicago and a middle of the road defense in Minnesota, Green Bay will be tested once again against one of the better defenses in the league. Miami ranks 7th in total yards (322.3 yards per game), 9th in pass defense (215 yards per game), and 12th in run defense (107.3 yards per game). So far this season, Green Bay has played three defenses ranked higher than Miami: Detroit, Seattle, and the New York Jets. In those games, Green Bay struggled early to move the ball, with only the Jets game did the offense put it together. None of those teams Green Bay was effective running the ball against, all though they were not effective at all running until last week. Aaron Rodgers and company has been heating up the last two weeks, and the Dolphins’ bye-week advantage is nearly nullified by the Packers’ extended time off from their Thursday game. The key to the game will come down to how much information Dolphins’ head coach and former Packer coordinator Joe Philbin can give his defense. He coached Rodgers and most of these starters for years; he knows their strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies as much as anyone else. If this already talented defense is clued into Rodgers’ audible queues or even just the tendencies he has, such as what he commonly audibles into, this could be a long day for Green Bay. The offensive line has played much better in subsequent weeks, if they play as well as they did last week and if Lacy sees the holes as well as he did last week, they will be able to run better than they have all season outside of the Viking game, which will be the best way to attack a defense that will be well coached against Rodgers. The only advantage Green Bay has in the air is outside of Cortland Finnegan, none of the Dolphins corners are particularly good, and Finnegan’s best years are behind him after a rough stint in St. Louis where he was cut. Jordy Nelson will look for a little vengeance, as last year Finnegan had a rough facemask against him which cost Finnegan $7,875.
Packers’ Defense vs. Dolphins’ Offense:
As Philbin has his defense keyed for Rodgers, defensive coordinator Dom Capers will be familiar with Philbin’s offense. The one problem for the Packers is that so far this season, the Dolphins’ offense has basically been pound the rock running the ball, averaging 142.3 yards per game, good for the 5th best rushing attack in the league. This was while their Pro-Bowl center Mike Pouncey was out with injury and the Dolphins expect him to make his first start this week against Green Bay. Add to that starting running back Knowshon Moreno is expected to return and Green Bay will be in trouble. Green Bay’s run defense, still ranked last giving up 163 yards per game, will be gouged and ran all over, but they need to make the key stop on third down penalty free, as they did last week against Minnesota to halt the Dolphins and prevent them from keeping Rodgers on the sidelines. This is where the knowledge of Philbin’s playbook will come in handy. Ryan Tannehill, the Dolphins’ starting quarterback, is only 25th in quarterback rating. Green Bay will have the chance to rattle Tannehill on third down with Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers bearing down on him, Green Bay’s 7th ranked pass defense will have to step up and get a turn over or two to win a tough one in the road. If Miami gets rolling, the humidity and heat will compound with the wear and tear of the run defense, which will snow ball in the fourth quarter so they will need to make stops early because Miami will most likely run even stronger as the game gets closer to the end.
The Weather Factor:
Kickoff will be a pretty warm 85o and be pretty humid as well as a 20% chance of rain. If the rain does not come, the conditions will be warm, sticky, and unpleasant.
These conditions were what beat New England here week one. Green Bay will need early stops because the weather will compound the exhaustion from dealing with Miami’s rushing attack. Both passing attacks will be at a disadvantage with both coaching staffs readily prepared for one another. This gives the edge to Rodgers, who will need to get the ball rolling earlier than he has against defenses of this caliber this season. Lacy will have a daunting task to try and repeat last week, as Miami has been very stout up front. Even if Lacy starts slow, McCarthy will have to keep the offense balanced to wear down Miami, who despite living in Miami and being more acclimated, will feel the effects of the weather as the game winds down. My guess is that Rodgers of the last two games shows up again, and gets an early lead while the defense does just enough to hold off the Dolphins by getting key stops on third down as well as at least one big turn over. My final score is 27-20 Green Bay over Miami.
Jordy Nelson & Randall Cobb – when running against a defense like this, Rodgers has looked more and more towards these two and if Lacy struggles early Rodgers will be more likely to audible to the pass. I expect a few passes to go elsewhere but Cobb and Nelson will each have more targets than the rest of the team combined.
Knowshon Moreno – After returning from elbow injury, expect an easy 100 yards and a touchdown.
Lamar Miller – Miller has had only limited carries in Moreno’s absence and his return should put Miller in a very diminished role.As always, go Pack go! Stu Weis -Journalism graduate 2012, Carroll University