The Los Angeles Rams would be elated to enter their midseason bye week with a 6-2 record. Few people predicted that the Rams would be able to rebound as quickly and resoundingly as they have to open 2020 but Sean McVay’s team has been one of the most efficient in the NFL at passing, rushing and stopping the pass.
The team standing in between 6-2 and 5-3 is the Miami Dolphins, a franchise that not many are taking lightly anymore following a 43-17 win over the 49ers and a 24-0 shutout against the Jets in their last two games. Despite their own low expectations from the national media headed into the season and the fact that they benched their starting quarterback this week, the Dolphins could be a popular pick to make a run in the AFC, especially if they knock off Los Angeles.
The Dolphins are 3-3 and starting rookie Tua Tagovailoa with the hope that if they’re this good now, maybe they could actually be a contender to win the AFC East and at least a little bit more.
We think we know a lot about these teams but we were wrong about plenty of our pre-season predictions already. Here are some thoughts headed into this Sunday’s game that we could also be wrong about.
Tua Tagovailoa could defy your expectations
The Dolphins are starting Tagovailoa, the fifth overall pick in this year’s draft, for the first time this Sunday. There may not be a consensus on how he is expected to perform but however you feel, positively or negatively, you could be wrong.
Offensive coordinator Chan Gailey says that he thinks Tagovailoa will “play great” and that the expectations are for him to make good throws and good decisions in the run game. Teammate Shaq Lawson says that after watching him in practice for a while, Tagovailoa is “incredible” and that his debut is going to be “incredible.”
One Madden simulation went with 24 of 38, 282 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT and 1 Fumble.
The Rams also feature one of the top pass defenses in the NFL thanks to Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey, so a reasonable expectation could be that Tagovailoa is not going to be one of the best rated passers this week, to put it mildly. Quarterbacks often struggle in their debuts and the early parts of their careers and Tagovailoa hasn’t played in a game since injuring his hip on November 16 of last year.
If you think Tagovailoa will have an exciting and productive debut like Justin Herbert or Marcus Mariota or Cam Newton, you might be surprised with a poor performance. The entire spectrum of possibilities exists for Tagovailoa because he has yet to truly play in an NFL game.
If you think Tagovailoa will struggle because of those reasons and/or others, you might be surprised with a dominant performance against a top-ranked defense.
Jalen Ramsey could get beat by DeVante Parker or others
Parker has been limited in practice this week with a groin injury, but if he suits up and starts he could potentially give Ramsey some issues on Sunday. Parker caught 72 of 128 targets for 1,202 yards and nine touchdowns last season despite playing for Miami and the former first rounder now gets to pair with his most talented quarterback partner to date.
Three weeks ago against the Seahawks, Parker caught 10 of 12 targets for 110 yards. Two weeks ago against the 49ers, he made two catches of over 20 yards. He’s been a solid deep threat with Ryan Fitzpatrick, so what he’s going to look like with Tagovailoa?
Ramsey may be the best corner in the NFL but even this week against the Bears we saw him get beat against a quarterback who isn’t able to complete his deep opportunities.
Free Darnell Mooney pic.twitter.com/HZIaXwiUYm— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) October 28, 2020
Teammate Preston Williams has just as many 20+ yard receptions as Parker, but his 47 and 32-yard catches this season are longer than any by Parker. Tight end Mike Gesicki has hauled in deep passes to go for 70 yards, 27 yards and 23 yards. Watch out for Miami’s deep threats this week.
Jared Goff could get sacked more than twice
The Rams quarterback has only been sacked eight times all season and never more than twice in any game. He was only sacked 22 times in 2019 and his career-high in sacks is 33 back in 2018. Goff has a number of skills but avoiding costly sacks and getting rid of the ball quickly might be up there as his most valuable.
One the other side of the field, the Dolphins defense features Emmanuel Ogbah as their leading pass rusher with five sacks and 10 QB hits. Ogbah has never had six sacks in a season but was slowed by injuries and could be a premier pass rusher in this league right now. Outside of him though, Miami doesn’t have a clear second-best option.
Andrew Van Ginkel, Jerome Baker and Kyle Van Noy are the other players on the Dolphins with at least two sacks.
In the last seven games where Jared Goff was sacked multiple times, the Rams are 1-6 with Week 4’s win against the Giants as the only victory. They are 10-3 in the other contests over that time frame.