Coaches will strut and preen, players will laugh and grin with malice. But we’re here to tell you right now that there may not be 2 teams in the country who are happier to see each other right now than the Miami Dolphins and the Oakland Raiders.
Miami’s quarterback situation is putrid. Coaches are stuck between the choice of playing Jay Cutler, a boo-boo faced ne’er do well who isn’t getting any younger, or the equally-ineffectual Matt Moore. The club has somehow salvaged a 4-3 record to this point, but last week’s 40-0 loss to Baltimore confirmed what everyone suspected. The Dolphins are a castle in the sand.
But Oakland isn’t faring much better. The Silver & Black have had issues of their own on offense, namely a pronounced slump from QB Derek Carr. A surprise 31-30 win over Kansas City on Thursday Night Football is the lone bright spot in what would otherwise be a 6-game losing streak.
Miami, however, has allowed the highest completion % in the league. And Carr has been showing signs of life over the past pair of games. Furthermore, all it usually takes to out-play Cutler is a steady, solid performance under center. That makes the Dolphins an inviting target for a Raider unit hoping to regroup and refocus.
Who: Oakland Raiders at Miami Dolphins
When: Sunday, November 5th, 8:30 PM EST
Where: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami, FL
Lines: Oak (-3) at Miami (+3) / O/U Total: (44)
The Dolphins’ starting offensive backfield is returning to play for a unit ranked last in the NFL. Marshawn Lynch will be back after his one-game suspension for shoving an official in Oakland’s Week 7 win over Kansas City. But the aging running back has struggled, gaining only 3.7 yards per carry in 2017.
Cutler, meanwhile, deserves an ice hockey analogy. There are talented skaters who seem to get traded from one NHL team to another so often, their wives and children must feel like gypsies. Many are European players who have limited checking ability in the bang-and-crash National Hockey League, so they score at almost a point-per-game clip and coaches love them…until they realize they’re dealing with a minus-player.
Then another coaching staff looks at the same player passing and scoring, and thinks “well, in our system we can make him a plus player.” So they trade for him. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Jay Cutler is a minus player. He can have a really bad game on any given Sunday (or Sunday night) and is only useful for a very strong, if wild, arm. If the Dolphins had a great running game to make it easy for him, things might be different. But at this point, Miami’s 31-28 comeback win over the Jets seems more like teetering before the free fall than a watershed. The reality was laid bare last week.
Can the Raiders take advantage? It’s not as if the club has been stunted running the football throughout the entirety of Carr’s malaise. The defense has played okay in spots – holding the Chargers to 2.9 yards per carry in a 17-16 loss a couple of weeks ago.
But in general, Carr has felt pressure to get the ball into the hands of Michael Crabtree and other talented receivers, with the team swamped by mistakes and turnovers and rarely leading at halftime. It’s a constant cycle of catch-up, which is quite bad for the still-developing signal-caller.
Even in defeat last week against the Bills, Carr was pretty good. The defense allowed Buffalo to control the game, and the Skull & Bones’ real problem was the lack of rushing attempts through 4 quarters.
Take the Raiders to cover. Coaches should be able to make adjustments, and Carr needs a balanced offense to thrive. Life will get easier against the Dolphins’ secondary.