Who really knows what will transpire between the Raiders banged up secondary and Jay Cutler, so there’s really no sense in trying to figure out match-ups in that area. That part of the game will be decided by who can look worse. And they both will probably take turns in that.
The Dolphins have DeVante Parker returning this week, while the Raiders are just trying to field a competent group of corners. Hard to peg specific match-ups in this scenario.
For that reason this game could be decided by what happens elsewhere.
Marshall Newhouse vs Cameron Wake
It’s clear by now that Derek Carr has been dealing with his own issues. He hasn’t been showing the patience to let plays develop, which is a big step back to his early NFL career. Whether his fears of getting destroyed in the pocket are rational or not will depend a great deal upon whether Newhouse can keep Wake from getting pressure.
If Carr is ever able to return to his previous form, he needs to once again develop trust and comfort in the pocket. That could start this week. Or if Wake gets past Newhouse and blows up Carr, that could throw a wrench in those hopes.
Amari Cooper vs Cordrea Tankersley
It’s a Miami homecoming for Amari Cooper, so you can bet he will be looking to show out for his family and friends there. The man tasked with stopping him is rookie Cordrea Tankersley. The third rounder out of Clemson got the starting job in week four and has held onto it ever since. For the most part he’s played well, though he gave up a touchdown catch last week against the Ravens.
Coop broke out two weeks ago with a career game against the Chiefs. He came back to earth last week in Buffalo, but still looked leagues better than he had over the first six weeks of the season in which he racked up a league leading 6 drops. He’s got his mind right and now must guard against trying to do too much in his first trip back to his hometown as a pro.
Kelechi Osemele vs Ndamukong Suh
Suh’s face kick last week probably should have gotten him suspended for this game. But he’s not. He will face off against Osemele who is known for causing a good deal of frustration in those he faces.
Ironically, Marshawn Lynch returns from a one-game suspension for making contact with an official. Whether he is able to get anything going could depend a great deal on who wins between Osemele and Suh.
This season, the Dolphins have been outstanding against the run, holding opponents to under 100 yards rushing per game. Two of the Dolphins’ three games in which they allowed more than 100 yards represent two of their three losses. Thus far the Raiders have yet to field a 100-yard rusher on the season. They don’t necessarily need that this game, but a few good chunk runs could go a long way. KO vs Suh just sounds like a battle I’d like to watch.
Justin Ellis vs Mike Pouncey
Pouncey is a three-time Pro Bowler center. He showed up on the injury report, missing Thursday’s practice with knee and hip issues, but was a full participant on Friday. Ellis’s job will be to test that hip/knee as much as possible.
Ellis has held his own of late for the Raiders. His 30 combined tackles leads all Raiders interior defensive linemen. Pouncey will be attempting to create running lanes for duo of Damien Williams and Kenyan Drake who will be stepping in after the team traded Pro Bowl running back Jay Ajayi away last week. Just when we think this Raiders team has an advantage in a certain area, that ends up biting them. Ellis needs to clog the middle to force all runs elsewhere and he has a tough match-up in Pouncey.
Khalil Mack vs Ja’Wuan James
We officially begin the second half of the season this week which is where Mack has shined throughout his career. He gets stronger as the season progresses with 21.0 of his 34.5 career sacks occurring over the second half of the season. He is currently sitting at 4.5 on the season, which is right at his average over the first 8 games the past two seasons, when he finished with 15.0 and 11.0 sacks.
The Dolphins have relied heavily on the run this season, but they also have the worst offense in the league with that plan. Ajayi being traded suggests they would like to go in another direction with their offensive game plan. Jay Cutler is among the worst starting QB’s in the league, but you give him time and he can carve you up. He also plays significantly worse when under pressure.
Thus far this season, the Dolphins have given up 16 sacks and 40 pressures, which is middle of the road. This is the Raiders’ best chance to finally get their first interception of the season. and the pressure that Mack puts on Cutler could be the key to getting it.