Miami Dolphins (4-4) at San Diego Chargers (4-5)
Sunday November 13, 2016 1:00 PM CBS
Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, California
Just when you think the San Diego Chargers are dead, they pull off a victory and breathe life into their season.
Last week against the Titans, the Chargers continued to progress, but is it too late for the team to overcome key injuries and vital mistakes that plagued them early in the season? Coach McCoy appears to have made it through all the #FireMcCoy talk for now, but in reality a bad loss could easily fuel that fire once again. The team must concentrate and get the job done each week to save the job of their coach.
At 4-5 the Chargers have a chance in a more than capable AFC West, but they have to continue to play hard and there is no more room for failure.
The Dolphins head into Qualcomm Stadium having won their last three games behind the power running of Jay Ajayi. The Bolts must contain this young man if they want a chance at victory. The Dolphins will likely try to run the ball and control the time of possession aspect of the game. It’s an easy thing to say, but a lot of teams are having trouble this season consistently running the ball on the San Diego Chargers, something that they had much more success with in the past.
The Bolts are coming into a very favorable portion of their schedule. If they can get this “W” and move into the bye week with a .500 record, then they can possibly make a decent run at the playoffs. There is still a long road ahead of them, as each of their division rivals is above them in the standings, but stranger things have happened.
The Chargers should be able to handle the Dolphins this week, but they must stick to their game plan. Here are some keys on both sides of the ball for the Chargers. A victory this week would be huge for the team as they continue to roll towards a possible playoff run.
Chargers on Offense
Melvin Gordon put on a show last week against the Tennessee Titans. He was a one man wrecking crew. In my opinion, he will have some difficulty this week, and with that, the Chargers will utilize Philip Rivers and the passing game more. Travis Benjamin is iffy to play on Sunday and Tyrell Williams is also banged up presently. The Chargers do look to be getting Hunter Henry back this week to some degree, so expect plenty of dual tight end sets. Antonio Gates should have another decent game working the middle on short routes with Henry running down the seam to stretch the defense a bit.
Dontrelle Inmann should have a decent game, as Rivers will constantly look for the open receiver. The Dolphins do not have the personnel to cover all the Chargers offensive options, so it could be a long day for them. The Chargers O-Line must protect Philip Rivers though, and keep pressure away from him. Cameron Wake and Andre Branch are the edge rushes, and Mario Williams also gets playing time as well. If Rivers has the time to assess the defense, then he will make the correct throw. He should be able to pick apart the Dolphins secondary on Sunday.
Chargers on Defense
The two missing inside linebackers remains an issue. Both Denzel Perryman and Jatavis Brown are vital to the team’s success, and not having either suit up will once again be a challenge for the Bolts. Korey Toomer stepped up last week, as did Kyle Emanuel. Both young men will need to continue to adapt and grow in the middle of the defense for the Chargers. Toomer has great ability to run downfield with receivers, an area that Bolts’ linebackers have traditionally had trouble with. I expected to see more out of Joshua Perry last week, but he was quiet. Perhaps this is the week he contributes big time on defense for the Chargers.
The secondary has been a concern all year. Jahleel Addae is close to returning from a bum shoulder. Dwight Lowery has been average all season, something that he’s been pretty well-known for. He will not wow you with his ability, but at the same time he will not kill a defense. That play might be adequate, but without a playmaking safety next to him, it’s just boring. Dexter McCoil has shown many growing pains in his opportunity to play the position. He has great size, but lacks lateral movement and speed to utilize his ability. Thankfully, the Dolphins don’t have the type of offense to damage the Chargers consistently in the air. Kenny Stills will need to be contained on the outside, however. He is a speed receiver, and the former high school standout from the area (La Costa Canyon High) would love to score a TD in his return home.
Players to Watch
Jay Ajayi– He has run for 529 yards on 77 carries in the last three games, and has also scored four touchdowns on the ground for the Dolphins. Stopping him will be a key factor for the Chargers on Sunday. The RB out of Boise State is a great runner, but he is not presently being showcased in the passing game. The second-year back will be a huge key to the game. That cannot be reiterated enough.
Melvin Gordon– Although I believe Gordon will not have a huge game running the ball, he should still be able to break a few decent runs here and there. Expect the Chargers to use him in the passing game this week as the running back has constantly shown more versatility this year. He is truly an all-around running back in the NFL now. Kiko Alonso will probably shadow Gordon, and he is a sure tackler with plus athletic ability. The middle linebacker is in his first season in Miami after playing the last two in Buffalo and Philadelphia.
Ryan Tannehill– The Chargers should be able to stop Ajayi on first and second down, and that should put the game in Tannehill’s hands. He has only thrown eight touchdowns this year, verses seven picks. His confidence is low, and the Chargers must keep it that way. Knock him down, pressure him, and get in his face every chance you get, and the Bolts should easily survive. That is if you have stopped the run first.
Joey Bosa– There should be opportunities to get to Tannehill in the game as the Dolphins will have many third down chances. Bosa is due for a big game and the Dolphins line might have trouble containing both him and Melvin Ingram. Expect coach Pagano to dial up some exotic blitz packages that allow Bosa to get to Tannehill and hit him.
Matchup to Watch
The Chargers defensive front against Jay Ajayi
Plainly and simply, this is where the game will be won. If the Dolphins get 120-plus yards from Ajayi, then it is going to be a long day for the Chargers. If Rivers is on the bench, he cannot score. That is a game plan most teams will start to try to utilize against the Chargers. Corey Liuget, Brandon Mebane, and company will have to clog the holes and contain Ajayi, while the rest of the team gang-tackles the running back. He is hard to bring down right now, as the kid has tons of confidence. They cannot allow him to get going or it could mean trouble.
As was the key last week, the Chargers must contain Jay Ajayi to win this game. They must keep the Dolphins out of short yardage situations and make Ryan Tannehill beat them. The Dolphins defense will not be able to handle Rivers, who will pick them apart on Sunday. Melvin Gordon will be effective, but not brilliant. This game will fall on Rivers’ shoulders and he will succeed, throwing three TDs and totaling over 300 yards in the air. The Chargers will have an easy win, breezing to a 34-17 victory heading into the bye week. At 5-5, Chargers’ fans are left pondering what could have been if the team didn’t give away games early in the season. So is life for a San Diego Sports fan. What if…