San Diego Chargers (5-3 SU, 4-4 ATS) vs. Miami Dolphins (4-3 SU, 4-3 ATS)
NFL Week 9
Date and Time: Sunday, November 2, 2014 at 1:00 p.m. EST
Where: Sun Life Stadium
TV: CBS, DTV 707
by Vesper Abadon, Pro Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: SD +2 /Mia -2
Over/Under Total: 44
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For the first time this season the Miami Dolphins strung together back-to-back wins. Their latest, a 27-13 win on the road against the Jacksonville Jaguars, brought them above .500 and theyre firmly in the Playoff hunt at 4-3. However, their upcoming schedule only gets tougher beginning this Sunday when they host the San Diego Chargers.
The Chargers are coming off a 21-35 Thursday night loss to the Denver Broncos in which Philip Rivers went 30 of 41 for 252 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. It was a decent game for Rivers, who is currently the NFLs third-best quarterback behind Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers. So far this season Rivers has gone 185 of 271 for 2,213 yards, 20 touchdowns, and five interceptions good for a 109.9 rating.
That gives the Chargers the leagues 8th-best passing game averaging 267.5 passing yards per game (YPG). Rivers favorite receiver has been Keenan Allen, who has 43 receptions for 427 yards (9.9 Avg) and a touchdown, though fellow wide receiver Malcom Floyd has torn it up catching 24 passes for 470 yards (19.6 Avg) and three touchdowns. Toss in tight end Antonio Gates (32 receptions for 417 yards and nine touchdowns) and receiver Eddie Royal (26 receptions for 374 yards and five touchdowns), and the Chargers have a formidable receiving corps.
Unfortunately their rushing game which is ranked 30th averaging 85.8 YPG — doesnt compliment it in the least. With Ryan Matthews out of the picture, rookie Branden Oliver has gotten the bulk of the carries and has rushed 85 times for 352 yards (4.1 Avg) and a pair of touchdowns. All told the Chargers have the 15th-ranked offense, while their defense is ranked 10th holding opponents to an average of 330 total yards (219.1 passing YPG; 110.9 rushing YPG) and 18.6 points per game (PPG).
Thats not too far behind the Dolphins defense, which ranks 7th holding opponents to an average of 322.7 total YPG (211.6 passing YPG; 111.1 rushing YPG) and 21.6 PPG. The Fins defense is on a roll too considering two from their secondary — Louis Delmas and Brent Grimes both registered pick sixes against Blake Bortles.
Offensively the Dolphins rank 13th in the league averaging 355 total YPG. That includes the 6th-best rushing game (138 YPG) and 25th passing (217 YPG). The running game has been especially effective for the Dolphins with Lamar Miller, who took over the starting role when Knowshon Moreno was placed on injured reserve, proving to be a capable back. So far this season hes rushed 95 times for 469 yards (4.9 Avg) and four touchdowns).
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The rushing game has also gotten a boost from quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who has been keeping the ball more as the coaches open up the playbook with designed runs. Its given the offense a much-needed spark as hes averaging 7.3 yards per carry having rushed 27 times for 198 yards. Through the air Tannehill has gone 154 of 247 for 1,619 hands, 11 touchdowns, and six interceptions good for a 25th-ranked QB rating of 86.1.
Tannehill has developed a fine chemistry with wide receiver Mike Wallace, who has 32 receptions for 418 yards (13.1 Avg) and five touchdowns, but it seems to have come at the expense of the other receivers. Granted, rookie Jarvis Landry is making a big impact having caught 25 passes for 255 yards (10.2 Avg) and a touchdown, but where have Brian Hartline (20 receptions for 215 yards and a touchdown) and tight end Charles Clay (22 receptions for 205 yards and a touchdown) been? Hartline is coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, but hes nowhere near doing it again.
Still, the Chargers have a banged-up secondary, and that should allow the Dolphins to take advantage. If Wallace is double teamed, much like the Chargers did to Demaryius Thomas, that will open the door for the other receivers to step up to the plate. The Broncos Emmanuel Sanders did just that when he caught nine passes for 120 yards and three touchdowns against Chargers, so whos to say Hartline or Landry cant do the same?
Vespers Pick to Cover the Point Spread: The line is tight, but its just about right. If the Dolphins werent playing at home theyd be the dogs, but as it is the Chargers get a +2 cushion to work with. Even so, I like the Dolphins to win this game.
I think theyll stuff the Chargers run game which will allow their red-hot secondary to focus on stopping Rivers and company. That could prove easier said than done, but I also think the Chargers will have trouble stopping the Dolphins. The ground threat of Miller will force the Chargers to stack the box, and that will leave their secondary susceptible to Tannehill, who found nine different receivers last week.
I like the Chargers passing game, but their rushing game is abysmal and their defense is hurting. On the flip side, the Dolphins passing game need improvement, but they get it done both on the ground and on the defensive side of the ball. As you can see, one of these teams have two-thirds of the puzzle solved, and thats why Im going with the Miami Dolphins to win this game while covering the spread.