Okay, even I can't be wholly positive these days. Our defence has taken a step forward, especially with the return of Paschal allowing Hutch to be more of a matchup piece (like I predicted in my article on the new defensive front scheme). We have a kicker who we might be able to trust. But Goff (and by extension, the whole offence) has regressed in a concerning way. 6 points over the last two games isn't going to cut it in this league. This week, we can't even be welcomed to Miami by Will Smith, as we are hosting Tua and the Dolphins.
As per usual, we'll take a look at their roster and how it matches up against ours, and try to work out whether there is a path to victory, before making some predictions.
4-3 (3rd in AFC East)
Expected W/L: 3.0-4.0
Strength of Schedule: .513
Spread (according to SRS): DET +5.92
In the five games he's started, Tua (FP-left hand) has a 4-1 record. He attempts 30 passes a game on average, completing 20.2 of these attempts (67.3%) for 259.2 yards (8.6 Y/A). He averages 1.8 TDs and 0.6 INTs a game. 60.1% of his yards come through the air, with an average of 7.1 CAY per completion and 5.1 YAC per completion. PFR credits him with 8 dropped passes (5.4%), 2 batted passes, 2 throwaways, and 24 bad throws (16.2%). This gives him a passer rating of 105.9, and a QBR of 71.8. Despite the hype surrounding him early in the draft process the year he came out (to the point that the PoDcast had a Tua Talk segment), Tua has at best looked like a Goff-level QB. Therefore he does not scare me at all.
The Miami OL has given up 2.14 sacks per game (t-13th best in the league) for 14.6 yards (15th). This is a sack rate of 5.5% (10th). This suggests that their OL is league average in pass pro. However, they have the fourth-worst pressure rate in the league (27.1%), and only two teams have given up more pressures (75): the Colts and Commanders. They're partly susceptible to giving up hits, as only the Colts have given up more than their 34. Without trying to get too optimistic, given the performances of our DL rookies last week, we could put some pressure on Tua and force him into mistakes. In the running game, they average 2.5 yards before contact per rush, which ties for 19th in the league, which is worrying for them since they run the Shanahan outside zone scheme which gets its backs in open space and so maximises potential yards before contact. Therefore, I do not fear the Dolphins' offensive line, even with the off-season addition of Armstead (LP-toe) at LT.
Mostert (LP-knee) is the clear RB1 in Miami's backfield. He's averaging 12.4 carries a game for 55.4 yards (4.5 Y/A), 2.57 first downs, 0.14 TDs, and 0.86 broken tackles. Edmonds is his backup. He is getting 5.43 carries a game, which he is taking for 15.1 yards (2.8 Y/A), 0.71 first downs, and 0.29 TDs. Gaskin has only appeared in 2 games so far this season, in which he has averaged 2 carries for 4.5 yards (2.25 Y/A) and 0.5 first downs. These numbers look bad for Miami, especially given they run the same scheme that previously made Mostert a fantasy beast in San Fran. For us, however, it gives us a chance to continue to get right in the front seven and build on last week's performance.
Offseason addition from the Chiefs Tyreek Hill is Tua's top target. He gets 11.1 targets a game for 8.14 receptions (73.1%), 0.43 drops (3.8%), 110.4 yards (13.6 Y/R), 4.86 first downs, 0.29 TDs, 0.57 broken tackles and a 102.1 passer rating when targeted. On the opposite side of the field, Waddle (LP-shoulder) is targeted 7.71 times a game for 4.86 catches (63%), 0.43 drops (5.6%), 88.7 yards (18.3 Y/R), 3.86 first downs, 0.43 TDs, 0.29 broken tackles and a 105.6 rating. In the slot, Sherfield catches on average 1.86 receptions a game on 2.86 targets (65%), 18.9 yards (10.2 Y/R), 0.86 first downs and a 62.9 passer rating when targeted. Gesicki gets 3.71 targets a game for 2.57 receptions (69.2%), 0.29 drops (7.7%), 28.1 yards (10.9 Y/R), 1.57 first downs, 0.43 TDs, 0.14 broken tackles and a 113.8 passer rating. Out of the backfield, Mostert gets 2.71 targets for 1.71 receptions (63.2%), 0.14 drops (5.3%), 13.4 yards (7.8 Y/R), 0.71 first downs, 0.14 TDs, 0.57 broken tackles and a 92.9 rating. If we can find a way to negate Hill and Waddle, we could shut down their passing game and force them to be one-dimensional.
The Dolphins favour 11 personnel, having lined up in it for 52% of plays this season for 0.11 EPA/play and an 81% pass rate. Their next favoured set is 21, which they use 33% of the time for 0.03 EPA/play and a 48% pass rate. They have only lined up without someone in the backfield for 2 snaps this season, which has resulted in 0.01 EPA/play and a 100% pass rate. Overall, they pass on 67% of their plays, which makes sense considering the relative failure of their run game, and create 0.04 EPA/play.
In terms of trying to match up against their offence, I think we should play C2/4 looks to keep everything in front of us. While Tua's deep ball doesn't scare me, I don't want to risk letting HIll and Waddle free on broken coverages for big plays. This will also allow Okudah to crash downhill on run plays like he did last week against Dallas, which will also help in that phase of the game.
Their leading tackler is ILB Jerome Baker (LP-hip), who averages 5.43 tackles a game, 3.71 of which are solo. He also averages 0.29 TFLs a game, and 0.71 missed tackles a game (11.6% miss rate). Beside him, Roberts averages 5.29 tackles (2.57 of these being solo), 0.57 TFLs and 0.71 missed tackles (11.9%) a game. On the outside, Phillips gets 3 tackles a game, 1.29 of which are solo, 0.57 TFLs and 0.71 missed tackles (19.2%). Bookending Phillips is Ingram, who gets 1.57 tackles a game (1.29 solo), 0.57 TFLs and 0.29 missed tackles (15.4%). On the line, Wilkins (LP-hand) gets 5.43 tackles (3.14 solo), 0.86 TFLs and 0.14 missed tackles (2.6%) a game. Davis gets 0.5 solo tackles, 1.5 assisted, 0.17 TFLs and 0 missed tackles a game. On the other side, Ogbah (LP-back) makes 1.67 tackles (1.17 solo), 0.17 TFLs and 0.14 missed tackles (9.1%) a game. The fact that one of their leading tackles is their DT suggests that they can stop runs at or around the line of scrimmage. However, the amount of missed tackles also suggests that if the DL can be passed, explosive runs could be made, which leans into Swift's (FP-ankle/shoulder) skillset.
Phillips leads Miami in pressures with 1.43 a game, with these pressures split evenly between sacks, hits and hurries (0.43 each) [two of the sacks were half sacks so count as a pressure each]. Ogbah is next with a pressure a game, averaging 0.43 hits and hurries a game, and 0.14 sacks. Ingram averages 0.86 pressures a game, 0.29 of which are sacks, 0.43 hurries and 0.14 hits. Wilkins creates 0.43 pressures a game; 0.07 sacks, 0.14 hits and 0.14 hurries. Van Ginkel gets 0.14 pressures a game, all of which are hits. Davis gets 0.28 pressures a game, with 0.14 sacks and 0.14 hits. As you can tell, you shut Phillips down, you shut down their pass rush. This is to be expected when the human highlight reel known as Trey Flowers is on IR.
Howard (LP-groin) gets targeted 5.67 times a game for 3.67 completions (64.7%), 60 yards (16.4 Y/C), 0.83 PDs, 0.5 TDs and a 129.5 passer rating in coverage. On the other side, Igbinoghene is targeted 3 times a game for 1.4 catches (46.7%), 16.4 yards (11.7 Y/C), 0.6 PDs, 0.2 INTs, 0.2 TDs and a 58.2 rating. In the slot, Kohou (LP-oblique) gives up 4 catches a game on 5.8 targets (69%), 46.6 yards (11.7 Y/C), 0.4 PDs, 0.2 TDs and a 104.5 rating in coverage. Baker allows 2.43 catches a game on 3.29 targets (73.9%), 18.7 yards (7.7 Y/C), 0.29 PDs and an 87.4 passer rating in coverage. On the backend, Rowe gets targeted 3 times a game for 2.33 catches (77.8%), 32 yards (13.7 Y/C) and a 111.1 passer rating. Holland gets targeted twice a game for 1.14 catches (57.1%), 13.6 yards (11.9 Y/C), 0.57 PDs, 0.29 INTs and a 38.4 passer rating. For someone who is supposed to be an elite corner, Howard has been meh this season, Goff shouldn't be scared of testing him if the right circumstances are there. Getting Swift and Hock (LP-knee) lined up on Baker could also be a mismatch in our favour.
On defence, Miami still favours the Bellichekian 335 that former HC Flores brought over. They line up in this personnel 32% of the time for -0.04 EPA/play and a 65% pass rate. They line up in base 344 30% of the time for 0.17 EPA/play and a 56% pass rate. They also line up in 434 10% of the time, giving up -0.23 EPA/play and a 48% pass rate. They have lined up in a form of dime on 16% of plays for 0.21 EPA/play and 93% pass rate, and quarter coverage 1% of the time for -0.16 EPA/play and a 100% pass rate. Overall they face a 65% pass rate and give up 0.03 EPA/play.
So what would I do if I were Ben Johnson? Firstly, get the ball in Swift's hands if he's healthy. If he's not, use Craig Reynolds. Get the ball outside the tackles, into space where the back can force broken/missed tackles. In the passing game, use the Sun God (LP-concussion) and Hock. If Reynolds (LP-knee) draws Howard in coverage, test him. Hopefully, a game behind our good OL against Miami's weakened pass rush can help Goff regain confidence and draw the offence out of the deep dark hole it's been in over the past few weeks.
Sanders is perfect within 50 yards but has missed all three of his attempts over 50
Morstead (DNP-illness) is averaging 45.8 yards per punt
Despite having some of the quickest players in the league, the Dolphins are like a fish out of water returning punts and kicks
Keys to Victory:
Don't miss tackles- Mostert, Hill and Waddle are some of the quickest players in the league. If we miss a tackle, they could take the ball to the house for six quicker than you can say "Maurice Alexander has been signed to the practice squad"
Keep it simple- Sounds obvious, but don't try and get too clever and overthink things. Otherwise, we'll just lose the game for ourselves
Don't overdo it on fourth- While we love MCDC's aggressiveness, sometimes it's too much. It cost us the game against Minnesota when things were winnable. Let's not do that again.
Goff: 22/34, 260 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 107.5 passer rating, 1 carry, 5 yards
Swift: 8 carries, 50 yards, 5 targets, 3 catches, 45 yards
Hock: 6 targets, 4 catches, 60 yards, 1 TD
Hutch: 4 tackles (2 solo), 0.5 TFLs, 3 pressures, 1 sack
Rodrigo: 9 tackles (6 solo), 0.5 TFLs, 1 pressure
Okudah: 10 tackles (9 solo), 1 PD
Tua: 19/30, 225 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 83.3 passer rating, 2 carries, 5 yards
Mostert: 13 carries, 60 yards, 1 TD, 3 targets, 1 catch, 5 yards
Waddle: 9 targets, 7 catches, 80 yards, 1 TD, 2 carries, 15 yards
Phillips: 4 tackles (3 solo), 0.5 TFLs, 2 pressures, 0.5 sacks
Baker: 8 tackles (6 solo), 0.5 TFLs, 1 pressure
Howard: 4 tackles (3 solo), 1 PD
Hot take: Goff gets more rushing yards than the Dolphins get punt return yards
Score: Lions 27, Dolphins 23
How do you think the game will go? Can our Lions eat some Dolphin soup, or will they drag us into the depths and drown us? Who do you think will be the stat leaders, and what will the final score be?
Pod Links: linktr.ee/roarofthelionsuk