Opponent by the Numbers: Miami Dolphins Week 10

An analytic look at the Packers' Week 10 opponent: the Miami Dolphins. 

This is it. After sputtering for the first half of the season, this Packers team has left itself very little wiggle room for the rest of the season, with some tough games still remaining on the schedule.

It’d be foolish to say that every game is a must-win for the rest of the year, but it’s not far from the truth. With four losses and a tie, the Packers can slip up maybe only one more time and still make the playoffs. Two losses in the second half of the season would leave them at 9-6-1, and the Packers would need some help to sneak in as a No. 6 seed and wild card.

All of that is to say that this game against the 5-4 Dolphins is of vital importance.

Despite a winning record, Adam Gase’s squad hasn’t had a smooth season so far. Just last week two-time Pro Bowl safety Reshad Jones inexplicably removed himself from the second half of the Dolphins’ win over the Jets. Add some injuries, especially at quarterback, and the Dolphins are an unpredictable and uncommon opponent for the Packers.

Minus-38

When I write this feature every week, I begin by researching team statistics on various websites and look for numbers or rankings on the extremes, indicating strengths and weaknesses relative to the rest of the NFL. The 2018 Miami Dolphins, however, are incredibly average. It’s astounding. Their total DVOA, according to Football Outsiders, ranks 14th in the league, including the 17th-ranked offense and 19th-ranked defense. A 5-4 team that’s average shouldn’t be a surprise, right?

Yet the Dolphins have been outscored by 38 points this season, giving them a Pythagorean win-loss of 3.5-5.5. This team has piled up a few close wins, while all their losses have come by double-digits. Miami has beaten the Titans, Raiders, Bears and the Jets twice: hardly inspiring stuff. If the Packers fancy themselves a playoff team—and they damn well better—this Dolphins team shouldn’t present a tremendous challenge at Lambeau Field.

4.44

One moderate strength of this team is its two-headed running game, led by an offensive line that’s generating an average of 4.44 adjusted line yards per carry, according to Football Outsiders. That figure ranks 10th in the NFL, but as porous as the Packers’ rush defense has been in recent weeks, this could be a concerning matchup for Mike McCarthy and Co.

Frank Gore is fourth in NFL history with over 14,000 rushing yards, and he continues to be effective in his mid-30s. Gore is Miami’s leader rusher this year and is averaging 4.2 yards per carry. Meanwhile Kenyan Drake is averaging 4.8 yards per carry in relief duty, to go along with his 31 receptions.

To make matters worse, the Dolphins excel at running outside to their left side, ranking third and fifth in adjusted line yards off left tackle and left end, respectively. The Packers have struggled tremendously to set the edge on these types of rushes.

The Packers have played very little of this season with a lead, and an early offensive outburst may be the Green Bay’s best hope of stopping a strong rushing attack. If Miami can hang around, that dual rushing attack might wear down Green Bay’s thin defensive line.

55.6

This is the total passing grade assigned to the Dolphins this season by Pro Football Focus, the fifth worst mark in the league.

While Ryan Tannehill will miss his fifth consecutive game with an injury in his throwing shoulder, the Dolphins don’t fare much differently with Brock Osweiler under center. In about equal playing time this season, Tannehill and Osweiler have almost identical passer ratings and completion percentages. The offense has become more conservative under Osweiler, with the tall 28-year-old throwing fewer touchdowns and fewer interceptions, but the Miami is a team with uninspiring quarterback play regardless.

15

The one statistic that truly stands out about the Dolphins is their league-leading 15 interceptions on defense. It is worth noting that six of those interceptions came in two games against the Jets and rookie quarterback Sam Darnold, but Miami appears to have an opportunistic group.

Through all of Aaron Rodgers’ relative struggles this season, he’s still been incredible at protecting the ball. This week he may have to be extra careful against a ball-hawking secondary.

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Matt Kelley is a staff writer for Cheesehead TV. He can be found on Twitter via @hustleandheart1

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Comments (10)

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GBPDAN1's picture

November 09, 2018 at 03:35 pm

Dear, Packers. Please win this game. Thank you!

PS; please win this game while resting Martinez, Brice, King, Bulaga and other injured players that are questionable. We need them to be ready for the short week Seachickens game

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ricky's picture

November 09, 2018 at 04:02 pm

San Francisco seemed like a statistically easy win, also. Yet they took the Packers down to the wire after leading most of the game. The Packers need to start believing they're going to win, rather than waiting for that "other shoe" to drop.

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Lare's picture

November 09, 2018 at 04:04 pm

Simply put, if the Packers lose to the Dolphins at home their season is over.

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Leatherhead's picture

November 09, 2018 at 06:24 pm

And the flip side of that would be that if we win, we're 4-4-1 and in the thick of it.

Looking at the division.....The Bears play at home against the Lions, at home against Minnesota, and on the road in Detroit on Thanksgiving Day.

The Biqueens are off this week, then play at the Bears and home against the Packers. I'm thinking they'll lose both, then go on the road against New England and lose again.

Obviously, our games against Minnesota and the Bears are huge. But we're certainly still in the thick of this.

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murphy's picture

November 09, 2018 at 04:07 pm

"Through all of Aaron Rodgers’ relative struggles this season, he’s still been incredible at protecting the ball"

He's also been pretty lucky a few times.

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Leatherhead's picture

November 09, 2018 at 06:26 pm

I read a statistical study that went over basically every QB since the merger, and if you're not throwing at least one pick every 80 throws, you're getting lucky. Even a very good QB during a very good season will usually throw that many. But some picks are just unlucky and can't be avoided.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

November 09, 2018 at 04:24 pm

You do manage to find and report some interesting numbers. Per Ben Fennell, GB ranked 8th in TD efficiency in both 2016 and 2017, and ranks 20th this season, the first year an MM team has dropped below average. I am still looking for the definition of "TD efficiency" since I heard it on a podcast featuring Fennell.

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Leatherhead's picture

November 09, 2018 at 06:14 pm

TD efficiency is just the number of TD drives divided by the number of drives. Three TD drives in 10 possessions.....30%. And that'd be pretty good, actually. If you didn't kick any field goals or anything, that'd mean 21 points in 10 drives, or 2.1 points/drive

Green Bay is 2.03 points/drive, which is middle of the pack. Two teams, New Orleans and KC, are over 3.00.

They also keep that as a separate red zone stat: What percentage of redzone possessions result in a TD? The Packers, of course, score a lot of TDs from outside the redzone so I'm not sure how relevant that number is.

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LeotisHarris's picture

November 09, 2018 at 06:32 pm

That's all interesting data, but the only numbers that matter are how much revenue is generated by the Roehl Red Zone, the Kohler Kickoff, and if Janice in West Bend wins a Menards gift card when the Packers score from more than 67 yards away.

Has Murphy announced a partnership with Slim Jims yet?

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

November 10, 2018 at 08:53 am

Much appreciated, Old School. It is interesting. People can talk about DVOA all they want, but points per drive to me is a better indicator. Ben Fennell noted that in 2017 Kizer was an average starting QB by stats between the twenties but was awful in the red zone and in putting up points.

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