The Miami Dolphins will host the Philadelphia Eagles in a cross-conference matchup on Sunday, a matchup that brings two severely injured teams into a contest for the NFL’s week 13.
Another Dolphin to IR
Miami again couldn’t go a full week without placing another one of its players on injured reserve. Wide receiver and kick returner Jakeem Grant, who just signed a four-year extension in the offseason, wound up on IR for the second straight season. The Dolphins also feared that WR Albert Wilson would land there as well after reaggravating his season-ending hip injury from last season, but the wideout will not carry an injury designation into the game.
WR Isaiah Ford was activated off of Miami’s practice squad in the event Wilson wouldn’t be able to go for the game. It will likely activate Ford for the game just in case Wilson can’t go a full game or another WR goes down. The Dolphins, with Ford, have just four active WRs as Preston Williams, Gary Jennings and Ricardo Louis are already on IR this season.
“He’s (Ford) gone in and been productive in games this year. I think he’s a guy who prepares as well as anyone on this team,” head coach Brian Flores said.
Parker, Hurns to see a lot of work
Miami will rely heavily on WRs DeVante Parker and Allen Hurns, as its running game will only hurt the team in this game. With the Dolphins sticking with running back Kalen Ballage again, who averages under two yards per carry, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick will have to turn to the air again in this game. Fitzpatrick was the team’s leading rusher last week on eight carries, and the week prior, Ballage carried the ball nine times for nine yards.
Parker has double-digit targets in four of his last six games and six targets or more in nine of 11 games this season. He also has 90 yards or a touchdown in three of his last four games when Miami has been without Williams, who was the team’s top receiver before his season-ending ACL tear.
Hurns, who signed a one-year contract in the offseason, recently signed a contract extension and has sneakily been the team’s No. 2 receiver. While his numbers aren’t head-turners, he’s garnering more targets and catches from Fitzpatrick than both Grant and Wilson. He also has 13 targets across the last two games.
“…Nobody can make a play without the 10 other guys,” Flores said. “If you’re a receiver, it’s hard to get any stats as a receiver if somebody doesn’t throw you the football. It’s hard to get any stats running the football if somebody doesn’t block. It’s hard to get an interception if you have no pass rush. It’s hard to get a bunch of sacks if you don’t have guys covering. It’s a team game.”
Injuries piled up for Eagles
The Eagles are coming in with a banged up WR core as well and have some question marks at the RB position.
Philadelphia No.1 WR Alshon Jeffery is expected to play after missing the last two games with a severe ankle injury. However, he likely won’t be at 100-percent. No. 2 WR Nelson Agholor is also now expected to play, however a nagging knee injury has forced him to miss multiple games as well. He hasn’t scored since week three and has no more than 40 total yards since then as well.
J.J. Arcega-Whiteside will step in as the Eagles’ No. 3 WR after the team signed and cut WR Jordan Matthews (who used to play for them, twice) in a span of three weeks. Arcega-Whiteside has just three catches on six targets in the last two weeks when the team needed him most and he didn’t perform.
Former Dolphin Ajayi the back-up with Howard out
As far as running the football goes, starting RB Jordan Howard has been ruled out for the contest, poising Miles Sanders as the starter and former-Dolphin Jay Ajayi as the backup. Howard has missed the last two games for the Eagles, and in that span, Sanders has 101 yards on 23 carries and five catches for 31 yards. Ajayi signed with the team a little more than two weeks ago, during the team’s bye week, and was active last week. He carried the ball six times for 16 yards against Seattle.
Additionally, stud tight end Zach Ertz is likely to miss the game and the team has signed TE Josh Perkins to play in tandem with could-be-starter Dallas Goedert. Goedert will take a production hit if Jeffery is in fact active, but would enter as the team’s second best receiving option.
Finally, with the offensive struggles in the run and receiving game, Eagles QB Carson Wentz hasn’t had the year most expected. He does have over 2,500 yards on the season and a 17:6 TD:INT ratio, but has just one TD in his last five games each. The Dolphins are more vulnerable on the ground than in the air, so Philadelphia will likely have to rely on its run game if it wants to come out of the game with a victory.
With the Dallas Cowboys losing on Thanksgiving at home to the Buffalo Bills, a win would put the Eagles at 6-6 and tied for the division lead. Winning the NFC East is likely the only way either Philadelphia or Dallas can make the playoffs with the strength of the NFC. On the flip side, a tenth loss on the year for the Dolphins would eliminate them from playoff contention.