The Miami Dolphins are coming off of a strong upset victory against the Los Angeles Rams, where they controlled the majority of the game thanks to their defense. While they forced four turnovers from Rams quarterback Jared Goff, none came from their cornerbacks. Is this a sign that week nine could be more of the same with more devastating results?
Murray, Hopkins, Cardinals: Pushing for NFC West Title
Going into week nine Miami (4-3) will be flying across the country to Arizona to face off against a strong Cardinals team that features the duo of QB Kyler Murray and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. They headline the 5-2 Cardinals offense that will be fresh off of their bye week and in second place in the NFC West and very much alive in the chase for not only the playoffs, but for the division title.
Miami Defense: Allowing Least Points Scored in NFL
The Miami defense has been strong throughout the first half of the season, giving up the least amount of points so far with 130 through seven games and forcing a turnover on 16 percent of defensive drives. The Dolphins defense has been the main bright spot of the season, helping get Miami into the playoff hunt, as it currently sits ninth but is tied with the Las Vegas Raiders (eighth) in record and only a half game out of that seventh spot.
Xavien Howard: Most INTs in NFL
Dolphins’ CB Xavien Howard will have his hands full trying to slow down the potent attack of Hopkins on Sunday. Despite the zero takeaways against LA, Howard is having one of his best seasons of his career. He currently leads the league with four interceptions and has 18 tackles (14 solo). He has also been healthy and efficient, playing all seven games this year and allowing just two touchdowns so far.
Hopkins, Murray Finding Quick Success in First Year Together
Hopkins has had a very strong first season in Arizona after being traded from the Houston Texans in the offseason. He has four 100-yard games so far and has also scored three times on the season. Hopkins is leading the league in receptions, yards and yards per game and looks to be on his way to helping Arizona make the playoffs for the first time since 2015.
Murray is also a big part in Hopkins’ success this season and Miami needs to prepare for Murray’s athleticism and versatility just as much, especially since the Dolphins’ run defense has struggled multiple times this season.
“It’s very hard, he’s one of those quarterbacks who’s young but he’s definitely dynamic. We’ve just got to do a lot of different things to make it hard on him,” Miami linebacker Jerome Baker said. “Just throw him different looks, throwing pressure at him, whatever it is. Our coaching staff does a great job of doing that and getting us ready for that.”
“He Likes to Push Off”, “Who’s Xavien Howard?”
For Howard and Hopkins this won’t be the first time they have matched up before. Back in 2018 when Hopkins was with the Texans the two went head-to-head and he had six receptions (seven targets) for 82 yards and two TDs. It was his first of two two-TD games that season (New York Jets).
Hopkins and Howard are regarded as some of the league’s best at their respective positions and the two know it. Earlier this week Howard was asked about his upcoming matchup with Hopkins and responded “I see he likes to push off a lot”. Word apparently traveled quickly back to Hopkins, as when asked the same question responded, “Who’s Xavien Howard?”
Arizona Offense Full of Weapons, Dolphins Secondary Faces Tall Task
In their upcoming matchup it would not be surprising to see Howard spend a majority of his snaps defending Hopkins. However, CB Byron Jones, opposite Howard, could shadow him as well. The Cardinals also have the likes of WRs Christian Kirk and Larry Fitzgerald at their disposal with a rushing threat of Chase Edmonds, who is in line to start, with starter and former Dolphin, Kenyan Drake out with injury.
With Arizona’s high caliber offensive attack, Howard and the rest of the Miami defense will have their hands full regardless and will need to stay ready in order to keep Murray, Hopkins, and the rest of the Cardinals offense out of the endzone and off the field.