For the second week in a row the Miami Dolphins will look to eliminate a team from the playoff contention and inch one step closer to a postseason berth of their own.
Seeking its 200th all-time road win on Saturday night in prime time, Miami will make its first ever trip to the Raiders’ new home in Las Vegas for a date with QB Derek Carr and a reeling Raiders team.
Dolphins Essentially in Must-Win Situation, Can Eliminate Raiders
Despite sitting at 7-7 and still mathematically alive for this year’s playoffs, Las Vegas was once 6-3 and needs way more than to win out to have a shot at the postseason dance. If Miami (9-5) wins out against them and in week 17 against the Buffalo Bills, it’s in. The Dolphins have already taken step one of three to making the playoffs after completing their comeback win last week in their home finale against the New England Patriots. Miami was kind enough to hand them their pink slip for postseason elimination and hope to do the same in front of a national audience on Saturday night.
“Our playoffs are this week against the Raiders,” Dolphins head coach Brian Flores said. It’s one game at a time. It’s a one game season.”
Miami isn’t eliminated with a loss, but it falls out of the driver seat and would likely no longer control its own destiny. It would fall into the hands of the Baltimore Ravens, who have the same record as the Dolphins, but are currently on the outside looking in based on regular season tiebreakers. But, with Baltimore finishing the regular season against the New York Giants and Cincinnati Bengals, a significantly easier schedule, the Dolphins cannot take any chances with dropping any final remaining games.
Miami to Face Carr, Should Continue to Find Success in Defensive Takeaways
Miami will have its hands full with Carr, who has cleared Las Vegas’ injury report after leaving the Raiders’ week 15 Thursday Night Football overtime loss against the Los Angeles Chargers with a strained groin.
Carr and the Raiders’ quick-release offense, despite Las Vegas’ lack of wide receivers, paired with running back Josh Jacobs will make Miami’s defense have to be quick on its toes on all four quarters.
But, the Dolphins are first in the NFL in takeaways and in the top quarter in QB pressure.
Parker, Gesicki, Grant All Questionable
When Miami has struggled this season on offense, its defense has come up big. The Dolphins could still be missing a few offensive weapons, like tight end Mike Gesicki and WR Jakeem Grant, and need to rely on its defense a bit more, but it shouldn’t be a problem.
“DeVante (Parker), Mike, Jakeem are doing everything they can to get out there,” Flores said. “They are really working hard. It’s important for everyone to be out there. It’s obviously an important game. All of those guys are working hard.”
Andrew Van Ginkel in for Shaq Lawson
However, starting defensive end Shaq Lawson has been downgraded to out. But Dolphins fans should smile when they hear Andrew Van Ginkel will be stepping up in his place. Van Ginkel has a fumble return for a touchdown this season and is chomping at the bit ever since earning more playing time to aid in Dolphins takeaways.
Keep Your Eyes on Ogbah, Wilkins, Howard
Another Miami defender high on the docket looking to wreak havoc will be defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah who reached his new career-high in sacks in week 10 and has been a wrecking force since joining the team in the offseason. Opposite him, DE Christian Wilkins is back healthy and will also start.
And of course, cornerback Xavien Howard will be out on the field looking for his 10th interception of the season to add to his hopeful Defensive Player-of-the-Year resume.
Miami RBs Myles Gaskin, Salvon Ahmed Should Split Time in Las Vegas
Jacobs has handled a hefty workload since his two-game absence for injury, including 26 carries last week against the Chargers. With Las Vegas still failing to have a true No. 1 wideout, it could look to bolster Jacobs again against an average run-defense.
Gaskin is back off the COVID/Injured Reserve list and will resume his starting job. But, backup sensation Ahmed, who was the first Dolphin to rush for more than 100 yards in multiple seasons for Miami is expected to also see the field.
“It was good to have him back out there. I thought he looked good, had some juice, energy. We’ll see how practice goes today and make a decision (on how much he’ll play),” Flores said.
Gaskin has only played once since week eight after ending up on IR with a MCL injury, but had 90 yards on the ground and more than 100 total yards against the Bengals. He also beat out both Jordan Howard and Matt Breida a few weeks into the season who were expected to be a committee before the season began. Even if Miami eases him back in, his versatility as a pass-catching back will be hard for a depleted and poor Raiders defense to stop.
Las Vegas Without Key Defensive Starters
This will allow Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa an opportunity to take advantage again through the air and on the ground. Although he didn’t throw a TD last week, he rushed for two, and helped set up Ahmed and the Dolphins for their big day on the ground. His versatility is something the Raiders will struggle containing.
“I think last week was awesome as far as what you said about running for 250. I think just staying on them like we did all game, and then eventually wearing them down, and then we finally broke open some big ones,” Dolphins tight end Adam Shaheen said. “You could feel that momentum and them just being completely drained and us just taking over.”
Dolphins OL Changes Again, Yet Official Replacement Unclear
Miami will have a change on its offensive line again in the game though as guard Solomon Kindley has already been ruled out. Adam Pankey is the backup but it is unknown if Miami will elevate him or rotate more experienced line members around.
Miami Doesn’t Activate Any Practice Squad Players, Boding Well for Questionable Players
The Dolphins also did not elevate any practice squad players like it has in recent weeks due to offensive injuries, boding well for the players with questionable designations.
“They’ve (Las Vegas) got a good d-line, (line)backers, so we’ve got to play well if we want to run the ball, if we want to protect, if we want to – whatever we want to do offensively, we’re going to have to play with good fundamentals, technique and execute,” Flores said.
Kickoff, and leg two for Miami’s playoff push, begins at 8:15 p.m. eastern Saturday night.
– Kayla Morton is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Miami Dolphins. She is also a co-host on the Full Press Fantasy Podcast. Like and follow on Follow @northdakayla74 Follow @FPC_Dolphins and Facebook.