Dolphins On The Ropes; Will Chargers Deliver Knockout Punch?
By Abraham Gutierrez
Coming off another lackluster performance Monday night against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Dolphins have no time to feel sorry for themselves, as the San Diego Chargers come into Sun Life Stadium looking to take Miami out of their misery.
Opening kickoff for the intraconference battle is scheduled for Sunday afternoon at 4:05 p.m. ET live on CBS-4 (Miami).
With matching 4-5 records on the season, the Miami Dolphins and San Diego Chargers kickoff Week 11 tied for the seventh spot in the AFC playoff picture. If the NFL postseason started today, both teams would finish on the outside looking in by a full game, and knotted up with three other teams in the AFC standings.
American Football Conference Standings (Week 11)
- (9-0) Kansas City Chiefs
- (7-2) New England Patriots
- (6-3) Indianapolis Colts
- (6-4) Cincinnati Bengals
- (8-1) Denver Broncos
- (5-4) New York Jets
- (4-5) Miami Dolphins
- (4-5) San Diego Chargers
- (4-5) Tennessee Titans
- (4-5) Cleveland Browns
- (4-5) Baltimore Ravens
- (3-6) Oakland Raiders
- (3-6) Pittsburgh Steelers
- (3-7) Buffalo Bills
- (2-7) Houston Texans
- (1-8) Jacksonville Jaguars
With just seven weeks remaining in the regular season calendar, the Bolts and Fins would have to play their best football to have a chance to sneak into the playoffs.
Nevertheless, both teams are still alive in the AFC playoff chase, but one more loss could be catastrophic. Will Miami or San Diego embrace the challenge by putting itself in a position to contend for a playoff berth?
Chargers on Offense
With a new offensive coordinator in former Arizona Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt, Chargers coach Mike McCoy has been able to implement a very efficient scheme that makes up for the team’s O-line deficiencies with quick passes, slants and a healthy dose of screens.
Incorporating the same system that made Peyton Manning very successful in his first season as a Bronco, the San Diego Chargers feature one of the best passing attacks in the National Football League.
The Bolts offense comes into this week’s showdown with Miami ranked 16th in the league in points per game (23.6), seventh in total yards per matchup (395.4), fourth in passing yards per week (288.7), and 19th in rushing yards per contest (106.8). Their key offensive players are:
- (QB) Philip Rivers (232/324, 2691 yards, 18 TDs, 7 INTs, 105.9 QBR)
- (WR) Eddie Royal (28 receptions, 377 yards, 7 TDs)
- (RB) Danny Woodhead (53 receptions, 408 yards, 4 TDs)
- (WR) Keenan Allen (38 receptions, 568 yards, 3 TDs)
- (RB) Ryan Mathews (131 carries, 539 yards, 2 TDs)
- (TE) Antonio Gates (52 receptions, 612 yards, 2 TDs).
Chargers on Defense
Defensive coordinator, John Pagano is the longest tenure assistant in San Diego’s coaching staff. However, in his second year as DC, the 19-year vet has struggled to get the Chargers 3-4 defense to play consistently.
With nine games in the books, the Bolts defense currently ranks: 13th in the league in points (22.4), 29th in the NFL in yards allowed (394.1), 29th in passing yards surrendered (279.6) and 20th at defending opposing rushing attacks (114.6).
Led by free safety Eric Weddle (70 tackles, 51 solo), the San Diego Chargers key players on the defensive side of the football are:
- (ILB) Donald Butler (38 tackles, 32 solo 0.5 sacks)
- (CB) Derek Cox (35 tackles, 31 solo)
- (CB) Johnny Patrick (33 tackles, 31 solo, 1.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble)
- (CB) Richard Marshall (34 tackles, 27 solo)
- (SS) Marcus Gilchrist (39 tackles, 26 solo)
There are also a number of guys who have a knack for penetrating into the backfield and creating chaos for opposing quarterbacks. The following players are sure to get after Ryan Tannehill this week, especially with Miami’s suspect offensive line:
- (OLB) Jarret Johnson (22 tackles, 13 solo, 3.0 sacks)
- (DE) Corey Liuget (24 tackles, 16 solo, 3.0 sacks, 1 forced fumble)
- (OLB) Larry English (18 tackles 11 solo, 2.5 sacks)
- (ILB) Reggie Walker (23 tackles, 19 solo, 2.0 sacks)
- (DE) Kendall Reyes (20 tackles, 15 solo, 2.0 sacks)
- (LB) Thomas Keiser (13 tackles, 11 solo, 2.0 sacks)
Chargers vs. Dolphins Head-to-Head
Miami and San Diego come into this Week 11 matchup tied at 14 wins apiece in the overall series. And even though this will be the 28th time these AFC rivals have crossed paths, this will only be the first meeting since the 2011-12 NFL season.
After losing seven straight games, from 1995 through 2008, the Chargers have redeemed themselves by winning two straight over Miami. The last time they met was at Qualcomm Stadium, where San Diego prevailed by a final score of 26-16 on October 2, 2011. This will be the first time they play in South Florida since the 2008-09 campaign.
For more Dolphins news and updates, visit Dolphins Central.
Abe Gutierrez is a criminal justice admin whose love for sports led him to become a writer and editor. His expertise makes him a valued addition to Examiner.com and its partners. His work can be found on Examiner.com. .