MIAMI GARDENS (AP) — The Miami Dolphins are confident they can keep up with a frantic scoring pace by Green Bay, although they’re not convinced that will be necessary.
The Packers (3-2) have won their past two games by a combined 80-27, and scored more than 30 points in all three of their victories.
Aaron Rodgers has an eye-popping ratio of 12 touchdown passes to one interception, and Eddie Lacy is coming off his first 100-yard rushing game of the season.
But while the Dolphins (2-2) gush about Rodgers, they also have faith in their defense, which is understandable. Miami has allowed 4.7 yards per play, the NFL’s stingiest average, and quarterback Ryan Tannehill said he doesn’t assume the offense will need 30 points to win Sunday.
“It’s our job to score more points than the other team, no matter how many points that is,” Tannehill said. “If the defense plays great and we have a shutout, then we’ve got to get 3. If the defense has a bad day and it takes 40, then that’s our job.”
Here are things to watch as Miami and Green Bay try to score whatever it takes to win:
CAN DOLPHINS PLAY KEEPAWAY?: The Packers have a problem anyone would envy — they score too quickly.
That’s one reason their opponents have an edge of eight minutes per game in time of possession.
“We’ve been on the field too much defensively, and I think you have to look at everything that contributes to that,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “Offensively we need to have some longer drives. And defensively we need to continue to work to get off the field.”
Miami would love to control the ball, and might be able to do so with its solid ground game. The Packers rank last in the NFL in run defense at 163 yards per game, and they’re giving up third down conversions 49 percent of the time, fourth-worst.
TURNOVER EDGE: The Packers have climbed into a tie for first place in the NFC North, thanks in part to a turnover differential of plus-6, which is tied for the best in the NFL. They rank second with seven interceptions — each by a different player — and have had two in each of the past three games.
Rodgers’ lone interception came in the season opener, and the Packers have lost only two fumbles.
Miami had four takeaways in its most recent game, but that success will be difficult to duplicate against Green Bay, coach Joe Philbin said.
“This is an efficient team that we are playing,” Philbin said. “We have to find a way to knock the ball loose. They are not flawless, but certainly we are going to have to work at it.”
BOLSTERED LINEUP: Coming off a bye week, the Dolphins are the healthiest they’ve been all season, and Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey has recovered from offseason hip surgery to lead a wave of reinforcements.
Pouncey might return at guard rather than center, because replacement Samson Satele has played well in his absence.
“It’s great to have Mike back, with his play-making ability on the field, the intensity, his natural ability as well as his demeanor in the huddle. He’s a great guy to have in the huddle,” Tannehill said. “He’s a guy that wants to be great. He brings intensity to the offensive line and drives that group.”
As many as six Miami starters are expected back after missed playing time, including safety Reshad Jones, returning from a four-game suspension.
FACING FORMER TEAM: Philbin will coach against the Packers for first time since he left McCarthy’s staff to take the Dolphins’ head coaching job in 2012.
Philbin was with Green Bay from 2003 to 2011, including five years as offensive coordinator.
“Obviously, I have great regard for a lot of the people there, but that will kind of happen again later,” he said. “I will have more regard for them Oct. 13 than I will on the 12th.”
HALFWAY MARK?: This has been a season of milestones for Rodgers, who plays in his 100th regular season game Sunday. He threw his 200th touchdown pass in his most recent start, and reached the 25,000-yard passing mark a week earlier.
“You realize you’re getting a little older in the league when you’re getting some achievement balls early in the season like this,” he said. “It means I’ve been able to play pretty consistently, and the guys around me made a lot of plays for me. This is my 10th season, and I like to think I’m halfway in — nine in and hopefully nine to go. It’s about being consistent from this point forward, keeping my body in great shape and playing at a high level, and making the guys around me raise the level of their game as well.”
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