Tampa Bay, coming off of their first win of the season, visits Miami, a team that needs a victory now more than ever.
Tampa Bay (1-7) @ Miami (3-5)
Unless the Bucs somehow manage to win every game from here on out, a loss to Miami this week will most likely eliminate them from playoff contention. Obviously, Tampa Bay does not have a playoff caliber team this year, but after finally coming together last week to beat division rival Green Bay 38-28, Miami can not take this game lightly. Tampa Bay has some momentum on their side, and as the odds are obviously stacked against them to make any type of postseason run, they will now play the role as the spoiler for teams like Miami, who still intend to make the playoffs, despite a current losing record. For Miami to have a legitimate shot in the AFC, they need to win this game and keep it going.
The Dolphins are arguably one of the best 3-5 teams of all time. They've been able to compete with Super Bowl contenders all season long, but luck and a tough schedule have not been on their side. Miami could easily be at least a 5-3 ball club right now, but fourth quarter collapses and close loses have them sitting at the exact opposite. Tampa Bay should be an easy win for this Miami squad at home, but the Bucs will enter this game with some confidence. The problem for Tampa Bay is that they can not stop the run, which bodes well for Miami, a team that averages 150 rushing yards per game. The Bucs have allowed an average of 163 yards on the ground, so obviously look for the Phins to abuse that weakness with their strong running attack.
Miami can not turnover the ball, otherwise Tampa Bay will have a shot to win. The Bucs took advantage of numerous turnovers last week against Green Bay, ultimately leading to Tampa Bay's first win of the season. Chad Henne must manage this game without making too many mistakes, but considering he will be handing the ball off to Ricky and Ronnie all game long, the pressure is somewhat alleviated from his shoulders.
If the Bucs can't stop this Miami Wildcat attack, Tampa Bay doesn't stand a chance. The Buccaneers offense is incredibly weak, and most of those 38 points they scored last Sunday was a direct result from their aggressive defensive play. Chances are they will not score more than 20 points against this tough Miami defense. The Phins on the other hand should have no problem putting points up on the board, as all signs point to a blowout victory for Miami.
The biggest key to this game is how both teams will convert on third down. The Buccaneers have really struggled, only converting about 30%. Miami on the other hand has dominated on third down, converting over 50%. Considering that the Dolphins will be running the ball more than they usually do because of Tampa Bay's horrid run defense, converting on third down will be a major factor to enable Miami to control this game.
If Tampa Bay can not stop this Dolphin rushing attack as well as not stopping them on third down, Miami will eat up the clock and put the Bucs away in style. Tampa Bay has been blown out by this AFC East division so far this season, as Miami has won three out of four against their division rivals. Expect the Dolphins to continue this AFC East assault against the Bucs, a team that does not match up well with Miami at all. The Phins must win this home game and should do so.
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Written by Josh Souder