In Week 14 of the NFL season there are 22 teams who still have some sort of hope for making the postseason. Most agree that the Green Bay Packers (13-0), San Francisco 49ers (10-2) and New Orleans Saints (9-3) have the top 3 NFC positions sewn up, while the AFC titans would include Pittsburgh Steelers (10-3), New England Patriots (9-3) and the surprising Houston Texans (9-3).
Playoff Picture: Were the playoffs to begin today, the remaining 6 playoff teams would include Baltimore (9-3), Cincinnati (7-5) and Denver as well as Dallas (7-5), Chicago (7-5) and Atlanta (7-5). It is those remaining six spots that will be grappled over these final weeks of the regular season, but two teams who will not be part of that struggle are the Miami Dolphins (4-8) and Philadelphia Eagles (4-8).
Gotta Wear Shades. The Eagles head down to South Beach for a fun in the sun weekend before they take on the Miami Dolphins in a game that has no interest. Anyone who thinks otherwise is smoking mistletoe. This Miami game has absolutely no bearing upon the playoffs but it will help determine the fate of many current Eagles and Dolphins employees for 2012. Andy Reid and Tony Sporano are fighting for their respective jobs as will their support staff should either sideline dweller be felled.
Skid Row. Oddly enough these teams appear to be headed in two different directions. Miami began the season 0-7 then reeled off 4 wins over their next 5 games including a 34-14 drubbing of Oakland just last week. Philadelphia began the season as a Super Bowl favorite, only to parlay their disappointing 1-4 start into an embarassing 4-8 record topped with a demoralizing loss to Seattle last week on Thursday Night Football.
Tumbleweeds. Miami is one of those sports towns that never seem to support even their championship-caliber teams (the anti-Philadelphia if you will). Very few places are as lonely as Sun Life Stadium (formerly Joe Robbie Stadium, formerly Dolphins Stadium…) on Sunday when the Dolphins are out of contention. Conversely, the Eagles have been woeful at home this season. While Miami wouldn’t make the postseason if the NFL doubled the number of AFC playoff teams, these Dolphins are a much improved squad over their 0-7 first half of the season. The same can’t be said for the Eagles.
These Dolphins are not setting the world on fire, ranking 23rd in Passing Yards (202 avg), 13th in Rushing Yards (119 per game) while Defensively sporting the 24th ranked pass defense (249 YPG) and fifth overall Rushing Defense (93 YPG). At the same time, there is room for improvement across the board.
Early Bird Special. Matt Moore and Chad Henne have combined for 12 TD and 2,500 passing yards on the season while Reggie Bush and rookie Daniel Thomas have provided 1,170 & 5 TD in 280 attempts. Admittedly it is difficult to commit to the running game when you are usually well behind in the second half. Then again, when your pop-gun offense can only muster field goals instead of touchdowns, you wish you had a better arsenal. Sporano does sport a somewhat sporadic if not formidable defense, which has thus far not beaten any potential playoff teams. Against the Eagles, this Dolphins defense could seriously show off. – and very likely will do exactly that.
Play for Pay. As for our beleaguered Philadelphia Eagles, there is some promising news. Three straight losses would be their fate if they cannot overcome the Dolphins but at 4-8 Philadelphia’s playoff hopes remain Pythagorean at best. The fate of Andy Reid, Juan Castillo, DeSean Jackson and half this roster should be determined by what happens over these final games of 2011. Rather than heading for a Super Bowl, the Eagles may finish under .500 for the second time in the Reid Era (13 seasons). Andy Reid may not lose his job with one year left on his contract, but Juan Castillo may be the latest scapegoat to protect Planet Reid’s pension. If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results then insanity defines the continuation of the Reid Era.
Walking Wounded. Michael Vick (lost 8 of 11 Eagles starts), Jeremy Maclin and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie have all been cleared to play. Nnamdi Asomugha is out meaning Joselio Hanson joins Asante Samuel and “DRC” in coverage. Former Temple star Jaiquawn Jarrett is likely to see some action in the wake of Nate Allen’s inactivity but look for Curtis Marsh to get the start.
Game Outlook. With 29 turnovers (most in NFL), ball control and time of possession will be mitigating factors in this game. Even if the Eagles settle for field goals over TD, putting together 70-yard drives will prove that they are fundamentally sound enough to not defeat themselves (five losses when taking the lead into the 4th quarter). Miami has forced 7 turnovers in their last four games and will be attacking on defense. Whether offense or defense score, it still counts.
Flash vs. Flush. This game comes down to Eagles defense vs. Miami offense. If the Eagles can stop Reggie Bush (two 100-yard games, the second of which was last week) and molest Matt Moore (64% completion) enough to force mistakes, the Philadelphia run defense will not be exploited. However, if Miami uses their running game (mostly Reggie Bush) to shove the ball down the Eagles throat, then the linebackers will be forced to step up and show they can stop the run. Most likely scenario is some combination thereof. Philadelphia’s pass rush can make Moore look like less simply by pressuring him in the pocket and rushing his delivery. The natural enemy of the pass rush is the running game so handing off generously to Bush would neutralize potential Philadelphia sackmeisters.
Mixmasters. Establishing ball control with Philadelphia’s ground game and short passing will open up downfield opportunity for both Jackson and Maclin. Spreading out the Dolphins defenders with a pass/run balance should open up short passing options for Brent Celek and LeSean McCoy. Miami’s CB cannot keep pace with the Dynamic Duo but unless linebackers are biting on the rush, Vick won’t see one-on-one coverage for either wideout. Having Vick back at QB opens up the option of moving around in the pocket or taking off with the ball himself – but that is what got Vick hurt in the first place!
PREDICTION: Odds are this will be a balancing act of turnovers, sacks, field position and special teams play. Despite that, either team has the potential to exploit their opponent’s weakness and run up the score. Look for big plays on both sides of the ball but ultimately this one will be pretty painful to watch. EAGLES 19 DOLPHINS 13
RELATED ARTICLE: http://www.prosportsblogging.com/2011/12/03/lynch-mob-fells-eagles/
UPCOMING ARTICLE: TO REID OR NOT TO REID…IS THAT THE QUESTION???
About the Author
Written by Christopher Rowe
Contributing writer Comcast Sports, NY Times contributing stringer 1996-2000, Contributing writer Yahoo Sports (2001 World Series). Contributing writer Newsday Long Island (1992-1994, Jets Training Camp) and Newak Star Ledger. Freelance Copywriter, Editor/Founder Atlantic Times Weekly (1993-2003) fantasy football magazine, produced screenwriter and general humorist. Hofstra University grad, Marist College honorary alum, Salesian; Purveyor of the Value and Valor of Philadelphia Eagles 1960 NFL Championship; Adrent believer that Eagles could have won Super Bowl XV...and Super Bowl XXXIX...plus modern decade of Eagles 5 NFC Championships... Believer in the Broad Street Bullies and the 1983 Sixers... Witness to Philadelphia Phillies World Series championships 1980 & 2008, Suffered Phillies first pro sports team to reach 10,000 losses,witnessed "1980 Cardiac Kids," 1983 "Wheeze Kids," 1993 "Macho Row" and many, many, many not-so-memorable seasons in-between... until the Philadelphia Baseball Renaissance of 21st Century, Five NL East division titles 2007-2011, 3 NLCS appearances 2008-2010, 2 consecutive World Series berths 2008 & 2009. 2008 World Champions of baseball [miss ya Harry and Richie]; "collector" of MLB ballparks (42 stadiums including 15 which are gone); Fantasy Football & Baseball player since 1992. Always a sports fan... Tenui Nec Dimittam Contact me firstname.lastname@example.org