The AFC is heavily stacked with talented teams and with just the seven playoff places available something is going to have to give in this Conference this time around.
There’s no doubt that these two teams have aspirations that reach beyond just making the playoffs and with both offences looking to be of the explosive variety it’s no surprise to see this game with the highest total of the week with points expected.
Last time these two met back in Week 14 of last season the Chargers defence totally shutdown the Dolphins then and still highly rated offence but will that be the case this time around? Another narrative that will run through this game is how will the addition of two new coordinators on each side one defensive and one offensive change the shape and pattern of this game. Ex-Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore is now directing the Chargers offence and defensive mastermind Vic Fangio has taken over the Dolphins defence.
Now looking back to that game last season, the Chargers won 23-17 which made it look a close game when it was anything but with the Chargers outgaining Miami by 213 yards and shutting down Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa who was just 10 of 28 on pass attempts with 145 passing yards. What was more shocking throughout that game was that Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel, made no positive adjustments while the team continuously failed to move the ball through the air. Tagovailoa will be concerned that he faces an ominous Chargers pass rush without his starting left tackle Terron Armstead versus edge rushers Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack and that’s a facet of the game could prove one of the key elements as Tagovailoa will be looking to use his speedy receiving duo of Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle to keep the chains moving.
That Week 14 game could provide the template for how the Chargers want to play this game defensively taking away Tua’s quick-timing throws and the middle of the field. Bosa didn’t play in the last meeting so that provides extra pressure for the Dolphins. Whoever dictates the tempo and nature of the Dolphins passing game will have a huge advantage. Miami averaged just 5.2 yards per play on first down against the Chargers in their last matchup, their third lowest versus any team on the season. Make no mistake though that if Tagovailoa can get the ball in the hands of Hill and Waddle there will be yards and points on offer with the speedy Hill (nicknamed Cheetah for obvious reasons) especially dangerous in creating yards after the catch and the Dolphins can be dangerous from deep against a Chargers defence that allowed a league-high 17 touchdowns from outside of the red zone in 2022.
Balance is always important on any offence and the Dolphins backfield gives them options in the run game especially against a Chargers defence that allowed 5.4 rushing yards per carry last year. With Jeff Wilson on injured reserve and dynamic rookie De’Von Achane a little banged up (did return to practice this week) it looks as though this will be Raheen Mostert’s backfield. He’s proven in the past that he can handle plenty of work. In four games with 15 or more carries last year, Mostert produced 397 rushing yards at 6 yards per carry. The Dolphins averaged 4.8 yards per carry in last year’s loss to the Chargers but could never quite commit to the run.
Turning our attention now to the Chargers offence which to use a famous line “has had all the right players not necessarily played in the right order” over the past couple of years. There is no doubt that offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi held this team back and that the addition of Kellen Moore to run the offence is a considerable upgrade. The chess match between Moore and new Dolphins defensive coordinator Vic Fangio will be fascinating to watch. Fangio although he will be without the influential defensive back Jalen Ramsey through injury has plenty of talent to work with. The same could be said for Moore who is expected to implement a vertical passing game and the Chargers have the receivers and quarterback in a now healthy Justin Herbert to execute such an offence. Moore was the Cowboys offensive coordinator for four seasons and in three of those his teams finished sixth, first and fourth in points while averaging 8.3 air yards per pass attempt. Last season, the Dolphins secondary allowed the fifth most passing yards per game.
All of that will be music to the ears of Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert who not only has a rocket arm but is mobile often throwing outside of the pocket which was one of the Dolphins biggest weaknesses last year. Herbert as referenced has a hugely talented supporting cast also with running back Austin Ekeler a dangerous runner and receiver who has led the NFL in all-purpose touchdowns in consecutive seasons and plenty of dynamic pass catchers led by Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. Williams a noted deep threat is likely to be the wide receiver likely to benefit the most from Moore’s play calling but it’s Allen who gets the best matchup. The ever dependable Allen who averaged 10.7 targets over his last nine games will be played as the slot receiver and will prove a tough one to cover for undrafted free agent Kader Kohou. One flaw that the Chargers will need to address offensively this year is their second half performance. The Chargers fell off a cliff in the second half, where they ranked 28th in points at just 8.0 per second half, a drop-off of 7.2 points compared to the first half.
The game scenario this time around looks a lot different to when these two teams met back in Week 14 last season and with the Chargers looking certain to be more aggressive on offence that looks to tilt the balance marginally in their direction although don’t rule out overtime. The Chargers edged a close one in OT in Week 6 last season against the Broncos and while Miami didn’t make it into OT last season the nature and handicap (3.5) on this game suggests that it can’t be ruled out meaning that the Star Sports OT offer would be available on the game and is always worth taking into consideration.
BACK Austin Ekeler over +48.5 rushing yards 1pt at 10/11 (⭐
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BACK Keenan Allen over +65.5 receiving yards 1pt at 10/11 (⭐
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BACK Keenan Allen to score a TD anytime 1pt at 11/8 (⭐
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BACK Raheem Mostert over +62.5 rushing yards 1pt at 10/11 (⭐
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PROFIT/LOSS (SEPT 2023): LOSS -1.22 points