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In-state matchup pits winless Bucs against a Dolphins team looking to stay afloat amidst distractions
Ryan Tannehill and the 4-4 Miami Dolphins head 272 miles northwest to take on Mike Glennon and the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers in an in-state, inter-conference matchup on ESPN's "Monday Night Football" at 8:30 p.m. ET. Last week provided both teams with overtime experience. Miami last played ten days ago on a Thursday night game against Cincinnati, in which they won in overtime thanks to a walk-off safety courtesy of Cameron Wake.
Tampa Bay went up 21-0 on the Seahawks in Seattle; however, the Seahawks rallied with 17 fourth quarter points to take the game on a field goal in overtime. While the Bucs are out of any postseason consideration, head coach Greg Schiano is trying to save his job and a number of young Tampa players will be out to prove they deserve theirs. Meanwhile, Miami is still in the thick of the playoff hunt as they are just a half game out of the final wild-card spot held by the Jets.
3 Things to Watch
Bucs' Rookie Trio
Tampa Bay had its best showing of the season last week thanks, in large part, to the superb play of three rookies on their offense. Quarterback Mike Glennon played his best game as a pro, completing 17 of 23 passes for two touchdowns and no interceptions. Tight end Timothy Wright caught four passes last week, including a 12-yard touchdown. Mike James rushed for a career-high 158 yards on 28 carries and also threw a touchdown. If Tampa Bay has any chance of taking down the Dolphins they will need a similar performance from each of these young players.
By now, everyone is familiar will the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin saga. While neither player is currently on the team, you better believe that it will be the number one focus of the media underneath the bright lights of "Monday Night Football." It is something that will be discussed pre-game, at halftime and even after the game ends. It also has called into question the cohesiveness of the Miami locker room and head coach Joe Philbin's handling of the situation could ultimately determine if he loses the locker room and his players.
Dolphins' pass rush
Cameron Wake is coming off of a walk-off safety of Andy Dalton last Thursday night. It was Wake's third sack of the night. He leads Miami with 5.5 sacks, but the Dolphins have three other players with at least 2.5 sacks. In fact, opposite Wake on the defensive line is Olivier Vernon who has piled up 4.5 sacks this season. The Dolphins' defense ranks 10th in the NFL in total sacks with 25. If they can get pressure on Glennon, it will allow their secondary to add to their 11 interceptions, which is ninth in the NFL. The Buccaneers won't make it easy as they have a pretty solid offensive line, ranking among the best in sacks allowed with only 19.
Key Players for Tampa Bay: Adrian Clayborn and Gerald McCoy, DTs
Against perhaps the NFL's worst offensive line, the Bucs big men will be key. Both have combined for five sacks this season, leading all other defenders in the front seven in sacks. McCoy is playing at a high level as he registered six total tackles last week. Without Richie Incognito the Dolphins will be especially vulnerable at the guard position. It will their responsibility to hold running back Lamar Miller in check, while still getting in the facing of quarterback Ryan Tannehill with a pass rush right up the middle. The Dolphins have allowed the most sacks in the league with 35 and a group consisting of journeymen guard Nate Garner, the young John Jerry and a pair of has-beens in tackles Tyson Clabo and Bryant McKinnie strike fear in no one.
Key Player for Miami: Brian Hartline, WR
With Darrelle Revis sure to put the clamps down on the struggling Mike Wallace, that should open up space for Hartline to be effective underneath. Ryan Tannehill has been looking Hartline's way a lot more lately, as he's averaging over seven targets per game in his last three contests. If the Dolphins are going to put up any kind of yardage in the passing game it will most likely be with Hartline.
While the Dolphins are 4-4, they are just an average team. They rank 21st in passing offense and 22nd in rushing offense, rushing defense and passing offense. This is a team with three of their wins coming by a combined 10 points. Despite the collapse, I like what I saw from Mike Glennon and the Bucs this week. This is the NFL and at some point, everyone is due for a win.
Tampa Bay 23, Miami 21