This Sunday could be a historic event at Qualcomm Stadium. Not because the 5-8 Miami Dolphins will visit the 3-10 San Diego Chargers, but because it could be the final game ever played in San Diego.
Not only have the Chargers had to deal with close losses on the field, but the team has had to deal with rumors of a possible move 90 miles north to Los Angeles. If Sunday is indeed the final NFL game in San Diego County, the Chargers will want to come out on the winning side of things.
As for the Dolphins, they were officially eliminated from playoff contention with the 31-24 home loss to the New York Giants on Monday night. Miami began the season with high expectations, but it will be interesting to see if the team is motivated with such a short turnaround and after flying across the country to face the Chargers.
Miami holds a 16-14 overall series record over San Diego. In their last meeting in 2014, the Dolphins blanked the Chargers 37-0 at Sun Life Stadium.
Miami at San Diego
Kickoff: 4:25 p.m. ET (Sunday)
Spread: San Diego -1.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Lamar Miller
Last week against the Giants, Miller had a big first half as he rushed for 69 yards and two touchdowns on just seven carries. When the game was on the line, the Dolphins didn’t use their most explosive weapon.
Miller only had five carries for 20 yards after halftime. Dolphins interim head coach Dan Campbell said that Miller had an ankle injury, but the running back said he was healthy and could have returned to the game.
Since 2014, when the Dolphins give Miller 20 touches or more, the team is 4-0. Whenever he ends up with 15 or fewer touches, Miami is 5-10.
San Diego gives up an average of 126.5 rushing yards per game, which ranks 27th in the NFL. It seems simple the Dolphins should feed Miller the ball this afternoon, but that doesn’t mean that’s what will happen.
2. Philip Rivers
Miami’s defense has struggled against the pass this season. The Dolphins rank 26th in passing yards per game allowed with 261.8. This sets up well for Philp Rivers to have a big game in what could be his last as the home team at Qualcomm Stadium. This season, Rivers has thrown for 3,976 yards, 23 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions.
Campbell knows the challenges facing Rivers will have on his defense. “He’s a veteran quarterback that’s won a lot of games. He has the offense set to pretty much the way that he wants it. He milks the play clock. He gets the perfect call for what he wants, what he’s looking for and he can make the throws. He’s a tough guy and he’ll sit in there even if he feels pressure in his face. If he feels like he could make the throw he’ll stand in there and throw it. Again, when you have a quarterback like him you’ll always have hope.”
3. Chargers WR Malcolm Floyd vs. Dolphins CB Brent Grimes
In his first two seasons with the Dolphins, Grimes made the Pro Bowl and established a reputation for being one of the best at his position. This season, however, Grimes has struggled to guard some of the NFL’s best wide receivers.
According to Pro Football Focus, Grimes has allowed 52 catches on 78 attempts (66.7 percent) for 783 yards, five touchdowns and a passer rating of 104.8. That’s a step back from last season when he allowed 56 receptions on 95 targets (58.9 percent) for 706 yards and seven touchdowns.
At age 32, Grimes is showing his age and this week he will have the tall task of trying to slow down the Chargers’ Malcom Floyd.
In his 11th season, Floyd’s numbers have been down, as he has yet to record a 100-yard game. Miami is one of the worst teams in the NFL at defending the deep ball, so facing the Dolphins’ defense could be exactly with the doctor ordered.
In a game that doesn’t have anything at stake, Dolphins vs. Chargers could still be an entertaining contest. With Miami traveling on a short week, the odds appear stacked against the visitors.
Philip Rivers should be able to move the ball against a subpar Dolphins secondary. Rookie running Melvin Gordon has struggled this season, but Sunday could provide him with the breakout game he has been looking for. Expect Gordon to finally score the first touchdown of his career this Sunday.
San Diego is fully aware of the 37-0 loss to the Dolphins last season. While it won’t make their season any better, the Chargers would love to nothing more than to keep the Dolphins on a downhill spiral.
Prediction: Chargers 28, Dolphins 20
— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.