The Seattle Seahawks will hit the road after a two-game homestand to take on the Miami Dolphins on Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. It will be a chance for the Seahawks to improve to 4-0 for the first time since the 2013 season and the second time ever in franchise history.
It was another dramatic finish for Seattle last Sunday, coming from behind to defeat Dallas 38-31. Russell Wilson set an NFL record with 14 touchdown passes in three games after torching the Cowboys for five and 315 yards. DK Metcalf redeemed himself after an earlier mental lapse on the field, securing a 29-yard touchdown pass from Wilson with 1:47 left to give the Seahawks the lead for good. Metcalf got a little too careless and cost him and his team a touchdown late in the first quarter when he slowed up just before the goal line and had the ball knocked out through the back of the end zone by Trevon Diggs, resulting in a turnover.
Tyler Lockett had a huge day, finishing with nine catches for 100 yards and three touchdowns. Tight end Greg Olsen got rolling with five catches for 61 yards. The defense still gave up too many big plays in the passing game, as Dak Prescott threw for 472 yards. Safety Jamal Adams left the game with a groin strain, and it looks like it will be an uphill battle for him to be available on Sunday. On a positive note, the defense was able to generate enough pressure on Prescott to produce two sacks, a couple of turnovers, and a safety at critical moments in the game.
Miami (1-2) picked up its first win of the 2020 season last Thursday night at Jacksonville, leading wire-to-wire in a 31-13 victory. The Dolphins scored touchdowns on their first three possessions as Ryan Fitzpatrick completed 18 of 20 passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns. Fitzpatrick also did a great job when pressured, connecting on 12 of 13 pass attempts when the Jaguars blitzed. Defensively, Miami got after Gardner Minshew all night long, finishing with four sacks on the night. Turnovers (+2 for the game) and getting off the field on third down (Jacksonville converted just 30 percent of the time) were other keys to the Dolphins' defensive success.
Seattle at Miami
Kickoff: Sunday, Oct. 4 at 1 p.m. ET
Spread: Seahawks -6.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Seahawks' attacking mindset on offense
Seattle is 58-0 since 2012 with a halftime lead of at least four points. That means the Seahawks know how to put teams away, which is going to be important this week as they can't let the Dolphins hang around in this game. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer has done a great job of letting Russell Wilson take control of the offense in the first three weeks of the season. Wilson is on a 16-game pace to throw a mind-blowing 73 touchdown passes with just five interceptions. Look for Schottenheimer and Wilson to come out with some up-tempo stuff in the first couple of series to get some quick points on the board to put Miami behind the eight ball. A couple of additional benefits of a fast start for the Seahawks offense will be the chance to take pressure off of their defense. If that happens then the defensive front can play loose and try to harass Ryan Fitzpatrick into poor decisions and hopefully a turnover or two. The other key benefit would be for Seattle's offensive line to get a chance to impose its will on the Dolphins' defense by running the ball more effectively.
2. Can the Miami offense keep up for 60 minutes?
There will be a temptation to try and play keep away from Wilson if you are the Dolphins heading into this game. Running back Myles Gaskin is coming off of a 22-carry performance against Jacksonville and should expect to see another 15-20 touches on Sunday. For the season, Gaskin has run for 152 yards on 38 carries. Motivation won't be a problem for Gaskin, as the former University of Washington standout gets his first shot to play his hometown team. However, Seattle has done a good job against the run in the early going. Through three weeks, the Seahawks second in the NFL in rushing defense at 66.7 yards per game allowed. That makes the matchup between Miami's offensive line and Seattle's defensive one watch all day long. The mission is simple for the Dolphins – keep Fitzpatrick upright so he can take advantage of what has been a generous Seahawks pass defense (430.7 ypg, 6 TDs) and not have to worry about forcing things.
3. Which team will step up on third down?
Something is going to have to give this week for both teams, as the Dolphins' defense ranks 16th in the NFL on third down (43.3 percent allowed) and the Seahawks' offense ranks 25th (37.9 percent). On the other hand, Miami is converting 44.4 percent of its third-down opportunities on offense while Seattle's defense is allowing teams to be successful more than half (51.2 percent) of the time thus far. Execution is a big part of reversing this trend for the Seahawks' offense, which needs to avoid unnecessary penalties that put them behind yardstick. Longer down-and-distance situations also put more pressure on Wilson to come up with the big play. Likewise, the Dolphins need to stay on schedule and keep their offense in short, manageable situations on third down to increase their chances of keeping drives alive.
History has not been kind to the Seahawks in the past when they have traveled to South Florida, as they are 1-4 all-time at Hard Rock Stadium against the Dolphins. Also, Miami is 8-2 in its last 10 home games against teams from the West Coast. Now, Seattle has never brought this explosive of an offense to Miami, so look for Wilson to make more NFL history with four more touchdown passes to break the four-game record to open the season (17). The Seahawks' defense will take a small step forward by not allowing 30 points this week and cause just enough problems for Ryan Fitzpatrick to secure a two-touchdown victory on Sunday.
Prediction: Seahawks 38, Dolphins 24
— Written by Scott Whittum, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @ScottWhittum.