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Miami Dolphins vs. Los Angeles Chargers Prediction: AFC Playoff Hopefuls Face Off on SNF

Chargers looking to kick-start late-season push against a Dolphins team that lost last week out on the West Coast.

Welcome to the prime-time spotlight Dolphins and Chargers. The prestigious "Sunday Night Football" slot on NBC goes to this AFC showdown between Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert after the powers that be flexed Chiefs-Broncos out. Remember that these two quarterbacks went fifth and sixth in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Both teams come into this game with playoff hopes but at different ends of the spectrum. The Dolphins are tied for the second-best record in the AFC at 8-4 and purely in control of their own destiny, having won five of their last six, with the one loss coming against the NFL's best defense in San Francisco. They'll face AFC East rivals Bills, Patriots, and Jets down the stretch.

Related: Expert Picks for Every Week 14 NFL Game

The Chargers are sitting at 6-6, having lost three of their last four games. They'll have winnable games against the Titans, Rams, Colts, and Broncos, but they can't afford to fall any further down the standings if they're going to make a run to the postseason.

Sunday Night Football: Miami (8-4) at Los Angeles (6-6)

Kickoff: Sunday, Dec. 11 at 8:20 p.m. ET
Live Stream: fuboTV (Start your free trial)
Spread: Miami -3.5
Tickets: As low as $75 on*

Three Things to Watch

1. Tyreek the freak
Hill, the NFL's human cheetah, had a field day last week for the Dolphins by grabbing nine receptions for 146 yards and a touchdown. Of course, it helps when you have the quarterback with the highest QBR rating in the league chucking it in Tagovailoa. Hill is a dynamic force in that high-octane offense the Dolphins have, and they can use him in numerous ways. Plus, the Chargers' defense is notorious for giving up big plays (13 touchdowns of 20-plus yards this season). So this game seems catered to Hill and his speed. Plus, in two career games in SoFi Stadium, Hill has 17 catches for 247 yards and two TDs. This is his kind of place.

2. Don't be afraid to run
Now, we're not trying to tell the Dolphins and Chargers how to play offense, but just remember that the ground game should not be forgotten here. The Chargers have the worst rushing defense in the NFL and gave up 144 yards on 26 carries to Josh Jacobs last week. Granted, nobody on the Dolphins' roster is running the ball like Jacobs, the NFL's best, but don't forget to put some runs into the game plan because chances are they will work against the Bolts. As for the Chargers, they just might wanna hand the ball to Austin Ekeler once in a while if Herbert gets pummeled in the pocket too often.

3. Under pressure. Or not.
These two teams also are dealing with QBs that are under a high amount of duress. In Sunday's loss to the Raiders, Herbert was sacked five times and took on an incredulous 13 hits in the loss. In his last three games, Herbert has been sacked 14 times, so it's obvious that the Charger O-line is becoming Swiss cheese late in the season. And remember, the Dolphin pass rush isn't overwhelming but they did pick up four sacks and 10 QB hits and knocked Jimmy Garappolo out for the season last week. Keep this in mind, however, if Herbert DOES get time, the Dolphin pass defense is not great, allowing a 68 percent completion rate for opposing QBs (28th in the NFL) and 233.5 yards per game (21st).

On the other side, boy do the Chargers miss Joey Bosa. While we're on the subject of pass rush and QB pressure, that is something that was sorely missing from the Chargers' banged-up defense against the Raiders as Derek Carr seemed to be pitching a tent in the pocket and waiting for his receivers to get some separation. As explained last week, the Dolphins are without both starting tackles (Terron Armstrong and Austin Jackson) and starting guard Liam Eichenberg. Bad things man.

Final Analysis

There is something to be said for a team that is nearing desperation mode, and that's where the Chargers are now. Another loss might sink them too far under .500 and threaten their postseason lives. Now, I know SoFi Stadium is just about a zero in home-field advantage — this being laissez-faire Los Angelenos and all — but there is also something about being in the familiar confines of their home field. Plus they know how bad things will get if they lose again.

Tagovailoa got out-performed by some dude named Brock Purdy last week, so I'm just going to go with the home team and their outnumbered fans for this one.

Prediction: Chargers 31, Dolphins 27

— Written by Eric Sorenson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He is a college football, college baseball and college hockey addict... and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Stitch_Head.

*Price as of publication.