It is week seven in the NFL and the Miami Dolphins have improved their record to 2-3 following a dominating win against the Tennessee Titans last week. The Dolphins remain at the bottom of the division, but are looking to climb the rankings starting with the Houston Texans coming into South Beach on Sunday. The moves the Dolphins’ front office (the firing of Philbin and Coyle) made prior to last week’s game paid off in a big way. New head coach Dan Campbell’s passion and intensity he displayed at practice and with the media made an impact on the field. The Dolphins came out physical and energetic against the Titans, and their impressive performance validated the decision to fire Joe Philbin. The Dolphins played last week’s game the way many expected them to play all season, with a physical defense and an effective offense built around the running game. Looking forward starting with the Texans, the Dolphins need to build off of the Titans game and continue to be physical under the leadership of Dan Campbell.
The Dolphins need to bring that same fire and passion when they line up on Sunday against the Houston Texans, because despite their disappointing record of 2-4 the Texans can be a physically dominant team at times. Loaded with talent across the roster, from defensive lineman J.J. Watt, and their receiving corps with DeAndre Hopkins, the Texans can make plays on both sides of the ball. Both players can take over a game if they are not strategically accounted for, not to mention Arian Foster, who is getting healthier each week. As good as a win as the Titans game was, it is important not to overlook the Texans.
It is easy to come out strong the week after an ineffective head coach is fired, it is much harder to bring that same intensity the next game. With the Dolphins upcoming schedule including the Patriots, Bills, and Eagles all on the road, this game at home is vital to their season. If the Dolphins come out and establish the run early with Lamar Miller, and make that intimidating front seven of the Texans honor the run threat, Ryan Tannehill will be given the chance to improve on his encouraging performance of last week. It is vital to establish the run game, not only to keep the Texans’ pass rushers honest, but also to set up the play-action. With Dion Sims returning to the field last week, the Dolphins were able to reunite one of the best tight end duos in the league. Sims and Cameron Jordan can be incredibly effective tools, especially if used off of play-action to compliment what Jarvis Landry and Rishard Matthews provide outside. It is important for Tannehill to feel comfortable throwing these short to intermediate patterns and getting the ball out of his hands and into his talented tight ends. Overall, the Dolphins need to establish the run early and they need quick developing routes or move the pocket so that Tannehill can stay upright against that formidable Texans front.
On the defensive side of the ball, the key to victory is to contain Arian Foster early, and bring pressure. The Texan’s most obvious flaw is their inconsistency at the quarterback position. Bill O’Brien has still yet to make it clear whether Brian Hoyer or Ryan Mallett is the starter, but regardless neither are effective against the blitz. In an era with so many rules geared towards helping the offense, there is only so much a good corner like Brent Grimes can do against an elite receiver like Deandre Hopkins, so that puts the pressure on the front line to get to the quarterback before he can deliver a good ball to Hopkins. Ndamukong Suh, Cameron Wake, and Olivier Vernon need to be the dominant line they were expected to be and make a physical statement against the Texans. We are at the point in the year where both of these teams desperately need a win to keep their seasons alive, so I am predicting a very emotional and physical game that may get messy at times .We will see a lot of pushing and shoving but at the end of the day I see the Dolphins winning in tight game 24-17.