The Miami Dolphins face the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, as the franchise looks to get their eighth win in a row.
This is one of the biggest games in recent history, with the team looking to get back to the playoffs for the first time in five seasons. Facing the Titans and New England Patriots in their final two games is a tough stretch for the Dolphins, something only helped by a lot of the Wildcard spot contenders playing each other.
In the 10-5 Titans, they are looking not only to win the AFC South but also challenge the Kansas City Chiefs for the number one seed.
Can the Dolphins get the win? Here’s a preview of the Week 17 clash between Miami and Tennessee.
Miami Need To Be Wary Of A.J. Brown
Tennessee has struggled for consistency since the injury to Derrick Henry back on Halloween, going 4-3 since. They still managed to beat the Los Angeles Rams, New Orleans Saints, and San Francisco 49ers without Henry, which is a credit to head coach Mike Vrabel.
Against the San Francisco 49ers last time out, the Titans struggled in the first half. They went into the halftime break 10-0 down and could have been in a much worse situation had 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo made some of his throws.
The Titans’ second-half resurgence was simultaneous with Brown’s turning up. He ended the game with 145 receiving yards and one touchdown from 11 receptions.
Miami has to neutralize Brown’s involvement in this game. He showed in this game that he is their go-to guy in the absence of Henry. Their defense will need to once again be on top of their game against Tennessee.
Defense Needs To Once Again Step Up
Miami recorded 8 sacks during the Monday Night Football win over the Saints, but former starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill is a much tougher proposition than rookie fourth choice QB Ian Book. Miami will need to be wary of the play-action pass, a staple of the Titans’ success on offense.
Miami dealt well against mobile quarterbacks in Lamar Jackson and Cam Newton during their current winning streak. Tannehill is not on the same level as Lamar and Cam when it comes to speed, but he has legs, and they will need to be wary of this.
Rookie safety Jevon Holland could prove to be the key, particularly in the nickel role. He will need to assess the field and be ready to move, depending on Tannehill’s movement. Xavien Howard will, of course, be another key figure for this defense. He is Miami’s only Pro Bowler this season and will want to build on his 4 interceptions so far. The Dolphins like to blitz, and they are likely to continue this against Tennessee.
Big Test For Tua
We have seen big improvements from quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and this will be his biggest test to date. Miami’s have the third-worst rushing offense in 2021 whereas the Titans have the second-best run defense this season. Duke Johnson may have had a 100-yard rushing game against the Jets two weekends ago, but it is likely that Johnson and his fellow running back room will be limited in their production on Sunday.
This is where Tua will have the pressure to perform. Miami has schemed well in recent weeks to suit the Alabama QB’s game and they have reaped the benefits.
The Titans may have the second-best run defense, but only six teams have allowed more passing yards than Tennessee this season. Tua will hope to capitalize on an underperforming pass defense. If he is to be successful, rookie receiver Jaylen Waddle will be the most used weapon for Tagovailoa.
He is also significantly trusted by Tua and the Dolphins coaching staff, with 96 receptions. He is only five receptions away from breaking Anquan Boldin’s record of the most receptions for a rookie wideout. He is also close to a 1,000-yard season, with his 941 yards the most for any Dolphins rookie. He is a special talent.
However, Miami will at some point need to rely on someone other than Waddle in the receiving game as teams will soon figure out how to beat them. DeVante Parker can be a threat when healthy. Tight end Mike Gesicki has the fourth-most receptions (67) for a tight end and only six players in his position have recorded more receiving yards this season (707), but it still feels as if he is not used enough by the Dolphins coaching staff.
Miami will want to continue their momentum against this tough and gritty Titans side. If they can stop A.J. Brown, then they have a chance. If Brown goes off, then Tua needs to have a good game.