Dec 4, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA; Miami Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi (23) runs past Baltimore Ravens linebacker Matt Judon (91) during the second half at M&T Bank Stadium. Baltimore Ravens defeated Miami Dolphins 38-6. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
For the first time in 12 years, the Arizona Cardinals are headed to Miami to face the Dolphins. The last two meetings between the two teams have been in Glendale. The Cardinals won the last meeting in September of 2012, 24-21 in overtime.
The Cardinals are coming off a 31-23 victory over the Washington Redskins. The Dolphins were whipped 38-6 at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens last Sunday.
Both teams are still trying to position themselves for the playoffs, although a loss by the Cardinals (5-6-1) will end that mission. The Dolphins (7-5) can lose and still be in the mix in the AFC but they make things very difficult on themselves by doing so.
The weather forecast in Miami on Sunday calls for a high of 77. It also calls for a 70 percent chance of rain. I know, shocking. Let’s hope at least the weather holds off for this one.
The Cardinals are 1-2 against the AFC East so far this season. The Dolphins are 2-1 against the NFC West so far in 2016.
Dec 4, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer throws a pass in the first quarter against the Washington Redskins at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
The Cardinals offense last week against the Redskins was able to move the ball in short spurts. The short passing game seemed to work for quarterback Carson Palmer and his receivers.
Last week Palmer threw for 300-yards and three touchdowns, no interceptions. Also, running back David Johnson had 84-yards rushing on 18 carries. Additionally, he caught nine passes for 91-yards. He had one touchdown rushing and another receiving.
It is that kind of balance the Cardinals will need once again to succeed against the Dolphins, particularly if any weather develops. Johnson will need to touch the ball 25-30 times.
The Cardinals will need to contend with Dolphins cornerback Byron Maxwell. He is an up and coming corner who has 50 tackles and two interceptions this season. He recently indicated he felt he was the best corner in the game.
He is good, but the Cardinals offensive weapons, when healthy and performing at the top of their game, are better. Speaking of being healthy, it appears receiver John Brown will play but will be limited in the number of snaps he sees.
The Dolphins defense is ranked 25th in the league in average yards given up, giving up 373.1-yards-per-game. They have 11 interceptions as a unit.
The Cardinals offense is ranked 9th in the NFL in total yards gained. They average 369.1-yards-per-game. Palmer has thrown 11 interceptions so far in 2016.
Nov 27, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson (21) waves to fans before their game against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
The Cardinals defense surprisingly is ranked second in the league and the Dolphins will have their hands full. However the Cardinals have three top defenders who have not practiced yet this week.
Safety Tyrann Mathieu, who missed last Sunday’s game against the Redskins, cornerback Tharold Simon, and linebacker Markus Golden all have missed practice each day this week.
It would be surprising to see Mathieu play this week. His shoulder suffered a setback last week and the Honey Badger had to take himself out for last week. Golden would be a huge loss if he can’t go. He has seven sacks so far this season.
Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill has turned things around a bit this season. Fans were ready to run him out of town last year. He has thrown for 2,800 yards with 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
The real test though for the Cardinals may be Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi. He is seventh in the NFL in rushing with 908-yards and seven touchdowns in 2016. The Cardinals defensive line has been pushed around a bit the past couple of weeks allowing big holes to be created by opponent running backs.
Dec 4, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (11) makes a catch during the first half against the Washington Redskins at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
On paper there are a number of similarities between the two teams. On the field, the Dolphins have found a way to win some of their closer games. The Cardinals have been bitten by the close games.
Las Vegas has the Cardinals as two-point favorites, which is interesting considering the Cardinals are 1-4 on the road so far this season. The Dolphins are 5-1 at home. The only home loss this season was to the up-and-coming Tennessee Titans.
Look for a close game, particularly if any rain comes the way of Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday. As long as the Cardinals don’t beat themselves with costly penalties and turnovers, they should be there at the end. Of course as we’ve seen this season, easier said than done.
In the end, the Cardinals should be able to come away with a victory. They looked like a different team last Sunday. Actually, they looked more like the 2015 Cardinals and what we expected out of them this season. Continue on the mission to run the table. Cardinals 27 Dolphins 24