Preview: Packers hope offense starts to click against Dolphins
GREEN BAY, Wis. — One team is starting a backup at quarterback but still above .500. The other boasts one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks, yet has a losing record.
Brock Osweiler will make a fifth straight start at quarterback for the Dolphins with Ryan Tannehill nursing a shoulder injury . Two-time NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers seems to be getting healthier after hurting his left knee in the Packers’ season opener against the Chicago Bears.
Advantage Packers on offense, at least on paper.
Yet for whatever reasons, what should be a prolific unit isn’t clicking consistently for the Packers (3-4-1), especially in the fourth quarters of their last two losses.
“Yeah, it’s definitely frustrating, especially when you’ve got the talent we do,” receiver Davante Adams said. “We just need a little bit of flow and consistency, and I think that’s what’s going to get this offense moving in the right direction.”
It’s little consolation that the losses have come against two of the league’s best teams, the Rams and Patriots . Miscues on special teams, offense and defense have caught up to the Packers to contribute to the stinging defeats.
Green Bay may need a “run the table” type of streak to get into the postseason. That phrase uttered by Rodgers turned into a catchword in 2016 when the Packers won eight straight games to go from 4-6 to the NFC title game.
“We’re focused on winning No. 4. That’s all we’re talking about right now,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “We improved as a football team the last two weeks, but you have to play your best football coming down the stretch, and that’s clearly been evident the last two weeks.”
The Dolphins (5-4) relied on a resilient defense to beat the struggling New York Jets 13-6. Miami had four interceptions and four sacks while holding the Jets to 2 of 15 on third and fourth downs.
It’s a nice cushion with Osweiler making another start. The Dolphins are 2-2 with Osweiler behind center, averaging 22 points a game.
“Any time you play a quarterback that’s as special as Aaron is, you want to limit the amount of possessions that he’s able to have,” Osweiler said. “We know offensively this week it’s very important for us to sustain drives, get first downs and try to be in control of that clock.”
Other notes and things to watch:
RUN THE DRAKE?
“We don’t want to be that far apart,” coach Adam Gase said. “There were a few opportunities where we were trying to do certain things with Kenyan that didn’t work out the way we wanted to where we were trying to get him the ball.”
Drake is averaging 4.8 yards per carry, but he has had six or fewer in five of Miami’s nine games. For the season he has 73 carries to 104 for the 35-year-old Gore.
A groin injury to Geronimo Allison means more opportunities for Marquez Valdes-Scantling. The fifth-round draft pick out of South Florida has shown potential to be a stretch-the-field threat with his speed and 6-foot-4 frame. Valdes-Scantling is averaging a team-best 21.1 yards per catch. He could be a beneficiary of more targets if the Dolphins decide to double Adams, the Packers’ top wideout.
Reshad Jones will be back in the lineup for the Dolphins after the two-time Pro Bowl safety took himself out of last week’s win over the Jets. Gase said that communication problems between defensive coordinator Matt Burke and players need to be addressed. Still, the defense last week was better after three straight poor games.
SAFETY SHUFFLE, PART 2
The Packers have done a midseason shuffle at safety. The moves began with the trade of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to Washington last week.
Kentrell Brice was limited at midweek with a knee injury, while Jermaine Whitehead was released this week. Veteran cornerback Tramon Williams was moved to safety against the Rams, but could be needed back at cornerback against Miami because of Kevin King‘s hamstring injury. Green Bay picked up safety Ibraheim Campbell off waivers from the New York Jets this week, while second-year player Josh Jones figures to see more snaps after being slowed by injury earlier this year.
The four picks of Jets rookie Sam Darnold last week gave Miami a league-high 15 interceptions. Now the Dolphins face Rodgers, who has thrown one pick this season.
“They’ve made a lot of plays on the ball. They do a nice disguise package,” Rodgers said. “Guys with vision to the football, which means you always have to be smart about your eye discipline.”
MIAMI (5-4) at GREEN BAY (3-4-1)
Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS
OPENING LINE – Packers by 7
RECORD VS. SPREAD – Miami 5-4, Green Bay 3-5
SERIES RECORD – Dolphins lead 10-4
LAST MEETING – Packers beat Dolphins 27-24, Oct. 12, 2014
LAST WEEK – Dolphins beat Jets 13-6; Packers lost to Patriots 31-17
AP PRO32 RANKING – Dolphins No. 19, Packers No. 16
DOLPHINS OFFENSE – OVERALL (28), RUSH (21), PASS (26).
DOLPHINS DEFENSE – OVERALL (26), RUSH (28), PASS (22).
PACKERS OFFENSE – OVERALL (6), RUSH (19), PASS (6).
PACKERS DEFENSE – OVERALL (16), RUSH (22), PASS (10).
STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES – Dolphins won last matchup at Lambeau Field, 23-20 in OT in 2010. … Dolphins have lost past three road games while being outscored 107-47. … Miami is above .500 despite being outgained by 704 yards and outscored by 38 points. … QB Brock Osweiler makes fifth start for injured Ryan Tannehill (shoulder). . Osweiler threw for 202 yards and score in last game against Packers while with Texans in 2016. … RB Kenyan Drake averaging 4.8 yards per carry, but has had six or fewer in five of Miami’s nine games. Drake’s 73 carries trail 104 for 35-year-old Frank Gore. … Miami is fourth worst in third-down conversions (34 percent). … Miami ranks first with 15 interceptions, including four last week against Jets. … Dolphins rank third in both punt return and kickoff return average, but last in kickoff return coverage. … P Matt Haack had seven punts inside 20 last week, tied for third most in NFL game since 1991. Haack’s tied for NFL lead with 26 punts inside 20 this season. … Packers QB Aaron Rodgers’ 60.6 completion percentage is below career 64.8 percentage. Rodgers has thrown 15 touchdowns to one interception, leading league with 0.3 percent interception percentage. … RB Aaron Jones leads NFL at 6.03 yards per carry. … WR Davante Adams first player in franchise history with at least five catches in first eight games of season. … LB Blake Martinez, who has ankle injury, has 46 tackles and four sacks in last five games. … Rookie CB Jaire Alexander has INT and six passes defended in past three games. … Defense ranked 21st in red zone (61.5 percent). … Fantasy tip: Rookie WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling poised for more playing time with WR Geronimo Allison (groin) going on injured reserve. Valdes-Scantling has 15 catches for 317 yards and two scores in last three games. Dolphins rank 28th while allowing 8.2 yards per catch.