The Miami Dolphins knew they were making a wise personnel decision when they turned to Mike McDaniel to take over. And he did so amid controversy. Not only was owner Stephen Ross under fire for tampering with Tom Brady, but he was being accused by Brian Flores, the fired ex-coach, of taking dives in games.
BetOnline patrons who watched the Miami situation last year may have sensed that there were factors that hurt the development of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Certainly, there were deficiencies in the offensive line. But also, there was the fact that Flores did not believe in him and wanted the team to make a deal to bring in DeShaun Watson.
This franchise is fortunate that they didn’t listen to him.
As a result, the Dolphins are contenders for the AFC East title, something not many people thought was possible at the beginning of the campaign. And with a record of 8-3, they will pay a visit to the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara on Sunday. Kickoff is slated for 4:05 PM ET.
Tua has emerged as a legitimate MVP candidate, with the second-highest accuracy rate. And with nine yards per attempt, he is way ahead of anybody else. McDaniel came in and made some repairs to an offensive line that didn’t give him any time to throw last year. And GM Chris Grier added Tyreek Hill, which created perhaps the fastest wide receiver duo in the league (with Jaylen Waddle).
Among NFL receivers, Hill is #1, and Waddle is #5 regarding yardage. And these guys are going to put some pressure on that Niner secondary.
In the NFL betting odds that have been posted on this game by the folks at BetOnline, the Niners are favored in the ballgame:
San Francisco 49ers -4.5 (-107)
Miami Dolphins +4.5 (-113)
Over 45.5 Points -110
Under 44.5 Points -110
As you probably know, McDaniel had been the offensive coordinator with the Niners before coming to Miami. And his pride and joy were the ground game. But he hasn’t really been able to crank it up to full throttle in Miami, even with a couple of his former 49ers players on board. The Dolphins are just 28th in the league in rushing yards.
Maybe that’ll come around at some point. But Tua has been able to work play-action anyway; in fact, he’s had more yardage on play-action passes than anyone in the NFL. McDaniel also has him getting the ball downfield consistently. With Hill and Waddle, you expect that. Tua is averaging 9.1 Intended Air Yards per attempt, which is third in the league.
One has to absolutely respect the way the Niners have put together their arsenal of weapons. The trade for Christian McCaffrey at the deadline was a true “win-now” move. And it was a good thing they did it because they traded Jeff Wilson to the Dolphins, and Elijah Mitchell went down once, then twice, with an MCL injury.
McCaffrey is an especially dangerous guy catching passes out of the backfield. And when you put him together with Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, and George Kittle out there, you have the makings of an offense that can get this team to the Super Bowl, provided Jimmy Garoppolo, who has thrown seven TD passes without an interception over the Niners’ last four games – all wins – can keep away from costly mistakes.
Having said all that, let’s remember that the Dolphins have not lost a game this season that Tua has played all the way through. That’s 8-0. And even though the Niners possess one of the top defensive units in the NFL, their greater expertise has been in stopping ground games. They have actually allowed 64 explosive pass plays, which is tied for the fifth most in the league. So maybe Hill and/or Waddle can get loose and do some damage. We’re taking the points.
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