Now 4-8 on the season, the Washington Commanders are facing a must-win game against the Miami Dolphins if they want to sneak into the playoffs.
While shooting for the playoffs should always be the priority, Commanders fans understand that this team is preparing for the future. This was confirmed when the team traded away defensive ends Montez Sweat and Chase Young at the deadline for second and third-round draft picks.
While Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne hold down the defensive line until reinforcements are brought in or drafted, it’s going to be an uphill climb for the defense. So how will they fare against the explosive Miami Dolphins team this coming Sunday at FedEx Field? Let’s break it down.
Miami Dolphins vs Washington Commanders – What to Watch For
Washington Commanders Week 12 Recap
While the Commanders fell away in the fourth quarter against Dallas, they held their own for the first three quarters, trailing by only ten points going into the fourth. That was until the Dallas offense steamrolled the Commanders defense, scoring two touchdowns and a field goal before Cowboys cornerback DaRon Bland’s record-breaking fifth pick-six with just over a minute left in the game.
Washington went up against a high-flying Dallas team and went almost toe to toe for yards and production in the game, against a very good Cowboys defense.
Dak Prescott threw for 334 yards and four touchdowns, while Sam Howell threw for 300 yards and a pick. The difference being that the Cowboys were able that production into points and their top-ranked defense was able to hold the Commanders offense when they crossed into Dallas territory.
Washington Commanders vs Miami Dolphins Game Preview
By now Commanders fans are aware of the vast improvements needed on the defensive side, and those improvements are going to require patience.
The problem is, Washington will not have a solution for that problem before Sunday, when one of the most dangerous offenses in the game when Tua Tagovailoa, Tyreek Hill, and the Miami Dolphins come to town.
The Miami Dolphins (8-3), lead the league in scoring, averaging 30.8 points per game, and sit atop of the Buffalo Bills in the AFC East. Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has had his name floated around in the MVP conversation, as has receiver Tyreek Hill, who is currently on pace to break the single season receiving record set by Calvin Johnson back in 2012. This Washington secondary is going to have their work cut out for them to contain this explosive Dolphins offense.
Rookie running back DeVon Achane should be back, but even if he’s limited the Dolphins’ run game has remained at the top of the rankings much in part to running back Raheem Mostert who leads the team with 785 rushing yards and 13 rushing touchdowns through 11 games. Like the rest of the Dolphins offense, Mostert has home run speed, so containing him if he breaks through the line of scrimmage will be crucial.
Defensive Woes For the Commanders
This young Commanders defense, now led by head coach Ron Rivera after the firing of defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, will have their work cut out for them against the explosive Miami offense. Rivera has said that he wants to see the defense, which currently ranks 29th of 32 teams, play faster, and that is exactly what they will have to do to keep up with the Dolphins and their fast-paced offense.
In each of the Dolphins three losses on the season, their opponents held them to 20-points or less. If the Commanders, who rank 32nd out of 32 teams in opponent points per game, can hold the league leading Dolphins to 24 points or less, that would be a major win. In that scenario, the Commanders, who opened as nine-point underdogs, could not only keep up with the Dolphins, but could even pull off the upset.
Despite the lopsided 45-10 score, the Washington Commanders held their own in their Thanksgiving Day clash with the NFC East rivals the Dallas Cowboys. Their 376-yards of total offense was just 55-yards short of the Cowboys total, and the Commanders were able to keep it a two-score game going into the fourth quarter after a scoreless third. That was before a 52-yard field goal by Cowboys rookie kicker Brandon Aubrey in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter kickstarted a 25-point run for the Cowboys that would go unanswered by the Commanders. If Washington can do to Miami what Dallas did to them, then they have a shot.
While the dominant Dolphins offense may be the talk of the league, their top-10 defense is not one to overlook. Commanders quarterback Sam Howell, who leads the league in passing yards, will need to be extremely careful against this Miami defense. The second-year quarterback leads the league in sacks taken (55) and is tied with Bills quarterback Josh Allen for the most interceptions (13). He will have to rely on his struggling offensive line to protect him and to buy him enough time to make clean throws downfield while keeping the ball away from Miami cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and Xavien Howard.
Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has the fastest time to throw speed in the league this season, so there is no surprise that Miami has the third lowest quarterback sack percentage on offense in the league (4.52%). Since trading away veteran defensive ends Montez Sweat and Chase Young, the Commanders pass rush has managed just one sack in three of the last four games with the nine-sack day against the New York Giants, who leads the league in offensive sack percentage, being the lone outlier. Without the heavy pass rush to apply consistent pressure on the quarterback, the Washington secondary will have to step up and make the big plays to keep the game within reach.
The Miami Dolphins head into FedEx Field on Sunday as 9.5-point favorites over the Washington Commanders. The Dolphins are coming off a 34-13 win against the New York Jets (4-7) on the road in a game where they were favored to win by 10 points. Mike McDaniel’s team will be looking to return to Miami for a three-game home stretch with a 9-3 record and a cleaner performance from their offense.
As explosive as Miami has been this season, the Dolphins can sometimes stall on offense, creating opportunities for their opponents. It will be up to the Washington defense to slow down the Miami offense so Sam Howell can lead the Commanders downfield and into Miami territory.
Commanders running back Brian Robinson has seen his role increase in recent weeks both on the ground and as a receiver out of the backfield, a trend that will likely continue when the Commanders take on the Dolphins in Week 13.
While the opportunity for the Commanders to keep the game close and remain competitive is there, it is unlikely that this young Commanders team will be able to slow down the fast-paced Dolphins offense enough to sneak away with a win.
Game Prediction: Washington Commanders 21, Miami Dolphins 31