In Week 16, the Las Vegas Raiders will face a Miami Dolphins team that has managed to keep themselves in the playoff hunt. This season, the ‘Phins’ have made defense their identity by consistently creating takeaways. However, the game could very well hinge on how well the Silver and Black defend a burgeoning Miami offense.
1. The Raiders will face an Intriguing young running back
Due to a rash of injuries and positive Covid-19 tests, the Dolphins have used different ball carriers over the course of this season. Myles Gaskin has gotten the most carries but, they may have found a diamond in the rough in Salvon Ahmed. The undrafted free agent out of Washington initially signed with the San Francisco 49ers this year. Nevertheless, they released him before the season started.
Although he hadn’t played much in 2020, he broke out against the New England Patriots in Week 15. In that matchup, he racked up 23 carries for 122 yards and a touchdown while averaging 5.3 yards per carry. Gaskin has been out but he should be back this week. Moreover, Miami will almost certainly fit speedster Matt Breida into the game plan. Expect them to try to ride the hot hand and Ahmed to lead their running back committee.
2. A threat to take it to the house
The Dolphins lost their number one wide receiver, Devante Parker, against the Kansas City Chiefs. His absence was obvious in the lack of big plays down the sidelines. The six-year veteran is a tremendous jump-ball receiver who consistently makes catches regardless of the coverage he playing against. All in all, he’s been a valuable red-zone threat for rookie Tua Tagovailoa in 2020. He’s questionable to suit up in Week 16, but if he plays, expect a few big plays on the boundary.
3. An emerging star at tight end
The aforementioned Chiefs game was one to forget. In that matchup, Miami went through a collection of injuries, and to add insult to injury, they lost. Emerging star tight Mike Gesicki suffered one of those lesions. Back in Penn State, he was an impact player, and that has carried over to the NFL, where he’s become a big-play guy as well as a security blanket for Miami’s young quarterback.
Gesicki has dressed up for 13 games this season and has hauled in 44 catches, 602 yards, and six touchdowns. He will be looking to bolster his stat line Saturday against a defense that has historically never been able to guard tight ends. You can almost certainly book at least one red zone touchdown for the third-year tight end.
Can the Raiders’ defense get enough stops?
Unfortunately for defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, the Raiders are going to get to play the Dolphins at near full strength. Losing will truly knock this Las Vegas team out of the playoffs. They currently sit at a 4 percent chance to qualify for the postseason, needing a lot of help. However, the hardest part of the equation is winning their own games. The offense has shown the ability to be explosive and productive regardless of who is under center, but can the defense stop the young playmakers on the other side? In the second of back-to-back games against rookie quarterbacks, the defense is in dire need of a good showing and there is no better time than this Saturday.
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Top Photo: Allen Eyestone/ The Palm Beach Post