Saturday Slate Overview ::
By Hilow >>
- Christian Darrisaw is expected to return for the Vikings after an extended absence meaning Kirk Cousins should have his blindside protection back.
- Nickel corner Kenny Moore missed practice on Wednesday for the Colts with an ankle injury; Moore had played all but three offensive snaps until Week 12 when he injured the ankle.
- The Colts rank dead last in turnover margin at a ghastly -1.1 per game, which jumps to -1.6 per game on the road.
- While the Colts offense has struggled to score for most of the season, they have continued operating with an elevated pace of play with Jeff Saturday as head coach, running more than the league average offensive plays from scrimmage in each of the four games under Saturday.
- Lamar Jackson did not practice Tuesday or Wednesday with his knee injury, while Tyler Huntley returned to a full participant on Wednesday following a concussion early in Week 14, although it remains unclear whether or not Huntley has cleared the league’s five-step concussion protocol (likely not, at this point).
- Cleveland wide receiver David Bell has yet to practice this week with multiple injuries. I tentatively expect him to sit on the short week.
- Amari Cooper has also yet to practice, but is listed as “not injury related-rest-hip.” I tentatively expect him to play.
- The Ravens and Browns are likeliest to play to an ugly slugfest; that said, each team possesses the individual talent to break the game open.
- Miami at Buffalo is a matchup between two of the top six teams in pass rate over expectation (PROE); each defense is also top five in most metrics against the run.
- OT Terron Armstead, WR River Cracraft, S Eric Rowe, S Elijah Campbell, and RB Jeff Wilson missed practice Tuesday and Wednesday this week for the Dolphins.
- Cleveland is expecting a couple of inches of snow and 20ish mph sustained winds on game day (will update this on Saturday).
- Buffalo is expecting another lake effect snow, with 15ish mph sustained winds and a few inches of snow (will update this on Saturday).
How miami Will Try To Win ::
The Chiefs and Chargers are the only two teams in the league that have been at or above league average in PROE in every game played. There are five other teams that have been at or above league average PROE in all but one game – the Bengals, Vikings, Seahawks, and these two teams. The Dolphins and Bills also have the second and third highest single game instances of PROE. Basically, when the game is on the line, these two teams want to be passing. The other important thing to understand about the Dolphins is that head coach and offensive play-caller Mike McDaniel is one of the most progressive coaches in the league, one who looks to identify where he can go with the football in order to exploit his opposition. Now consider his opposition, a Bills team with a stout defense that is able to generate organic pressure up front, one that has been running increased rates of man coverage as their defense has returned to health, and we’re left with a likeliest game plan that involves increased ball-out-quick mechanics designed to get Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle in space. That scenario is amplified a bit by the expected weather as the Buffalo area is expected to be below freezing, with light snowfall and moderate winds on Saturday night. The injuries to Jeff Wilson and River Cracraft are likely to condense the expected funnel of volume further for an offense likely to operate from increased rates of 21-personnel. With all of that in mind, the Bills present the Dolphins with their toughest test to date, something that Vegas agrees with as Miami currently holds a modest 18.25 Vegas implied team total.
Jeff Wilson injured his hip in Miami’s Week 14 loss to the Chargers and has yet to practice this week, making it likely he misses this contest. That should keep Raheem Mostert heavily involved as the clear lead back, likely spelled by Myles Gaskin (whom I’d expect to be active this week). I’d also expect elevated rates of 21-personnel through the utilization of fullback Alec Ingold for a team that has run 50% of their offensive snaps over the previous five games from the grouping. All told, the ultimate workload for the backs here is highly likely to be influenced by game environment, with the Dolphins likeliest to begin the contest in a pass-first posture, only introducing increased rush rates if they assert control into the second half (unlikely). The matchup on the ground yields a well below average 4.05 net-adjusted line yards metric against a Buffalo defense ceding just 21.5 DK points per game to opposing backfields.
The pass game presents an interesting chess match for each team here as the Bills have run increased rates of man coverage now that their defense has returned to health but the Dolphins have faced the second fewest man coverage this season due to their offensive personnel. As in, teams are simply not throwing man coverage at a team that has Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. That said, Buffalo’s three highest rates of man coverage this season have come against the three teams that have seen the most man coverages against (Chiefs, Browns, and Lions), making it more likely we see the team revert back to more modest rates of man coverage considering how the league has chosen to handle the Dolphins this season. From a micro perspective, Tyreek Hill is Miami’s man-beater (phrasing could be better there) while Hill and Waddle have enjoyed equal success against zone this season. Trent Sherfield should continue to operate in the WR3 role for the Dolphins, with Cedrick Wilson and recent addition Freddie Swain on hand to fill any “breather snaps” for the top trio. Finally, Mike Gesicki has ridden off into obscurity, catching a grand total of zero passes over his last three games in a reduced role now that Durham Smythe is healthy again.