Dolphins vs. Chargers NFL Week 11: 5 Must-Watch Matchups
Dolphins vs. Chargers: 5 Must-Watch Matchups
The Miami Dolphins and San Diego Chargers are set to do battle in Week 11. The winner will move to .500 on the season and at worst will remain one game back in the race for the AFC's second wildcard spot. The loser, however, will see their playoff hopes begin to fade.
A win for Miami would be especially gratifying as the team has been dealing with a heavily dramatized locker room controversy and a loss to a previously winless team during the past two weeks.
Joe Philbin and the coaching staff are desperate for a win. GM Jeff Ireland is desperate for a win. The Dolphins' frustrated fan base is desperate for a win.
So far the adversity Miami is facing hasn't galvanized the team like many fans hoped it would. In fact, the Dolphins looked uninspired in Week 10, which was curious given the circumstances and being that it was a nationally televised game.
Will that change in Week 11 now that the Dolphins have been pushed even further against the ropes? Even if it does, a win is far from guaranteed or even likely.
The Chargers are a solid team with one of the NFL's most dangerous passing attacks. But they are beatable, as evidenced by a below average defense that could allow Miami's offense to get on track through the air and on the ground.
Let's take a look at five must-watch matchups for Sunday's game.
Cody Strahm is Miami Dolphins contributor for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @CodyJStrahm.
5. Reshad Jones vs. Antonio Gates
The falloff of Dolphins strong safety Reshad Jones since he received a near $30 million extension in August has been drastic and quite alarming.
After a dominant 2012 campaign where Jones ranked third among all safeties in overall efficiency according to Pro Football Focus, he ranks 80th of 86 players at the position in 2013. The Chargers and star tight end Antonio Gates will look to continue exposing Jones as a one-year wonder on Sunday.
Through nine games, Jones has allowed 25 of the 29 passes thrown his way to be completed. Those 25 conceded receptions have produced 338 yards and one touchdown.
Gates, who Jones projects to cover on many snaps in Week 11, has the second most receiving yards in the entire NFL for a tight end with 612. Jones must return to form on Sunday to keep Gates and the Chargers' prolific passing attack in check.
4. Mike Wallace vs. Derek Cox
Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace was listed on the team's injury report on Thursday with a hamstring injury. Assuming he plays on Sunday, though, he'll likely be covered by San Diego cornerback Derek Cox.
Wallace hasn't lived up to his lucrative contract so far as a Dolphin, but there's a chance his stat line will be indicative of a $60 million receiver on Sunday, as Cox has been one of the league's most victimized starting cornerbacks in 2013.
Pro Football Focus ranks Cox 98th of 106 eligible players at his position through the first nine games of the season. Cox has already conceded 484 receiving yards, three touchdowns and a 103.0 quarterback rating in coverage this year.
If Wallace and quarterback Ryan Tannehill can't get on the same page this week they may never.
3. Cameron Wake vs. D.J. Fluker
After a spectacular performance in Week 9 when defensive end Cameron Wake produced three sacks, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a walk-off safety, the fifth-year pro had a quiet outing in Week 10.
Wake will need to show a little more consistency down the stretch as the Dolphins aren't getting much of a pass rush from edge rushers Olivier Vernon and Derrick Shelby and rookie defensive end Dion Jordan is rarely seeing the field. On Sunday, Wake will have the opportunity to square off against a rookie in right tackle D.J. Fluker.
Fluker is having a decent first season in San Diego and has only allowed two sacks and 19 hurries thus far. Facing one of the league's most explosive pass rushers will be a tall order for a tackle with so little experience, however.
The Dolphins' defense needs Wake to be a game-changer if the unit has any hope of emerging as an above average group. It should be interesting to see how much of a rush he generates on quarterback Philip Rivers this Sunday.
2. Philip Wheeler vs. Danny Woodhead
Only Darren Sproles has more receiving yards for a running back than the 408 Danny Woodhead has amassed catching passes out of the backfield in San Diego this season.
That could be problematic for the Dolphins in Week 11, as outside linebacker Philip Wheeler, who the Chargers will undoubtedly attempt to get Woodhead matched up against, has been dreadful in coverage this season.
Wheeler has given up 30 receptions, 298 receiving yards and two touchdowns when targeted in coverage, which are incredibly high numbers for a linebacker. By comparison, Miami cornerback Nolan Carroll has given up 30 less yardage in coverage than Wheeler.
Wheeler must do a better job in coverage on Sunday, especially when he's matched up against the shifty Woodhead, or Rivers will be playing pitch and catch with his running back on many plays.
1. Rishard Matthews vs. Johnny Patrick
Rishard Matthews had a coming out party of sorts in Week 10, catching 11 passes for 120 yards and two touchdowns, all of which were career highs for the second-year receiver.
Matthews will look to continue filling the void of injured slot receiver Brandon Gibson on Sunday and will have a decent opportunity to do so against the Chargers' struggling nickel corner, Johnny Patrick.
Patrick has conceded a 71.4 completion percentage and a 100.8 quarterback rating to opposing quarterbacks this season. The 329 yards he's allowed in coverage is a high amount for a nickel cornerback.
Matthews probably won't be as productive as he was this past Monday night, but expect him to make a few big catches against Patrick and the Chargers.