It’s time to reveal my prediction for Sunday’s game between the Miami Dolphins and San Diego Chargers. I’ve included picks from experts in the media as well, and I encourage each reader to post their prediction for the game in the comments section.
USA Today: 6-of-7 picked Chargers
ESPN: 10-of-13 picked Chargers
NFL Playbook: 3-of-3 picked Chargers
CBS Sports: 7-of-8 picked Chargers
Fox Sports: 2 picked Dolphins, 2 picked Chargers
There are several elements of this game that make it such a difficult one to predict. Both teams are 4-5 and in the midst of a competitive fight for the AFC‘s sixth playoff seed.
The Chargers are making the cross-country trip to Miami where the Dolphins are 7-5 under head coach Joe Philbin. But Philbin’s club recently suffered an embarrassing loss on national television to what was a winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers team.
Then there is the off-the-field drama in Miami, which hasn’t united the team on the field like many Dolphins fans hoped it would. There’s a chance it has actually done the opposite, and that Miami has already mailed it in, so to speak, for the season given said controversy and losses in five of the team’s last six games.
If there is any fight left in these Dolphins, however, I like their chances on Sunday. The Chargers, despite quarterback Philip Rivers‘ resurgence, are a flawed team. San Diego has lost more games than it has won this season thanks in large part to a leaky secondary and a mediocre defensive line.
Also, the Chargers’ offensive line could be as penetrable as Miami’s in Week 11 being that starting left tackle King Dunlap has been ruled out with a neck injury and starting center Nick Hardwick has a 50-50 chance of playing with a neck injury as well.
If the Dolphins’ defense can own the line of scrimmage on Sunday, their lousy linebacker corps won’t be as detrimental against the run and Rivers might not have sufficient time to pick Miami apart throwing to weapons like Antonio Gates at tight end and Keenan Allen at receiver.
I see Gates and running back Danny Woodhead having productive receiving outings for San Diego, especially when matched up against safety Reshad Jones and outside linebacker Philip Wheeler in coverage for Miami. If the Dolphins can stall a few of the Chargers’ promising drives in the red zone, though, like many other defenses have been able to do this season, quarterback Ryan Tannehill has the ability to put up enough points on the other side of the ball to lead Miami to victory.
The Chargers have a suspect secondary and a less-than-stellar pass rush. I expect Tannehill to have time and for his receivers to provide consistent separation. If the second-year quarterback makes sound decisions with the football, he could be poised for one of his most impressive showings as a pro.
I’m not sure how this roller-coaster season is going to play out down the stretch for the Dolphins, but on Sunday, I like them to eke out a close win over the Chargers.
Miami 24, San Diego 23.
Cody Strahm is a Miami Dolphins contributor for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @CodyJStrahm.