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Game Preview: Dolphins Vs. Eagles


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Okay, so this Sunday's game, on its surface, against the Miami Dolphins might not have as much juice as last weekend's Sunday night game against the Dallas Cowboys. It's just the 14th matchup all time between the two sides, and there's not much of a rivalry to speak of.

Still, the Eagles are looking to put together just their second two-game win streak of the season and climb above .500 for the first time all year. The rival New York Giants have a tough matchup against the undefeated New England Patriots, so there's a good chance that an Eagles win could put the team in first place by the time the day's done.

The 33-27 overtime win was an exhilarating experience for sure, with Jordan Matthews scampering 41-yards for the game-winning touchdown, but as Chip Kelly said earlier this week that game won't mean much if the Eagles can't build off of it. Could this be the turning point toward a red-hot second half?

Miami won't let that happen without a fight. After a 1-3 start, the Dolphins fired head coach Joe Philbin, and the team has responded under interim head coach Dan Campbell. They won two games in a row under Campbell, but have since lost two straight to AFC East opponents. Looking to avoid a three-game losing streak, Ryan Tannehill, Lamar Miller, Ndamukong Suh and company should be on their A-game.

Meanwhile, the Eagles have been running wild as of late. In their last four games, the Eagles average a whopping 173 yards per game on the ground. The running game is beginning to round into the idea that the Eagles had in mind when DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews were signed this past offseason, and in turn, it's opening up things for Sam Bradford and the passing game.

Can the Eagles continue riding the wave of success, or will the Dolphins flip the script? Here's the preview ...

- Alex Smith

Last Time They Met

Eagles 26, Dolphins 10
December 11, 2011 - Sun Life Stadium

Michael Vick led the Eagles' offense in this 26-10 road victory, while Matt Moore started for the Dolphins but was knocked out of the game with a head injury, forcing J.P. Losman into the game. Offensively, neither team was able to get much going, with Philadelphia gaining 239 total yards on the day and Miami mustering just 204, but the Eagles were able to turn defense to offense en route to the Week 14 win.

The Eagles notched nine sacks, including one by Phillip Hunt for a safety in the fourth quarter, and during a nine-minute span in the second quarter were able to rack up 24 points off of three Dolphins turnovers. LeSean McCoy rushed 27 times in the game for just 38 yards, but got into the end zone twice. DeSean Jackson scored on the game's longest play from scrimmage, a 34-yard reception from Vick, who completed 15 of his 30 passes for 208 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

- Max Rappaport


When The Eagles Have The Ball

After failing to top 400 yards of total offense in any of its first four games – being held to fewer than 250 in two of those outings, the Eagles' offense came alive over the second quarter of the season. Philadelphia is coming off its third game in four outings with over 400 yards of total offense and is averaging 26.3 points per game during that stretch after averaging 19.5 over the first quarter of the year.

A huge factor in the team's offensive success has been its ability to make plays in the ground game, as it has topped 150 yards rushing in each of its last four games. Against the Cowboys last week, DeMarco Murray gained 161 yards of total offense, including 83 rushing yards on 18 carries (4.6 yards per attempt). After rushing for just 47 total yards through Week 4, Murray has gained an average of 85.8 yards per game over the Eagles' last four. Ryan Mathews has been the Eagles' most efficient rusher this season, averaging 6.1 yards per carry and leading the team with 409 yards on the ground. Murray and Mathews have scored five touchdowns apiece this season.

Dropped passes plagued Jordan Matthews early on this season, but against Dallas the second-year wideout broke out of his slump, catching nine balls for 133 yards and a touchdown, the walk-off, game-winner in overtime. The Eagles will look to get fellow sophomore receiver Josh Huff out of his season-long funk. On the year, Huff has caught just 15 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown. The same is true for rookie Nelson Agholor, who has missed the Eagles' last three games with an ankle injury but is expected to return to action against the Dolphins.

Perhaps the biggest story on the offensive side of the ball for the Eagles, though, has been the play of quarterback Sam Bradford, who put together one of his more poised performances of the season last week in Dallas, completing 25 of his 36 passes (69.4 percent) for 295 yards and a touchdown in the win. As the season has gone on, the veteran signal-caller has looked more and more comfortable in the pocket, which makes sense when you consider that prior to this season he hadn't started a regular season game since 2013 because of knee injuries.

The Dolphins against whom the Eagles might have an edge. Miami ranks in the bottom-third of the league in both yards and points allowed per game, and in the wake of four-time Pro Bowl pass-rusher Cameron Wake going down with a torn Achilles tendon a couple weeks back, the Dolphins will be without one of their best defensive playmakers. The team added defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh this past offseason, and he has notched three sacks this season lining up over center in Miami's defense after totaling 8.5 last year with the Lions last year. All of his sacks this season have come in the past three weeks.

Thanks in part to a defensive backfield that features three-time Pro Bowl corner Brent Grimes, the Dolphins have allowed just one 300-yard passer this season, seeing Tom Brady go for 342 with four touchdowns in their 36-7 loss in Week 8. On the ground, they allowed a season-high 266 yards against the Bills last week but hadn't given up more than 100 in any of the three games that preceded it.

- Max Rappaport




When The Dolphins Have The Ball

Coming off consecutive losses, the 3-5 Dolphins will look to get things started again on offense this weekend in Philadelphia. In its past two games, the team scored seven and 17 points, a large decrease after nabbing 38 and 44 in Weeks 6 and 7, respectively.

As a whole, the Miami Dolphins have struggled in a few areas. However, the one of most importance would be points scored as they average only 21.4 points each game, a number that is skewed by the two aforementioned performances. They rank 21st in the league in that area and taking on the Eagles' 10th-ranked scoring defense is bound to make the task all the more challenging for Miami.

A few intriguing stats for the team surrounds its run game, an area it does not rely heavily upon. The Dolphins rank 31st in the league, attempting just 21 rushes per game. But, the team is tied for second with the Rams as it accumulates approximately 4.9 yard per carry. Only Pittsburgh gains more per attempt on the ground (5.1). Running back Lamar Miller leads the way with 478 rushing yards on the season and five touchdowns. His average of 5.3 rushing yards each carry also ties him for sixth most in the league.

Even though Miami doesn't utilize its run game to the fullest extent, Philadelphia will need to be prepared. The Eagles' run defense has struggled as of late and is allowing 112.9 rushing yards each game, 21st among NFL teams. While it will most likely be with linebacker DeMeco Ryans for the first time since Week 6, the Eagles will be without rookie Jordan Hicks, who suffered a season-ending injury against Dallas. Hicks is tied with Malcolm Jenkins for most tackles on the team (54), making his loss one the Eagles will need to adjust to quickly.

In terms of the passing game, Miami accumulates about 254.6 yards each matchup and it has truly been the main focus for the team. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill is completing 64.2 percent of his passes, but has thrown nine interceptions in 2015. Takeaways have been the name of the game for the Eagles' defense, which is second in the league with 20, 12 of which are picks.

Additionally, Tannehill has been sacked 23 times this year for a whopping loss of 223 yards, the most negative yards among all quarterbacks. The team's starting right guard, Billy Turner, is listed as questionable with a knee injury, which could force a shuffle on the offensive line as well. Currently, Fletcher Cox (5), Brandon Graham (4) and Connor Barwin (3) have the most sacks for the Eagles, and Graham is coming off a two-sack performance against the Cowboys.

As far as the secondary is concerned, it will need to watch for Jarvis Landry and Rishard Matthews. The two have over 500 receiving yards each this season with 535 and 554, respectively. Landry also poses a threat in the running game, having rushed for 95 yards and a 22-yard touchdown.

Even with all the issues in Miami this year, the Eagles' defense knows it'll need to come out strong on Sunday.

- Julie Bacanskas


Key Matchups

Eagles RBs vs. Miami Run Defense

Since Week 5, the Eagles have had the No. 2 rushing attack in the NFL, with 173.3 yards per game. After a slow start to the season, the trio is clearly adjusted and making a difference week in and week out. Murray, Mathews and Darren Sproles will look to continue that dominance on the ground against Miami, the 31st-ranked rushing defense in the league.

The Dolphins allow 142.1 yards on the ground each week, but they're coming to Philadelphia after one of their worst performances. They allowed 266 rushing yards in a game against Buffalo and two 100-yard rushers. Clearly the team will have made adjustments this week, but this matchup could be a huge one for the Eagles' running backs.

Eagles Offensive Line vs. DT Ndamukong Suh

The Eagles' offensive line will have its hands full when taking on Suh this weekend. The six-year veteran has 261 career tackles, 39 career sacks and the ability to shut down opposing offenses. This season, he's accumulated three sacks and four passes defensed. In recent weeks Philadelphia's offensive line has shuffled around due to Jason Peters' back injury. With the left tackle questionable, the O-line may be jumbled once again, although it did play very well in Dallas last Sunday.

WR Jordan Matthews vs. Dolphins Secondary

Matthews is coming off his best performance of the season with nine catches for 133 yards and the game-winning 41-yard touchdown in overtime. After being plagued with drops for much of the start of the year, the breakout game was exactly what Matthews needed and he is prepared to continue that type of play.

For Matthews, his height will once again work in his favor this weekend against the Miami secondary. The majority of the team's cornerbacks are below 6-0, giving the 6-3 receiver an advantage.

- Julie Bacanskas


Trends To Watch

A Dolphin Tale

The Eagles have beaten the Dolphins in each of their last three matchups, going back to the 2003 season. An Eagles win would knot up the all-time series at seven wins apiece.

Making A Splash With The Run Game

Miami has allowed at least 120 rushing yards to opponents in five of its eight games this season. Last week, Buffalo ran for 266 yards in a victory. Miami has a record of 1-4 in those five games, and that bodes well for this run-heavy Eagles team.

AFC On The Menu

The Eagles have feasted on AFC opponents as of late. Dating back to Week 9 of the 2013 season, the Eagles have won six straight games versus AFC teams. The Eagles are 1-0 against the AFC this year, defeating the Jets 24-17 back in Week 3.

- Alex Smith

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