By Curt Macysyn
Normally a short trip to south Florida would be a welcome respite for an NFL team in December, but these are trying times for the New York Giants (5-7). With two straight losses, the G-men went from first place to third place in the blink of an eye. Sunday’s 23-20 overtime loss to the New York Jets may have been the final nail in the coffin for this season’s playoff hopes, as well as the tenure of Super Bowl-winning coach Tom Coughlin.
The Miami Dolphins (5-7) have been every bit as inconsistent as the New York Giants this season. After an opening day win over the Washington Redskins, the Dolphins promptly lost three games in a row, which ended the tenure of Joe Philbin as head coach. Former Giants tight end Dan Campbell stepped in on an interim basis, and he has led the team to a 4-4 record, including an ugly 15-13 win over the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.
Miami Dolphins on Offense
Opinions on quarterbacks are a dime a dozen, and there certainly are plenty of opinions on the Dolphins signal-caller, Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill is in his fourth year after being drafted by the Dolphins in the 2012 draft (8th overall). The less that Tannehill throws, the better the Dolphins seem to do. In Sunday’s win against the Ravens, the former Aggie threw the ball only 19 times. In the previous week’s blowout loss to the New York Jets, Tannehill threw 58 passes and 33 (57 percent). You be the judge.
At least the Dolphins do have a rushing threat in halfback Lamar Miller. Miller ran for 113 yards on 20 carries on Sunday, his third 100-yard game of the year. The 20 carries were a season high for Miller, who averages 4.9 yards per carry. Miller also has 39 catches out of the backfield.
Odell Beckham’s old teammate, Jarvis Landry, leads the Dolphins in receiving with 78 receptions and 861 receiving yards. Wide receiver Rishard Matthews compliments Landry on the outside (43 catches – 662 receiving yards), but Matthews missed Sunday’s game with broken ribs.
Miami Dolphins on Defense
Cameron Wake still leads the Dolphins in sacks with seven, and Wake has not played since Oct. 29 when he tore his Achilles tendon and was lost for the season. Menacing Ndamukong Suh patrols the interior defensive line for Miami, and he has 45 total tackles and four quarterback sacks on the season. He will be a handful for Weston Richburg and company to control. Olivier Vernon has stepped in for Wake at the defensive end position and has 4.5 sacks in the past three games.
Safety Reshad Jones is having a Pro Bowl season for the Dolphins. Not only does Jones lead Miami in total tackles with 107, he also has two quarterbacks sacks and four interceptions. He has been a one-man highlight reel. The Giants should not ignore Brent Grimes either, as the veteran cornerback has three interceptions while covering the opponent’s top target.
Miami Dolphins Players to Watch
Typically, the Giants have been unable to corral Ndamukong Suh, as the uber-aggressive defensive tackle can reek havoc in the middle. The Giants already have an anemic rushing attack, and Suh’s presence more than likely means that Big Blue will be a one-dimensional passing team on Monday.
The Dolphins should want to exploit Big Blue’s porous rush defense with a heavy dosage of Lamar Miller. If the Giants cannot stop Miller on the ground, chances are he will surpass his season high total of 20 carries on Monday. The Dolphins also may want to get Miller open in space with a short passing game.
There is little doubt that the Giants will play another competitive game this week, and the Dolphins certainly do not have an over-abundance of play-makers on offense. But the one thing we do know is that New York cannot close games, so grabbing a victory at Sun Life Stadium may be too difficult for them.
Curt Macysyn has been covering the New York Football Giants for the past four seasons for Examiner.com, and he is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA). Born and raised in New Jersey, Curt attended Seton Hall Prep School in South Orange, N.J. and is a graduate of Rutgers University – New Brunswick. Follow him on Twitter @CurtMac23 for the latest NFL and New York Giants news.