3TFO: Seahawks @ Dolphins, Week 12
Coming off of their bye you would think the Seattle Seahawks would have an advantage over the Miami Dolphins in this Thanksgiving weekend encounter. However, after playing on Thursday night the Dolphins also got a ‘half’ bye entering this home game, and as a result both teams had more time than usual to recover and get ready, something that should be reflected on the field for better or worse.
Both teams got their most recent victory over the same team, the New York Jets, but while that’s good news for the Seahawks since it was their last game before the bye, it’s not that good for the Dolphins who have lost three games in a row since that win. Everything that was working early in the season seems to be failing now in Miami, and if they don’t find their way back to those times they will have a rough end of the year.
Seattle is still unbeaten at home but playing far from the CenturyLink Field is a problem as they have only a solitary victory out of five attempts so far this season. Now they have a real shot to make the playoffs they must play better without the 12th Man. Let’s focus on the keys for this game.
Seahawks Wide Receivers vs. Dolphins Cornerbacks
It’s easy to spot how Sidney Rice and Golden Tate are helping Russell Wilson in his rookie season. They both are in the Top 5 of our WR Rating Signature Stat, Tate is the leader with a 130.0 rating and Rice fifth with 125.1. Just one of the eight interceptions Wilson has thrown was a pass aimed for either Rice or Tate, and these receivers have dropped only four passes (two each). This is exactly what an offense like Seattle needs, an efficient passing game to complement a strong running game.
Does Miami have what it takes to stop these two players? Sean Smith is allowing just 53% of passes his way to be completed, and is yet to allow 100+ yards in a game. On the other side of the field, Nolan Carroll is performing at a good level, allowing 55.4% of passes to be caught and 45.3 yards per game. Both cornerbacks combine for a QB Rating of around 80 that makes them one the best tandems in the league.
Marshawn Lynch vs. Dolphins Linebackers
Facing Marshawn Lynch is a big-time challenge for any defense, and especially for the linebackers that have to bring him down every time he crosses the line of scrimmage. Lynch averages 2.8 yards after contact (fifth in the league) and has a 47.5 Elusive Rating (fourth in the league) with 37 missed tackles in the run game. He has run for 100+ yards in each of the past four games and scored one touchdown in each of the past three.
In front of Lynch, the Dolphins’ linebackers come from facing a completely different type of running back in C.J. Spiller, who lit them up with 65 yards after contact, though the starting linebackers just missed two tackles. Middle linebacker Karlos Dansby is ninth in Run Stop Percentage with 25 stops and just two missed tackles. In the outside, Kevin Burnett and Koa Misi combine for 33 stops (8.2 Run Stop %) and six missed tackles. If they manage to limit Lynch’s gains after contact, the Miami defense will be in position to overcome the Seattle offense.
Ryan Tannehill vs. Seahawks Defensive Backs
If Wilson has any advantage over the other QB rookies this season it is that he doesn’t have to play the Seahawks’ defense. That’s a challenge Ryan Tannehill will take on this Sunday after two tough games versus Tennessee and Buffalo. He threw five interceptions in those games, ending a four-game streak without a pick. A couple of these turnovers weren’t his fault, but this is the kind of thing that can get into the head of a young quarterback. An interesting stat about these interceptions is that all of them came without the help of play action. The Dolphins throw just 13.9% of the time from play-action fakes, but Tannehill is quite successful in those plays — 66.7% complete, 11.1 yards per attempt and 119.8 QB rating. They should consider doing it more often.
The Seahawks have arguably the finest starting cornerbacks in the league. Richard Sherman shows every single week that his play is close to the best — as Sam Monson broke down in his Analysis Notebook from Week 10. He is allowing one catch every 15.5 cover snaps, first among starting CBs, and 0.95 yards per cover snaps, good for sixth in the league. Right after him in yards per cover snaps is Brandon Browner with 0.96. Browner is a step behind Sherman, but he is playing well enough to rank in the Top 10 in almost every category. The Seahawks’ defensive backs are equally adept and dangerous in both man and zone coverages. When facing a rookie quarterback, if they can disguise their coverages with different looks and force him to make risky throws, Sherman and Browner will be making plays all day long.
Follow Gonzalo on Twitter: @PFF_Gonzalo