FanPost

On Paper: Lions vs. Dolphins

It's week 16 and the Lions are on their first two-game winning streak since 2007.  This week they face another Florida team in the Miami Dolphins.  Miami was eliminated from the playoff hunt last week, but still stand with a respectable 7-7 record.  Vegas has the Dolphins as a 3.5 point favorite, but my numbers say something different.  Let's break it down. 

Lions Pass Offense (11th) vs. Dolphins Pass Defense (6th)

(Teams in bold were the home team)

Opponent

Opponent's

Passing YPG

Passing Yards vs. Dolphins

Opponent's

Season QB Rating

QB Rating vs. Dolphins

Bills

199.2

139

82.8

73.0

Vikings

198.9

225

67.0

44.3

Jets

204.4

256

75.5

120.5

Patriots

242.5

153

108.5

107.1

Packers

250.3

313

96.3

84.5

Steelers

213.5

302

90.9

132.0

Bengals

228.1

156

78.7

63.0

Ravens

224.1

266

94.8

129.6

Titans

186.0

143*

82.3

55.0*

Bears

192.6

156

81.4

64.8

Raiders

202.5

252

75.4

63.5

Browns

187.8

217

81.0

97.3

Jets

204.4

216

75.5

45.3

Bills

199.2

223

82.8

98.7

*Young + Collins

The Dolphins have only held their opponents under their averages for passing yards in five games this season.  This is a bit surprising considering they are the 6th ranked defense in terms of passing yards given up.  Given this information, we can conclude that Miami has faced less-than-stellar passing offenses this year.  In fact, the Dolphins have only faced two opponents with top 10 passing offenses, and the Lions will be the 3rd toughest passing opponent they've faced this year.

However, in terms of QB rating, the Dolphins stymied their opponents in eight of fourteen weeks.  In other words, they are forfeiting a lot of yards to bad passing offenses, but are not allowing a high completion percentage (7th best) and are only forfeiting 6.8 yards per attempt (T-11).   But looking a little closer at the stats, you see that many of their opponents nearly reached season averages of passer rating.  Indeed, overall Miami's pass defense isn't all that impressive when considering their passer rating allowed is only 80.7, good for 13th in the league.  The biggest worry with the Dolphins is their ability to rush the passer.  They rank 9th in the NFL with 37 sacks and have the league-leading pass rusher in Cameron Wake, who has 14 sacks on the season. 

The Lions likely get Shaun Hill back, broken finger and all.  Drew Stanton performed valiantly with two very solid starts out in the past three week, but anyone who thinks the offense is better with Stanton behind center is severely mistaken.  Whether Stanton is good enough to be a backup for most NFL teams is another debate that I don't care to get into right now. 

Anyways, Hill is back and the offense line has really been clicking as of late.  The Lions have only been sacked twice in the past two games and Stanton was barely touched against the Bucs (of course, he still managed to get injured.  Thank you, football gods).  Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson seem to be hitting their stride right now.  That 6th ranking doesn't scare me, and it shouldn't scare the Lions either.  Lions +2.

Lions Run Offense (23rd) vs. Dolphins Run Defense (6th)

Opponent

Opponent's

Rushing YPG

Rushing Yards vs. Dolphins

Opponent's Season Avg YPC

YPC vs. Dolphins

Bills

111.3

50

4.3

2.9

Vikings

121.9

156

4.4

4.7

Jets

141.0

146

4.3

5.0

Patriots

112.5

119

4.3

3.7

Packers

101.9

76

3.9

3.6

Steelers

122.1

58

4.2

2.1

Bengals

95.0

106

3.7

4.1

Ravens

112.3

146

3.7

3.7

Titans

115.6

135

4.4

5.4

Bears

99.0

135

3.8

3.4

Raiders

157.5

16

4.9

1.3

Browns

107.2

52

4.1

2.4

Jets

141.0

87

4.3

2.8

Bills

111.3

71

4.3

2.6

 

The Dolphins' 6th ranked rushing defense is much more legit.  They've held half of their opponents below their averages in yardage, and 9 of 14 below their yards per carry average.  Perhaps most frightening: look at those last four weeks.  They've held their opponents to just 56.5 yards per game in a four week span, and that includes two of the best running games in the league (Raiders and Jets).  Overall, they rank 3rd in yards per carry allowed, they've only allowed four rushes of 20 or more (2nd) and 0 of 40 or longer (obviously T-1st), and they are 4th in rushing TDs allowed (6). 

This could get very interesting.  Detroit seems to have finally figured things out in the running game.  In the past four weeks the Lions have put up the following yardage: 129,134, 190 and 181 respectively.  That includes a solid effort against the Bears' 3rd ranked run defense.  Maurice Morris continues to show that when he's used, he's incredibly effective.  Over his career with the Lions, he's averaged a solid 4.3 per carry, which is significantly higher than Kevin Smith (3.8) or Jahvid Best (3.2).  During the middle of the season, I was scratching my head wondering why in the world Best was getting more carries than Morris, and it now seems the coaching department agrees.  Morris has led the team in rushes in the past four weeks and has been taking advantage of it. 

I'm truly excited about this matchup, because it'll be a great test for an offensive line that seems to be gelling.  If the Lions can really get it going on the ground this week, it might be enough to convince me that their starting offensive line is set for next year.  But I just don't know what is going to happen, so it is a draw. 

Dolphins Pass Offense (17th) vs. Lions Pass Defense (13th)

Opponent

Opponent's Passing YPG Allowed

Passing Yards Allowed vs. Dolphins

Opponent's Season QB Rating Against

QB Rating Allowed vs. Dolphins

Bills

202.1

182

91.5

75.9

Vikings

206.6

114

87.5

106.0

Jets

205.9

363

79.9

91.4

Patriots

263.3

302

85.5

81.4

Packers

192.4

231

70.3

82.3

Steelers

228.4

257

77.4

94.3

Bengals

222.8

217

86.0

69.3

Ravens

222.6

231

78.3

47.5

Titans

247.8

323*

83.7

102.0*

Bears

221.1

187**

73.0

63.4**

Raiders

197.3

307

91.6

100.3

Browns

222.6

174

81.1

37.8

Jets

205.9

55

79.9

58.3

Bills

202.1

276

91.5

86.9

 

*Henne + Thigpen + Pennington

**Thigpen

In games that Chad Henne started and completed, Miami outgained their opponents' averages and QB rating in 6 of 12 games this season.  This goes in line with their 17th overall ranking.  Everything is very average.  Miami is 21st in yards per pass, 15th in completion percentage, but 25th in passer rating.  Henne has yet to break out of mediocrity despite having his new shiny weapon in Brandon Marshall

Still, despite the Lions moving upward in pass defense, they remain a doormat.  They rank 28th in opposing passer rating (93.0) and are getting more injured by the day.  Louis Delmas is the latest casualty, and although he passed the concussion test this week, he remains questionable for Sunday. 

Obviously the strength on Detroit's defense is pass rush and they rank 6th in sacks, while Miami is allowing the 17th most sacks.  Detroit needs to take advantage of their pass rush, because if Henne gets the ball off, it will, more than likely, be complete.  I'm admittedly down on Detroit's pass defense right now, but I believe for good reasons.  Lucky for Detroit, Miami doesn't pose a huge threat through the air.  Dolphins +1.

Dolphins Run Offense (21st) vs. Lions Run Defense (24th)

Opponent

Opponent's Rushing YPG Allowed

Rushing Yards Allowed vs.

Dolphins

Opponent's Avg YPC Allowed

YPC Allowed vs. Dolphins

Bills

158.6

132

4.6

3.7

Vikings

101.5

120

3.9

4.1

Jets

92.7

84

3.6

3.7

Patriots

111.4

95

4.2

4.8

Packers

117.0

150

4.6

3.8

Steelers

63.4

64

3.0

3.0

Bengals

120.1

137

4.6

4.4

Ravens

93.6

73

4.0

4.3

Titans

114.1

88

3.9

2.9

Bears

89.8

39

3.8

3.0

Raiders

130.9

186

4.5

3.8

Browns

129.2

114

4.1

3.6

Jets

92.7

101

3.6

3.2

Bills

158.6

65

4.6

3.4

 

Miami's running game has no doubt been a disappointment this year.  Last year, Miami ranked 4th overall and this year they've slid to 21st.  This season, they outperformed the defensive averages in six of 14 games, while outgaining yards per carry averages in only four of 14 games.

Detroit, too, has been unreliable lately in run defense.  Last week, they gave up 176 yards on the ground in 28 carries (6.3 YPC).   Tackling was a big issue, and a lot of that has to do with the increase in injuries.  Nathan Vasher and Bobby Carpenter are newly appointed starters and have shown some early struggles.  Again, the loss of Delmas is crucial as he is the only reliable tackler beyond the front four. 

Neither one of these units are as good as they could be.  The Lions have faltered due to injury, while the Dolphins just haven't been consistent enough this year to be considered good.  Still, Miami has the talent to win this matchup, so they get the slight nod.  Miami +0.5

Turnovers

Miami is ranked 28th in turnover margin while the Lions rank 12th.  The difference is in the takeways, as both teams give the ball away a nearly average amount (Lions 15th, Dolphins 18th).  The Dolphins are only forcing a 1.3 turnovers per game (28th) to the Lions 1.8 (11th ). 

The Dolphins are much more prone to throwing an interception than to put the ball on the ground, which is unfortunate, consider the Lions only have two picks in the last six games.  Still, the Lions undeniable take better care of the ball. Lions +0.5.

Special Teams

Breakdown:

            Lions: 3rd in kick return, 6th in punt return; 5th in kick coverage, 27th in punt coverage

            Dolphins: 16 in kick return, 16th in punt return; 31st in kick coverage, 12th in punt coverage

If you're like me, your eyes lit up when you read that the Dolphins are 31st in kick coverage.  They are one of three teams to have given up two touchdowns on kickoff returns.  Stephan Logan has been a little quiet as of late.  Time to breakout. Lions +1.

Penalties

Lions - 31st

Dolphins - 2nd

This week, Brandon Pettigrew will set an NFL record with four penalties against him on one play.  He will start the play with an illegal formation call, then will be immediately be flagged with an illegal contact.  After he catches the pass, he'll be flagged for offensive pass interference, and on his way to the endzone, he'll get called for taunting when he was actually just waving to a Lions fan in the stands (me).  Tom Kowalski will review the play the following Tuesday and confirm that Pettigrew was not guilty of any of these infractions.  Kowalski will be found dead the next morning after Roger Goodell sicks Ed Hochuli on him.  Cause of death: biceps.  Dolphins +1.

Overall

For the first time since week 10 against the Bills, the Lions actually come out with the +1 advantage.  Detroit finally won on the road last week, so we no longer have to pretend that they don't know how to do that.  In addition, last week Miami lost any chance to make the playoffs and are now playing for pride. 

The reason I think the Lions can win this game is because Miami's pass defense is not nearly as good as it appears and Miami's biggest strength (run defense) is going against Detroit's most improved aspect of the game.  While Detroit's defense isn't extremely impressive, they've played well enough lately.  Miami's offense has little to no explosiveness.  Only the lowly Carolina Panthers have scored fewer points than Miami.  If the Lions get the running game going, not only do I expect them to win this week, but to break the game wide open.  Even if they don't, I think the Lions have the offensive power to pull off a close one.  And, of course, the Lions have their secret weapon from last week: me in attendance.  I think the Lions will struggle early with the run game, but they'll stick with it.  It will be crucial down the stretch, and Maurice Morris will pick up a key first down to run out the clock.  The Dolphins' home woes continue. Lions 20 Dolphins 16.  Happy Holidays, everybody.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Pride Of Detroit or its writers.

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