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The Cheat Sheet: Can Lions take advantage of Dolphins backup quarterback?

Everything you need to know for Lions vs. Dolphins Week 7

NFL: Chicago Bears at Miami Dolphins Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

According to Matt Patricia, the Dolphins will be the Lions’ “toughest opponent to date.”

Patricia is quite familiar with Miami from his time in New England. And even though the Dolphins currently hold a better record than the Lions, don’t be surprised if this game is a springboard for the rest of the season.

”As the season goes on, I think what you saw maybe last weekend is you see some teams separate a little bit,” Patricia said. “The first part of the year is always a little bit interesting as far as teams that win and lose, but as the season goes on, you’ll see through the course of October and into November different teams start to kind of emerge in those areas and especially the mentally tough teams. Those teams that can just grind through those difficult games for 60 minutes, and I think that’s certainly something that the Dolphins showed they can do on Sunday.”

As I rewatched the Dolphins early games this season, they’ve had a mix of explosive plays on offense and specials paired with a ton of turnovers on defense.

The key for the Lions will be limiting any quick big plays from the Dolphins and protecting the football.

Opponent snapshot

I’m not sure what to make of the Miami Dolphins team. Are they closer to last year’s 6-10 team or are they a possible playoff contender in a relatively weak AFC?

The Dolphins started the season with a bang. After starting 3-0 they looked like a dark horse candidate to possibly win the division and dethrone the then 1-2 Patriots.

Fast forward another three weeks and the Dolphins season is now complete mystery.

They’ve lost two of their last three games as well as their starting quarterback. With Ryan Tannehill out and Brock Osweiler in there’s no telling what to expect.

Dolphins’ biggest threat

Xavien Howard

Howard may not be a household name (yet), but the 25-year old cornerback is quickly and quietly becoming one of the NFL’s best cornerbacks. So far the highlight of the season for Howard came against the Raiders and Amari Cooper in Week 3.

Locked up against Cooper for most of the game, Howard ended the day with two interceptions and three passes defended. Cooper finished with just two catches for 17 yards.

The Dolphins lead the league with 11 interceptions, three of which have come from Howard. And while he poses a big threat for the Lions pass offense on Sunday, they should be equipped to go against the Dolphins’ shutdown cornerback.

The Lions did a good job of this earlier this season. In Week 2 against the San Francisco 49ers the Lions barely even looked toward the right side of the field because of former Pro Bowler Richard Sherman.

As you can see in the adapted chart below from NFL Next Gen Stats, Stafford purposely avoided Sherman and strategic attacked the opposite side of the field.

I’d expect a similar game plan going into this week against Howard.

Dolphins’ weak link

Brock Osweiler

Osweiler played good, not great, last week in the overtime win against the Bears. The reality is that he’s never played well consistently, especially against Matt Patricia.

Take a look below at how the folks over at Lions Wire broke down Osweiler vs the Patriots defense.

image via Lions Wire

Those numbers aren’t great by any means, and if Patricia can do enough to once again slow Brocktober fever down, the Lions should be in good shape.

Bottom line

The Dolphins may be the most surprising 4-2 team in the league right now. Mostly because I don’t think they’ve done anything all that great to get that record. Their wins have come against mediocre teams and now they’re playing with a backup quarterback.

The Lions are coming off their bye week and have had a whole week to plan for Osweiler. Look for the Lions to win a close one down in the Miami heat.

Prediction

Lions 24 Dolphins 20