Eagles-Dolphins: Beat writers make their predictions
The Eagles desperately need a break, and our writers think they ought to finally get one against the feeble Dolphins.
The 2-9 Dolphins are probably even worse than their record indicates. Their minus-183 point differential is the worst in the NFL. No other offense averages fewer yards per play. Only the Bengals defense has allowed more yards per play. Miami should be the leaders for the next draft’s No. 1 pick, but they beat the New York Jets at home and somehow toppled the Colts on the road.
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick can get hot, and he has a solid No. 1 receiver in DeVante Parker, but the Dolphins offensive line may be the worst in the league. Miami quarterbacks have been sacked a league-high 46 times. The Dolphins defense, meanwhile, has generated only 14 sacks, which is also an NFL low.
Miami is just what the doctor ordered for the reeling Eagles. Jim Schwartz’s defense should contain a flaccid running attack, which would force Fitzpatrick and company into obvious passing downs. Fletcher Cox could be a nightmare for left guard Michael Dieiter. Schwartz won’t likely need to send extra rushers, even though he’s had recent success with the blitz.
The Eagles offense saw a defensive scheme similar to Miami’s just two weeks ago against the Patriots. The return of right tackle and presumably right guard Brandon Brooks should allow Carson Wentz to work with more comfort from the pocket. Alshon Jeffery and/or Nelson Agholor could be back at receiver, and even though neither has been great this season, they would provide an upgrade. Zach Ertz didn’t practice Wednesday, but he played last week through a hamstring injury, and even at less than 100 percent, he’s Wentz’s best option.
I know the Eagles haven’t exactly earned the benefit of doubt, but Sunday could be a blowout.
Prediction: Eagles 27, Dolphins 13
Is there any way the Eagles could lose Sunday to the Dolphins? Absolutely.
I mean, this is the on-any-given-Sunday league. The Dolphins beat the Colts in Indy. The Redskins beat Detroit. The Browns beat the Ravens by 15 points. The 5-6 Eagles certainly can lose to the Dolphins.
But they won’t.
As long as they take charge early and don’t let the Dolphins hang around, as long as they don’t turn the ball over five times again like they did last week against Seattle, as long as Carson Wentz and the rest of the Eagles players stay away from Romaine lettuce and avoid E. coli, they’ll be 6-6 when the sun sets Sunday.
They’ll have Lane Johnson and Brandon Brooks back, which means they’re going to be able to run the ball with or without Jordan Howard.
The Eagles wide receivers have underperformed all season, but they haven’t faced a secondary as bad as the one they’ll be facing this weekend.
If this game doesn’t provide a big boost to Wentz’s confidence, nothing will.
Prediction: Eagles 34, Dolphins 10
I got burned thinking the Eagles would surprise me last week, so I’m not going to make the same mistake twice.
The Dolphins are historically bad. Virtually every advanced metric I trust considers them the worst team in the NFL and it’s not particularly close. Football Outsiders ranks them as the least efficient team in the league, and they’ve been outscored by a league-worst 183 points. They’ve got their sights set on the NFL fraft and it shows in the talent they field each week.
Yes, Ryan Fitzpatrick torched the Eagles defense early last season while playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But the team has made it clear this week that he won’t be sneaking up on anyone. Plus he’s not playing nearly as well as he did last year. He has thrown as many interceptions as he has touchdowns and his passer rating dropped from 62.1 last year to 53.8 this season.
Lane Johnson and Brandon Brooks should be back, giving the Eagles arguably the best offensive line tandem in the NFL once again. Nelson Agholor and Alshon Jeffery appear to be even closer to returning, and there’s some stability at receiver for the first time in a long time.
The Eagles need this game, and they know it. They should be the group with the higher sense of urgency and they have a clear talent advantage. Crazy things happen in the NFL, but last week taught me it’s not worth predicting when they will.
Prediction: Eagles 27, Dolphins 10
Do I think the Eagles could possibly lose? Sure. The way this offense is playing lately -- who knows what injury intrigue or other manner of unforeseen drama can intrude this week?
I have to think, though, that Jim Schwartz’s improving defense will be able to take care of business well enough to keep a ridiculous embarrassment from occurring. The offense, I’m less certain about that, especially if Zach Ertz (hamstring) doesn’t play. I think Jay Ajayi would like to have a chance to show the Dolphins something, after they traded him to the Eagles in 2017. I’d like to see him get the chance. And I’d like to see Carson Wentz get the city off his back.
Prediction: Eagles 21, Dolphins 9.