Miami Dolphins (4-4) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-8) ★★
Monday night on ESPN
Who would have guessed that the story line for this game is an off field distraction – and it wasn’t about the Bucs?

Tampa Bay is 0-4 in games decided by three points or less this year, and is 3-9 in games decided by a touchdown or less in the last two seasons. After halftime the Bucs have been outscored by a 95-36 margin this year, including a 77-26 difference in their last five games. That is a sign that either the coaching staff is not making good in-game adjustments, or the players are giving up – or both. Some of the play calling has been questionable, especially on critical third downs late in the game: against New Orleans the Bucs ran on 3rd and 6, and against Seattle they passed on 3rd and 2. At this point the Bucs may be better off remembering when they missed out on Ndamukong Suh a few years ago and follow the Indianapolis blueprint from 2011 when the Colts Suck for Luck was in full gear; too many wins could leave them out of contention to draft Teddy Bridgewater or Jadeveon Clowney.


The Bucs look for their first victory of 2013 on Monday night against the Dolphins

The big question is whether Miami comes out and plays with an ‘us against the world, take no prisoners’ mentality after all the negative press they have received in the last week, or will that cause them to be unfocused on this game? I’m guessing the former, since they will have had 11 days between games; even if they lost four days talking about Incognito and Martin, they still will have had a normal seven days of preparation. More importantly, the responses from Miami players make it appear that the team has galvanized around the issue.

Being mentally prepared is one thing, but what about overcoming the fact that the Dolphins are now without 40% of their starting offensive line? Miami recently added Bryant McKinnie to play left tackle, but the departure of Martin means Tyson Clabo – who had been benched for his poor performance after allowing eight sacks and 20 quarterback hurries this season – returns to play right tackle; Nate Garner gets his 14th NFL start in place of Incognito at right guard. Offensive lines thrive on continuity, with each player knowing what to expect from the player next to him, when to help out and which gap to block.

With so many new pieces having such a short amount of time together, don’t be surprised to see some blown assignments from this group. Miami is averaging 157 yards rushing over the last two games; they would be wise to attempt to run the ball as often as possible rather than expose Tannehill and his league-leading 35 sacks to nebulous pass protection. Former Patriot TE Will Yeatman may see a fair amount of playing time as a sixth blocker on the line. Tampa Bay DT Gerald McCoy has been tremendous this season, but he’s not getting much help. DE Adrain Clayborn has not yet returned to being the player he was before his season-ending knee injury last year, and DE Da’Quan Bowers has been so bad he can’t beat out a dreadful Daniel Te’o-Nesheim for playing time. Someone of those three, plus DT Akeem Spence, needs to step up and take advantage of the chaos on the Miami offensive line for the Bucs to win.

 

Miami Offense
21.8 Points per Game (19th)
25.6 Yards per Drive (30th)
315 Yards per Game (28th)
15 Turnovers (19th)
64.0% Red Zone TD Efficiency (5th)
36.9% 3rd Down Conversion Rate (22nd)
6.02 Net Yards per Pass (23rd)
218 Passing Yards per Game (21st)
4.3 Yards per Rush (13th)
98 Rushing Yards per Game (22nd)
-3.9% Offensive DVOA (19th)

Tampa Bay Offense
15.5 Points per Game (31st)
26.4 Yards per Drive (26th)
304 Yards per Game (31st)
11 Turnovers (7th)
50.0% Red Zone TD Efficiency (21st)
37.7% 3rd Down Conversion Rate (16th)
5.26 Net Yards per Pass (32nd)
197 Passing Yards per Game (31st)
4.1 Yards per Rush (17th)
108 Rushing Yards per Game (18th)
-8.8% Offensive DVOA (22nd)

Miami Defense
23.4 Points per Game (16th)
32.3 Yards per Drive (22nd)
369 Yards per Game (23rd)
15 Turnovers (11th)
51.7% Red Zone TD Efficiency (11th)
39.0% 3rd Down Conversion Rate (18th)
6.47 Net Yards per Pass (12th)
252 Passing Yards per Game (22nd)
4.0 Yards per Rush (12th)
117 Rushing Yards per Game (22nd)
-3.0% Defensive DVOA (12th)

Tampa Bay Defense
23.8 Points per Game (17th)
32.8 Yards per Drive (25th)
348 Yards per Game (17th)
13 Turnovers (18th)
42.3% Red Zone TD Efficiency (5th)
40.4% 3rd Down Conversion Rate (23rd)
7.02 Net Yards per Pass (20th)
241 Passing Yards per Game (15th)
4.0 Yards per Rush (14th)
107 Rushing Yards per Game (12th)
0.3% Defensive DVOA (17th)

Pick • Bucs 23, Dolphins 21
Bucs +3
Over 40½

 

 

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