EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Two teams hoping for a happy ending to a disappointing season will meet in MetLife Stadium Sunday, when the Giants host the Miami Dolphins. The Giants enter with a 2-11 record and a nine-game losing streak. Miami lost its first seven and three of its last four games and is 3-10.
Since losing the first game of the series in 1972 – when the Dolphins finished undefeated – the Giants have won six of seven meetings, including three in a row. The teams last met on Dec. 14, 2015, when Eli Manning threw four touchdown passes in a 31-24 victory in Miami. They faced each other in MetLife on Oct. 30, 2011, when the Giants earned a 20-17 victory.
What is the Dolphins' biggest strength?
They play loose and aggressively. As the team has kept an eye on the future and accumulated draft choices by jettisoning some of its top players, change has been the one constant on the roster. It seems everyone who puts on the uniform has the same "we have nothing to lose" attitude. Miami likes to air it out; the Dolphins throw on 66.4% of their offensive plays, the league's second-highest rate (Atlanta, 67.4%). Ryan Fitzpatrick, the 15-year veteran quarterback, is a gunslinger who likes to throw the ball downfield. Miami uses trick plays (the touchdown pass from kicker Jason Sanders to punter Matt Haack against Philadelphia is one of the season's most replayed moments), onside kicks and anything else they conjure up. Miami's opponents must be prepared for anything.
Which player is key to the Dolphins' offense?
Let's see, who had the 37-year-old quarterback leading the team in rushing? Among the players currently on the roster, Fitzpatrick is No. 1, though he has totaled just 186 yards. He is also tied for the team lead with three rushing touchdowns. Running back rundown: Mark Walton had 201 yards, but he was waived last month; Kenyan Drake was traded; and Kalen Ballage is on injured reserve. No. 1 on the current depth chart is undrafted rookie Patrick Laird, who has run for 84 yards. Fitzpatrick can beat an opponent with his arm and legs. He is deceptively athletic, tough and very smart – he did play at Harvard – and has thrown for 2,511 yards and 13 touchdowns. Fitzpatrick has also thrown 12 interceptions and been sacked 33 times. But he is extremely adept at improvising and making plays off-schedule and he gets on hot streaks that can carry the team.
What is the strength of the Dolphins' offense?
Miami's attack has sputtered most of the season. The Dolphins are last in the NFL in both rushing yards per game (67.3) and per carry (3.3). They are 30th in total yards (283.5 a game) and scoring (17.0). In addition to the depletion at running back, their two most productive wide receivers, DaVante Parker and Albert Wilson (who have combined for 87 catches and nine touchdowns) suffered concussions last week vs. the Jets. Their No. 1 wideout, Preston Williams, and gadget specialist Jakeem Grant are on I.R. Miami has had a different starting offensive lineup in every game, including nine different line combinations. Rookie left guard Michael Deiter started every game until last week but returned to the field during the game. The offense is well-coached and follows Fitzpatrick's lead by playing hard.
Which player is key to the Dolphins' defense?
Safety Eric Rowe, the only member of the secondary who is not an undrafted or first-year player. After starting seven games at cornerback, Rowe has become a fixture at safety. He is second on the team with 68 tackles (44 solo) and seven passes defensed. Rowe has impressive straightline speed and he excels at neutralizing opposing tight ends. Two weeks ago, he held Philadelphia tight end Zack Ertz to three catches. Monday night, Ertz had nine receptions and two touchdowns vs. the Giants.
What is the strength of the Dolphins' defense?
Like the offense, this unit has little to brag about statistically. Miami has allowed the most points (399) while posting the fewest sacks (17) and takeaways (10, including just one recovery of an opposing fumble) in the league. The Dolphins are 30th in yards allowed (397.7 a game). Inexperience is one reason; they have the league's youngest defense. But this is an extremely well-coached group that is playing hard. Coach Brian Flores spent the previous 15 seasons with New England and he has brought many of the Patriots' schemes and philosophies to the Dolphins. Most notable among them is an aggressive and creative blitz package. Flores uses numerous players in different roles – another Patriots trait – which often makes it hard to identify the blitzers prior to the snap. Defensive end Taco Charlton, who began the season with Dallas, leads the Dolphins with 5.0 sacks.
Which player is key to the Dolphins' special teams?
Sanders has twice been named the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week. And that doesn't include his performance against the Jets last week, when he kicked a franchise-record seven field goals and scored all of Miami's points in a 22-21 loss. Sanders has made 18 of 23 attempts this season, including three of five from 50 or more yards. He also recovered his own surprise onside kick at Buffalo, another trick play in Miami's arsenal.
Based on the scouting report, what must the Giants do to win the game?
Defensively, prevent the big play and don't let Fitzpatrick get on a roll with his arm and/or legs. On offense, run the ball and protect the passer against the blitzes.
Statistics you should know:
*Since the season began, Miami has added 15 players via waivers who have contributed in at least one game. In the last week, they claimed six young players from around the league.
*The Dolphins' minus-14 turnover differential is the league's worst. The Giants are just ahead of them at minus-13.
*Miami visited MetLife Stadium last week to play the Jets. This is the second time this season (Buffalo in Weeks 1 and 2) and the ninth time since the NFL merger a team will play back-to-back road games in the same stadium. All of them were against the Giants and Jets.
*The Dolphins have gone for it on fourth down 24 times this season, the league's second-highest total behind the Giants' 27. Each team has succeeded 12 times.
*Miami has several former Giants on its roster, including Avery Moss, John Jenkins, Tabor Pepper and Evan Brown.
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