(image credit: Jasen Vinlove - USA Today Sports)
Written by: Joseph Yun
The Phinatics of the Sunshine State invade the less than tropical climes of Nashville to keep on fighting for their playoff lives. Tennessee, meanwhile, can clinch a second consecutive AFC South crown with a victory or a Colts loss and keep themselves in the race for the ever-important top seed. The Titans will be looking for revenge for the seven-hour lightning delay-fueled marathon defeat that saw the effective ends of Marcus Mariota and Delanie Walker as starters in 2017. Former Fish signal-caller Ryan Tannehill will be looking to exact some vengeance on a franchise that did not do well to take care of him. There are many ties between the two staffs and front offices as well as several key people who worked in New England for a spell. Can the Titans avenge a bitter defeat and clinch a spot in the playoffs along with severely dampening Miami’s hopes? Which of these teams can get 2022 started off on the right foot?
HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!
Dolphins key numbers + info (2021 season)
Record: 8-7 (3-2 AFC East)
Points scored: 305
Points allowed: 315
Avg. yards per rush: 3.4
Avg. yards per rush allowed: 4.3
Avg. rush yards per game: 86.6
Avg. rush yards per game allowed: 102.33
Rushing TDs: 11 for, 12 against
Avg. pass yards per game: 224.40
Avg. pass yards per game allowed: 234.40
Passing TDs: 20 for, 13 against
Pass Completion Rate: 67%
Pass Completion Rate Against: 61%
Leading Rusher: Myles Gaskin (167 attempts for 590 yards and three touchdowns)
Leading Receiver: Jaylen Waddle (96 receptions for 941 yards and five touchdowns)
Leading Tackler: Jerome Baker (79 tackles, eight tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, three passes defensed, one forced fumble, one interception, 14 quarterback hits)
Key Additions: CB Trill Williams, EDGE Jaelen Phillips, WR Jaylen Waddle, OT Liam Eichenberg, LB Duke Riley, OL Greg Mancz, RB Phillip Lindsay, RB Duke Johnson, S Jevon Holland, TE Hunter Long
Key Losses: WR Allen Hurns (COVID), ATH Lynn Bowden (IR), CB Jason McCourty (IR), OT Greg Little (IR), S Brandon Jones (COVID), WR Preston Williams (COVID), WR Albert Wilson (COVID), OL Solomon Kindley (COVID), DL John Jenkins (COVID), WR Will Fuller (IR), C Matt Skura, LB Benardrick McKinney, EDGE Shaq Lawson (trade), LB Kyle Van Noy, OL DJ Fluker, OL Ereck Flowers
Miami leads the all-time series 21-17-0. The Dolphins are 2-2 on the road against Tennessee since the 2001 season. Historically, they are 8-8 on the road in Houston and Nashville.
Keys to a Titans Victory
- Yes, the offensive line should all be back in time for kickoff but several key defensive pieces like Denico Autry, Bud Dupree, and Jayon Brown have yet to be activated off the COVID list. More bad news is that Julio Jones is still on it as well, leaving AJ Brown to solely carry the load. That may work against the much-beleaguered 49ers secondary but not against a talented one such as Miami’s. The good news is that the Titans defense has been stout despite numerous personnel losses. New arrival Zach Cunningham has been a breath of fresh air. Back to back UDFA gems Teair Tart (‘20) and Naquan Jones (‘21) have been terrific when called upon. It will be up to Coach Mike Vrabel’s staff to properly manage their way into a possible division-clinching win.
Balance is key
- The Dolphins are a middle-of-the-pack defensive team by nearly every metric. OC Todd Downing has yet to meet a run play he doesn’t like on second down. It’s more than past time for him to be less stubborn and realize Derrick Henry is currently on IR. The simple math of it is that Miami is a top-ten run defense. Throw it to set up the run. Use the backs out of the backfield. Anything creative to keep the ball going. Defenses have keyed upon the fact that the Titans are a team no longer needed to be feared offensively. The run-heavy offense isn’t working when defenses don’t have to give one single iota of respect to the passing game. Change it up, Todd.
Cover 17 and maybe 88
- That guy wearing 17 for the Phins is THAT DUDE, even as a rookie. Jaylen Waddle has been better than advertised coming out of college. The good news for the Titans is that the field will be a muck worthy of a Heinz Field level quagmire given that the Music City Bowl was played on the same surface two days prior. The bad news, the secondary had issues with slipping, namely Kristian Fulton last week on the same turf. Also, covering 88 Mike Gesicki will be paramount for the Titans’ fleet of impressive linebackers. Make Tua check down and beat you, Tennessee.
Keys to a Dolphins Victory
Exploit the porous offensive line
- The Titans sport one of the worst sack records in the NFL with 45 sacks given up while the Fish have the same total from their monstrous pass rush. The potent duo of 2020 big-ticket signing Emmanual Ogbah and rookie sensation Jaelan Phillips have 9.0 and 8.5 sacks, respectively. Wouldn’t you know it, Taylor Lewan has looked out of it for some time now and is just coming back from the COVID list along with the litany of right tackle problems. Beat the severely wounded and catastrophically bad Titans line and Ryan Tannehill turns into a former shell of himself.
Lure Todd Downing into predictability
- The weather is projected to be close to freezing in Nashville at kickoff. Titans offensive coordinator Todd Downing is one of the most predictable play-callers in the game. He has an utterly shambolically negligent and unrepentant aversion to calling anything other than runs on second down. Use it against him and load the box to dare Tannehill to beat them, which he is proven to be inconsistently capable of doing by himself without the services of Derrick Henry.
AJ Brown and who’s that?
- Double cover Brown and the Titans passing attack is a motley crew of who’s that guy and nonfactors. Fortunately, the Phins have a potent secondary featuring the likes of Jevon Holland, Xavien Howard, and the versatile Brandon Jones along with Byron Jones. Make Tannehill find the other guys to beat you. History says that he can’t.
Injury Report - Dolphins @ Titans
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">.<a href="https://twitter.com/Titans?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Titans</a> vs <a href="https://twitter.com/MiamiDolphins?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@MiamiDolphins</a> Thursday Injury Report. <a href="https://t.co/mQs9Y3PQq0">pic.twitter.com/mQs9Y3PQq0</a></p>— Jim Wyatt (@jwyattsports) <a href="https://twitter.com/jwyattsports/status/1476665615247192070?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">December 30, 2021</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
What are the Odds?
Caesars has the Titans as 3.5 point favorites at -105 while the Dolphins are -115 dogs. The over/under has been set at 39.5 points. The money line is Tennessee at -175 and the Dolphins are +150.
BetMGM has the Titans as 3 point favorites at -105 while the Dolphins are -115 dogs. The over/under has been set at 39.5 points. The money line is Tennessee at -165 and Miami is +140.
Fanduel Sportsbook has the Titans as 3.5 point favorites at -115 while the Dolphins are -105 dogs. The over/under has been set at 39.5. The money line is Tennessee at -168 and Miami is +142.