Chargers vs. Dolphins: 3 Keys to Victory

What each team must do to win on Sunday in Carson

The Chargers lost on Monday Night in Denver so this week, the Miami Dolphins have spent more time in Southern California than the team that at least temporarily calls Los Angeles home.

The Phins had their first game against the Buccaneers postponed by Hurricane Irma so owner Stephen Ross flew everyone on the team and their families to Oxnard, CA, where they worked out for what will be their Week 2 season opener at the Cowboys training camp facility (amazing what a good owner will do for his people, huh?).

So the Dolphins should be well-rested and at full strength while the Bolts are already dealing with injury issues. Pro Bowl cornerback Jason Verrett is out of Sunday’s game with a knee issue. That’s a definite concern against a Miami offense with Jay Cutler at the helm.

So what do these teams need to do to get their first win of the season? Fernando Ramirez handles the Chargers keys to victory while Derek Togerson looks at what the Dolphins have to do.

Chargers Key #1: Don’t Let Jay Ajayi Beat You

The Dolphins have a young and explosive running back that is known for being able to take over games. Last season, Ajayi had three 200-yard rushing games and the Dolphins won in all three games. Last week, the Chargers defense let the Broncos rush for 140 yards. Ajayi is more dangerous than Jamal Charles and CJ Anderson, especially because he has had an extra week off. The Chargers must contain him to have a chance of winning their season opener.

Dolphins Key #1: Cutler Like a Knife

Jay Cutler has all the arm talent in the world but his 5-cent head has usually held him back. The best year of his career came the one year he had Adam Gase as his offensive coordinator in Chicago. This Miami offense has even more weapons and a better line that that Bears team did so Cutler might be primed for a big season. Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian looked, until the 4th quarter, like John Elway against what was supposed to be a formidable Chargers defense. With no Verrett on the corner and absolutely zero depth in the secondary the Dolphins need to let Cutler target his talented wideouts for chunk plays.

Chargers Key #2: Let Rivers and Gordon Loose

The Dolphins defense was in the bottom three in the NFL allowing 140 yards rushing a game to opposing offenses last season. They were near the middle of the pack in passing offense. Since the Dolphins have not played an NFL game this season is hard to evaluate if they got better. If the Chargers can use for play-action pass that will open up the offense and they could add more creativity for an offense that looked pedestrian at times in Denver. Rivers at halftime of Monday’s game had attempted 11 passes and thrown for 52 yards. That can’t happen this weekend. If the Chargers have any chance to win it will be on number 17’s arm.

Dolphins Key #2: Don’t Do Anything Stupid

Top to bottom, Miami has the better roster and the more accomplished head coach. On paper they should win this game (even though the Chargers are 3 ½ point favorites). One of the only ways I see the Bolts winning on Sunday is if they’re kept in the game by stupid mistakes. The only reason the Chargers made that 4th quarter almost comeback was Denver committed a pair of turnovers. As long as the Dolphins don’t commit stupid penalties or get careless with the football they should be in good shape.

Chargers Key #3: Open Holes And Keep Rivers Upright

The Denver Broncos were only able to sack Rivers once on Monday night, but the pressure was there. All night Rivers was throwing passes too early and he did not look comfortable in the pocket. The offensive line also had problems creating holes for running back Melvin Gordon as on the first snap of the ball he ran for 21 yards. For the rest of the game he had 33 yards rushing, which can’t continue if the team is serious about competing. Ex-Chargers head coach Mike McCoy once said, “Your offense is only as good as your line,” and looking at the Chargers offensive line they are not pretty good.

Dolphins Key #3: Collapse the Pocket

The Broncos have a very good defensive line but Miami’s front is scary. Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh are freaks who can put pressure in the place where every quarterback hates it: right in his face. Philip Rivers is not the mobile type so if the Dolphins get a push up the middle they’ll force early and possibly bad throws, and that exponentially increases the potential for an interception. The Chargers have not put emphasis on the offensive line since Marty Schottenheimer was the head coach and that neglect is going to burn them once again against the physical defense.

Fernando’s Prediction: Chargers win 31-24. Chargers are 3-0 in their last 3 home openers.

Derek’s Prediction: Dolphins win 34-24. When you look at the crowd in Carson you won’t call it a “home” opener.

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