It’s Thanksgiving and in my house that means there will be plenty of turkey and lots of football games to analyze! Obviously the one game that we’re most concerned with is the match-up at 4:15 between the Miami Dolphins (3-7) and the Dallas Cowboys (6-4). The Dolphins come into the contest riding a three-game winning streak and playing their best football of the season following last week’s win over the Buffalo Bills 35-8. The Cowboys are also winners of three straight games and are no strangers to playing on Thanksgiving. A win for the Cowboys would up their record to 28-15-1 on this date, but the Dolphins are just one of six teams in the NFL to hold a winning record (7-5) vs. Dallas! The Dolphins and Cowboys have historicaly played close games, with seven of the 12 games being decided by a touchdown or less! Here are some of the keys to victory for Miami:
1) Win The Turnover Battle – The last two weeks have been a breath of fresh air when it comes to getting turnovers and protecting the football for the Dolphins! As a team, last week marks the first time in 14 regular season games (Oakland Raiders game from last year) that the Miami Dolphins won the turnover ratio! Miami’s defense has been able to take away the football (two interceptions vs. Washington by linebacker Karlos Dansby and corner back Vontae Davis, and two last week against Buffalo by safety Yeremiah Bell and corner back Nolan Carroll). The added bonus came via special teams when safety Chris Clemons blocked a punt against the Bills, and running back Lex Hilliard recovered the ball in the endzone for a special teams score! Those are winning plays by the defense and special teams and it also helps when the offense protects the ball on the offensive side of the football. Quarterback Matt Moore has been very efficient with ball location and look for that to be challenged this week by defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and linebacker DeMarcus Ware. Ryan loves to bring pressure and how the Dolphins handle it will be one of the determining factors in winning or losing!
2) Control The Tempo Of The Game- Over the three game winning streak, the Dolphins have dictated the pace of the game on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Defensively, Miami has found a way to rattle the opposing quartebacks, and completely shut down the running game. That has made teams one-dimensional, and as a result, the turnovers have been plentiful. Offensively, Moore has been able to spread the football around to more playmakers than just wide receiver Brandon Marshall. Brian Hartline and Davone Bess have made an impact, and tight ends Anthony Fasano (three touchdowns in last three games) and rookie Charles Clay have been able to display their talents because of the balance of the running game. Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas will play a greater role against the Cowboys and must be used in the running game to slow down the Dallas pass rush.
3) The Tony Romo Factor – I have always felt like quarterback Tony Romo has been a quality player that is somewhere in the top eight to ten at this position in the NFL. He has been blessed or cursed, depending on your perspective, to extend plays that either win or lose football games for the Cowboys. Romo has excellent talent around him in tight end Jason Witten (39 career touchdowns) and wide receivers Dez Bryant ( through his first 21 games, he has more receptions, yards and touchdowns than Hall of Famer Michael Irvin) and Miles Austin. The big question on Thursday will be how Romo is affected by Cam Wake and Jason Taylor coming off the edge. Can the Dolphins slow down rookie running back DeMarco Murray, and make Romo turn the football over when it counts? That’s something that I’ll be watching for, and if that happens, all Dolphins fans will be thankful on Thanksgiving night!
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