The Miami Dolphins are chasing a third victory in a row when they visit the Washington Commanders on Sunday afternoon in Landover, Md.
Miami (8-3) sits atop the AFC East and is coming off wins over the Las Vegas Raiders and New York Jets. The Dolphins are in pursuit of their first division title since the 2008 season.
Washington (4-8) has lost three games in a row and eight of its last 10. No team has allowed more points than the Commanders, who gave up 30-plus points for the seventh time this season in their most lopsided loss of 2023, a 45-10 thumping at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving.
Embattled coach Ron Rivera fired defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio and will oversee that group after giving players extra time away to recharge.
“Hopefully, some of these guys come back and they’re a little more energized, a little more focused and we’ll see how they handle it and how they react to things,” Rivera said.
Based on the results to date produced by Miami’s dual-engine offense, the Commanders need all the juice they can muster.
The only losses for Miami came against the Buffalo Bills, Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs, who have a combined record of 24-10.
Coach Mike McDaniel’s scheme led by fourth-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is No. 1 in the NFL in total offense with 430.5 yards per game, and they rank No. 2 in scoring offense with 30.8 points per game prior to Dallas’ contest versus the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday.
Wideout Tyreek Hill has caught at least eight passes in five consecutive games, but he is nursing an ankle injury that kept him out of the first full practice this week. He has posted 100-plus yards and a touchdown in each of his past two contests.
Fellow wideout Jaylen Waddle also has game-changing ability. He had eight catches for a team-high 114 yards in last week’s 34-13 win over the Jets.
Tagovailoa praised Waddle for shining as the second option when he would be the No. 1 receiver on many other teams.
“I think he’s done a really good job, sort of mitigating the outside noise,” Tagovailoa said. “I do understand as a competitor he wants to be in the mix with (Tyreek Hill) continuing to make plays for the team. He does have big games but it’s sort of minimized because of the production that Tyreek gives our offense.
“But I think highly of Jaylen, and I mean he’s going to continue to do things that we need for him to do to help us win games down the stretch.”
Washington also has shown that it can move the ball. In his first full season as a starter, quarterback Sam Howell leads the NFL in completions (323) and passing yards (3,339) through the first 12 weeks of the season. The issue for the Commanders has been protecting Howell in the pocket. He’s on pace to shatter the NFL record for times sacked in a season.
Howell and the Commanders’ receivers, led by Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel, face a tough test this week against Dolphins cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and Xavien Howard.
“We definitely have our hands full out on the perimeter,” Howell said. “But we’ve got some good wideouts, and I’m going to take our wideouts vs. anybody every week.”
In addition to Hill (ankle), three other Dolphins players missed the first full practice of the week: running back Raheem Mostert (ankle, knee), safety Jevon Holland (knee) and offensive lineman Kendall Lamm (back).
Washington had three players out with injuries for its first full practice: cornerback Emmanuel Forbes (elbow), center Tyler Larsen (knee) and defensive end James Smith-Williams (hamstring). Forbes, a rookie first-round pick, missed the loss at Dallas and is unlikely to return this week, Rivera said.
–Field Level Media