In what was expected to be a close battle on all fronts from the Chicago Bears (5-2) on Sunday, the Los Angeles Rams (5-2) outmatched them 24-10 on all phases of the ball. Now, the Rams face an emerging Miami Dolphins (3-3) team whose most recent win was over the winless New York Jets (0-7). The Dolphins are coming off a bye week to face L.A. along with a new starting quarterback to lead the way. The Rams will go into their bye week after the matchup.
Miami veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick had a strong showing in the air. Against the Jets, he threw 18 passes on 27 attempts for 191 yards and three touchdowns. He had two interceptions and two sacks though. He also led with two rushing touchdowns and was second in rushing with 25 carries for 135 yards. Fitzpatrick marshalled a huge 43-17 win against the San Francisco 49ers (4-3) the previous week. He has 138 completions on 197 attempts for 1,535 yards and 10 touchdowns for the season.
This leads one to wonder why rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa will start against the Rams? He cleaned up the end of the Jets game with two passes on two attempts for nine yards. Miami head coach Brian Flores believes he is ready to take the reins. The former Alabama quarterback recovered from a major hip injury suffered last year against Mississippi State on November 16. Now physically ready, he will bring a different style of play for the Dolphins. Tagovailoa is more of a precision thrower compared to the more aggressive passing of Fitzpatrick.
The Dolphins also boast receiving weapons for the Rams to watch. Tight ends Adam Shaheen and Durham Smythe both had four-yard passes in the end zone in the first half against New York. That was Smythe’s only reception, but Shaheen led in receiving with three catches for 51 yards, with a long of 43. Wide receiver Jakeem Grant had four catches for 48 yards and receiver Preston Williams had two catches for 18 yards and one touchdown. He leads the receiving corps with three touchdowns for the season.
Miami leading receiver DeVante Parker has 29 receptions for 364 yards and two touchdowns for the season. Tight end Mike Gesicki is second in receiving with 18 receptions for 281 yards and two touchdowns, but had no receptions against the Jets. The Rams secondary will need to cover an underrated offense now boasting an accurate left-handed quarterback. They have an advantage going up against a rookie that currently has few NFL snaps under his belt.
Dolphins running back Myles Gaskin leads the offense in rushing with 82 carries for 340 yards and one touchdown. He had 18 carries for 91 yards against the Jets.
The Rams defense should hold strong up front. Piggybacking off a big win over the Bears will be hard, but not impossible. The Rams kept the Bears to only 49 total rushing yards. Defensive tackle Aaron Donald, nose tackle Greg Gaines, EDGE Leonard Floyd and linebacker Justin Hollins combined for four sacks on quarterback Nick Foles. Donald leads the defense with eight sacks for the season. Defensive end Michael Brockers was the third leading tackler against Chicago with seven. Linebacker Micah Kiser is back on top with 53 tackles. He also led in tackles against the Bears with eight.
Safeties John Johnson and Taylor Rapp had a combined 12 tackles and two tackles for a loss against Chicago. Rapp picked off Foles in the end zone on a deflected pass by cornerback Troy Hill. It was his first interception for the season. Cornerback Jalen Ramsey also had his second interception as a Ram and the first for the season. The entire defensive backfield has proven themselves this year. The Rams continue to rebound from first half challenges and even losses. Expect the same tight coverage on the Dolphins along with pressure on Tagovailoa.
Rams quarterback Jared Goff has 151 completions on 223 attempts for 1,790 yards and 12 touchdowns for the season. Against the Bears, he had 23 completions on 33 attempts for 220 yards and two touchdowns. He was sacked once and had no interceptions. Most of his targets went to wide receiver Josh Reynolds.
Reynolds is on a roll with touchdowns in two consecutive games. He had four receptions for 52 yards and one touchdown against Chicago. Tight end Johnny Mundt showed his skills nicely filling in for an injured Tyler Higbee. Mundt caught all three of his passes for 48 yards. He had the longest reception of the night for 34 yards. Tight end Gerald Everett caught a 12-yard touchdown pass, his first receiving touchdown this season.
Receivers Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods contributed as well. Kupp had six catches for 43 yards and Woods had two catches for 22 yards. The Bears only touchdown came when they stripped Woods to fumble and took it in for a score. The Rams offense will need to tighten their ball security against Miami.
The Dolphins defense boasts a front line led by defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah. Ogbah had two sacks against the Jets and leads Miami with five sacks for the season. Defensive tackles Christian Wilkins and Zach Sieler will also be a challenge for the Rams offensive line. Linebacker Jerome Baker leads the defense with 46 tackles. He also has two sacks.
Cornerback Xavien Howard is a ball hawk for the Dolphins with four interceptions and six passes defended this season. He had one interception and two passes defended against the Jets. Safety Eric Rowe led with nine tackles against New York. He is second in team tackles with 31.
The Rams running game have been on a roll lately. Against the Bears, running backs Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson ran for a combined 25 carries for 120 yards. Brown bulldozed in one touchdown. He showed power not seen since Week 1, carrying multiple defenders to the goal line right before punching it into the end zone. Henderson still leads in rushing with 87 carries for 411 yards and three touchdowns.
Special teams really shined for Los Angeles. Punter Johnny Hekker punted five times and placed the ball behind the Bears’ 10 yard-line each time. His performance helped earn him NFC Special Teams Player of the Month for October. Kicker Sam Sloman was released this week after missing three extra points and three field goals this season. Rams head coach Sean McVay mentioned that Sloman’s low kick trajectory was an issue. It caused two blocked kicks, one of which was a blocked 48-yard field goal against the Bears. Kicker Austin MacGinnis was signed to the practice squad and recent acquisition Kai Forbath is expected to be the starting kicker against the Dolphins.
Expect the Rams to face a tough matchup. This has the makings of a trap game if the Rams take the Dolphins too lightly. They should try to exploit Tagovailoa’s inexperience to make this game as difficult as possible for the rookie.
Kickoff is at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time on Fox.