NFL Week 14 Preview: Miami Dolphins vs. Philadelphia Eagles

The Dolphins have been playing like a playoff-caliber team for the past month while the Eagles have struggled over the same time span

Awestruck.

That is how I felt watching the Miami Dolphins dismantle the Oakland Raiders in Week 13. The final score may have been 34-14, but the game wasn't nearly as close as the scoreboard indicated. If the Dolphins didn't take their foot off the pedal on defense, they could have shut them out. It didn't happen, but it was arguably their best game of the season.

Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Eagles continued their losing ways last week, this time falling to the Seattle Seahawks 31-14. It marked the Eagles' fourth loss in their last five games. They won the offseason, and have one of the most talented teams in the NFL on paper, but haven't been able to translate it onto on-field success. If they want to reverse their fortunes, they'll have to do it against one of the hottest teams in the league. Can they do it? Read on.

Dolphins Pass Offense vs. Eagles Pass Defense

QB Matt Moore continued his solid play as of late against the Raiders. Although Moore didn't end up with huge numbers (162 yards passing and one touchdown), he continued to show confidence in the pocket and showed off his mobility by rushing for a touchdown. WR Brandon Marshall put up average numbers last week as well (four receptions for 60 yards), but he made a couple of great catches. He also has three 100-yard receiving games since Moore took over as the starting quarterback and has shown some signs of getting over the drop issues that plagued him in the beginning of the season. The Eagles pass defense ranks a solid, if unspectacular, 13th in the league, giving up 229.2 passing yards per game. The Eagles have also sacked opposing quarterbacks 33 times, tied for 5th-best in the league. Moore has been good, and may not make a killer mistake this game, but the Eagles should be able to limit his effectiveness.

Advantage: Eagles

Dolphins Run Offense vs. Eagles Run Defense

RB Reggie Bush played like an every down back last week, rushing for 100 yards on 22 carries. RB Daniel Thomas seems to have kicked the injury bug and rushed for 73 yards on 13 carries last week. This can be a killer 1-2 punch if used properly, and Philadelphia is exactly the kind of team that can be taken advantage of on the ground. Seattle Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch tore through the Eagles run defense last week, rushing for 148 yards and two touchdowns on only 22 carries. With all due respect to Lynch, he isn't an elite running back. Expect big things Sunday out of Bush and Thomas.

Advantage: Dolphins

Eagles Pass Offense vs. Dolphins Pass Defense

QB Michael Vick is expected to return to the lineup on Sunday, although that doesn't sound as frightening now as it did this time last year. The Eagles' pass offense does rank 10th in the league this year, gaining 255.5 yards per game through the air. However, WR DeSean Jackson has been inconsistent and his 16.2 yards per catch is down from last year's 22.5. WR Jeremy Maclin has missed the past three weeks with shoulder and hamstring injuries, but is expected to return. Meanwhile, the Dolphins pass defense has played like a unit possessed. CB Vontae Davis is finally backing up his talk of the Dolphins cornerback tandem being the best in the NFL, intercepting two passes the past four games and playing physical football. The pass defense as a whole has not allowed an opposing quarterback to get a QB Rating above 78.8 since Eli Manning in Week 8. Vick will not reverse that trend.

Advantage: Dolphins

Eagles Run Offense vs. Dolphins Run Defense

This will be the deciding matchup of the game. The Dolphins defense will have two main objectives: First, to keep Vick in the pocket, and second, contain RB LeSean McCoy. McCoy has been one of the best running backs in the league this year, already rushing for 1,134 yards and averaging 5.3 yards per carry. He is a threat to run both between the tackles and cut to the outside. All eyes should be on LB Karlos Dansby and LB Koa Misi to stop McCoy while the Dolphins rotate their talented defensive line to keep them fresh throughout the game. If the defensive line prevents Philadelphia's offensive line from opening up too many holes, the Dolphins should be able to stop McCoy the way they have stopped Raiders RB Michael Bush and Bills RB Fred Jackson recently. McCoy will be the Dolphins' biggest challenge yet on defense, but this unit is up to it.

Advantage: Dolphins

Intangibles

The Dolphins are 3-3 at home and have won four of their last five games overall. Moore and head coach Tony Sparano have been playing and coaching like they really want to be in Miami next year and see through this rebuilding project. More was expected out of the Eagles this season coming off last year's success and adding CB Nnamdi Asomugha, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and DE Jason Babin this offseason. It hasn't worked and head coach Andy Reid may find himself out of a job at season's end.

Advantage: Dolphins

Summary

The Dolphins play has been incredibly impressive over the past five weeks. They are finally playing up to their talent level, and if they had played like that in the beginning of the season, they could be in the playoff hunt. Alas, they'll have to wait until next year to see the postseason, but that won't stop them from continuing the Eagles' nightmare of a season that was supposed to end in Indianapolis.

Prediction: Dolphins 27, Eagles 20

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