In every NFL matchup, there are a seemingly endless amount of angles to analyze. It's hard to get to them all during the week of practice, and I'm sure there were some that slipped through the cracks despite all of the Vikings vs. Dolphins preview content we provided on vikings.com this week.
With kickoff fast approaching, here are a few final thoughts on today's Vikings-Dolphins contest.
How to Take in Today's Game Game Time: 12:00 p.m. CT TV:FOXRadio:Vikings Radio Network; KFAN-FM 100.3/KTCN-AM 1130Mobile:NFL Mobile (exclusively on Verizon)
Dolphins can bring pressure from both DE spotsWhen it comes to the Dolphins pass rush, all attention goes to Cameron Wake. He's an impact pass rusher with 61 career sacks, including 9.5 this season. All of his sacks this season have come from the left DE position. But the Dolphins have another impact pass rusher. Olivier Vernon rushes primarily from the left DE spot, and he has 6.5 sacks so far this season after tallying 11.5 last year.
While the Wake-Mike Harris matchup is a big one for today's game, so is the Vernon-Matt Kalil matchup.
Vernon stands at 6-2, 268 pounds and is in his third season. He was taken in the third round of the 2012 draft, the same year the Vikings took Kalil with the fourth overall pick. Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said earlier in the week that Kalil has played much better the second half of the season, and his next big-time test will be today against Vernon.
Another opportunity for FordVikings TE Kyle Rudolph is dealing with another injury and that could present another opportunity for Chase Ford to step up. When Rudolph missed six games with a sports hernia injury, it was Ford who stepped into the lineup. In those six games, Ford caught 19 passes for 212 yards and one touchdown, demonstrating a rapport with rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater.
Since Rudolph returned in Week 11, though, Ford's opportunities have diminished. He's logged just 30 offensive snaps in the last five games, giving way to a healthy Rudolph. But Rudolph was listed as doubtful for today's game with an ankle injury, meaning Ford is likely to step into a primary role again.
Dolphins LBs returning could help run defenseThe Dolphins rank just 21st against the run this season, and they've allowed 192.3 rushing yards per contest and six rushing touchdowns over the last four games. A month ago, the Broncos ran 35 times for 201 yards and a touchdown and three weeks ago the Jets rushed it 49 times for 277 yards and a score.
But there's good news for Miami. They are likely to see the return of some key run defenders. Starting LBs Jelani Jenkins (questionable) and Koa Misi (probable) are expected to be back in place and both Jonathan Freeny and Chris McCain are listed as probable and are virtually certain to be back on the field. All four missed last week's game against New England but expect all four to be on the field today in an attempt to shut down the Vikings running game and make the offense one dimensional.
Explosive returns coming for VikingsKeep an out for some explosive returns on special teams for the Vikings today. The Dolphins rank 29th in kickoff return average allowed (26.8 yards) and 28th in opponent average drive start after a kickoff (23.2), good news for Vikings kickoff returner Cordarrelle Patterson, who had a 51-yard return last week and is sixth in the NFL in kickoff return average (25.8). Also, the Dolphins rank tied for 22nd in punt return average allowed, surrendering 9.6 yards per return, while Vikings punt returner Marcus Sherels has upped his punt return average to 10.2 yards, which is seventh in the NFL.
The Dolphins have a good return game, too. Jarvis Landry is third in kickoff return average (29.7) and ninth in punt return average (8.9).