One of the premier matchups on the NFL slate has playoff implications in both conferences, as the Miami Dolphins will head west to square off with the San Francisco 49ers. Miami handled business at home in Week 12 against the Houston Texans, defeating them by a final score of 30-15. San Francisco was also able to hold serve at home last Sunday, shutting out the New Orleans Saints 13-0.
In this crucial contest, we’ll take a look at three things that might contribute to the outcome of the game.
Student Versus Teacher
Dolphins rookie head coach Mike McDaniel has been one of the best in the league this season, which was a surprise to many. He did not seem to look the part of a traditional head coach, and didn’t have extensive experience as an assistant that he could draw upon. His creative gameplans and ability to connect with the current crop of NFL players has allowed McDaniel to flourish in year one.
His success likely comes as no surprise to 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, who was McDaniel’s boss in San Francisco for several years. Shanahan, who is no stranger to revolutionary offensive schemes himself, spent a lot of time working side by side with the younger coach to see how they could trick defenses. Now that McDaniel will face Shanahan for the first time on the other sideline, it’ll be fascinating to see if either coach comes up with a wrinkle to surprise their opposite number.
Taking Care Of Tua
The formula for Miami’s success has been pretty simple so far this season. When they’re able to protect quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and get them through an entire game, they win. When the Dolphins have been unable to keep the former University of Alabama star upright and healthy, they’ve lost. This basic tenet of football may seem obvious, but it will be even more important on Sunday in San Francisco.
It appears as if star tackle Terron Armstead will not be available against the 49ers due to a pectoral injury he suffered last week. His absence could spell trouble for Tagovailoa and the rest of Miami’s offense, who are facing a 49ers front that has done well to get pressure. Nick Bosa already has 11.5 sacks on the season, and will be on a mission to take Tagovailoa down. Miami may counter by deploying a strategy that promotes getting the ball out of the quarterback’s hands quickly.
Something Has To Give
Both teams enter Sunday’s tilt on two of the longest current win streaks in the NFL. The Dolphins have won five straight games, while the 49ers have come out victorious in four straight contests.
It’s always great for the fans to watch teams match up when they are playing their best football, which both franchises appear to be doing at this point in time. We can expect a close game that will be decided on a play made by one of the stars on the field.