OAKLAND RAIDERS (3-5)
at MIAMI DOLPHINS (4-3)
Hard Rock Stadium – Miami, FL
Kickoff: Sunday, 8:25 p.m. ET
Line: Oakland -3.0, Total: 44.0
Both the Raiders and the Dolphins will be hungry for victories when the teams meet for Sunday Night Football.
Oakland and Miami are both trying to earn themselves spots in the postseason, but a victory is pretty much a must for both teams right now. The Raiders would fall to 3-6 with a loss on Sunday, which would actually mean that their season is essentially over. The Dolphins would be in better shape at 4-4, but this team doesn’t seem good enough to go something like 6-2 in the second half of the year. That is why Miami has to be thinking that this is a must-win against an average Oakland team at home. Both teams are coming off of some embarrassing losses here, though. The Raiders lost 34-14 as 2.5-point underdogs in Buffalo last week, and the Dolphins lost 40-0 as three-point underdogs in Baltimore. Miami was, however, without QB Jay Cutler in that game and the signal-caller will be back under center for the team in this one. That should help the Dolphins significantly, but they should also be excited by the fact that they are 7-1 SU and 5-3 ATS when hosting the Raiders since 1992. Miami also happens to be 44-17 ATS against AFC West division opponents since then.
The Raiders badly need a victory, but they’re not going to be able to earn one unless they can jumpstart the running game here. RB Marshawn Lynch was suspended for last week’s meeting with the Bills, so he should be pretty well rested when the teams take the field in this one. If Lynch doesn’t rush for something like 80 yards in this game then it’s hard to imagine Oakland having much of a chance. Either that or he’ll need to rush for around 4.0 YPC. If Lynch can run the ball effectively on Sunday then the passing game should have some more room to work with. QB Derek Carr definitely needs that, as he threw just one touchdown pass and a lousy two picks against the Bills last week. If he is not taking better care of the football then the Raiders can’t turn this thing around here. And it’s not like he doesn’t have weapons either. WRs Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper are both very talented players and are capable of going off on any given day. Defensively, the Raiders need to be ready to defend the pass here. Miami dealt Pro Bowl rusher Jay Ajayi at the deadline, so the team will be relying on the pass often in this game.
As previously mentioned, the Dolphins traded Jay Ajayi at the deadline. The running back will now be taking handoffs from Carson Wentz for the Eagles. That means that this is Jay Cutler’s show, which might not be one that he necessarily deserves. Cutler has not been good this season and also happens to be coming off of a pretty significant injury to his ribs. He’s probably a bad hit away from being out the remainder of the season, and last week’s game with Matt Moore under center proved that the Dolphins can’t win without him. Still, Cutler should be able to put up some big numbers in this game. The Raiders’ secondary is atrocious this season, so expect Cutler to come through here. Defense will, however, be a major concern in this one. The Dolphins let the Ravens do everything they wanted last week and that’s as bad an offense as there is in this league. If Miami can’t improve some things on that end then Carr is going to shred them through the air.