The Miami Dolphins made the critical move to bench Ryan Fitzpatrick, who had brought the team into fringe contention, and replace him with first-round draft pick Tua Tagovailoa. They beat the Los Angeles Rams last week, but does that offer any proof that this has worked?

That’s an interesting question to explore as they prepare to face the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, AZ.


BetAnySports NFL Odds: Cardinals -5.5, Total 49

The Dolphins, frankly, looked at Fitzpatrick as a guy who could take them to a certain point, and Tua as someone who could get them to a completely different level. And there is something to be said for that.

There’s going to be a learning curve, no doubt. Tua has operated a lot on instinct, and that is a virtue, but defenses are going to catch up to guys like that. The starting debut was nothing to speak of, as he went 12 of 22 for just 93 yards. That’s 3.9 yards per attempt, on the way to just eight first downs, and Miami isn’t going to win a lot of games like that.

Fortunately for them, the defense was able to force a lot of miscues from the Rams. This included four turnovers by Jared Goff. A punt return for a touchdown didn’t hurt them either. We goofed a little in our analysis of last week’s game, in that we didn’t pay enough consideration to what Brian Flores had done in compiling a game plan for the Super Bowl two seasons ago when the Patriots beat the Rams. It focused on what was going to confuse and thwart the rather mechanical Goff.

The defense for Miami does indeed work; the Dolphins have surrendered fewer points than anyone else in the NFL, and they are the best stop unit when it comes to turning back opponents on third down.

And we’re not promising the Cards’ offense is so prolific that it is going to break through in a big way. Kyler Murray has been solid if not spectacular in throwing the ball, with a 13-7 ratio of touchdowns to interceptions. Last year, though, he was sacked 48 times to lead the league, and that has been reduced drastically, to just nine in seven games. And obviously what can’t be ignored is that Murray leads the NFL in yards per rush attempt (6.7).

Let’s be clear on something; Kliff Kingsbury came to the desert promising the Air Raid. And the Air Raid, at least as we have seen it from Mike Leach (who coached Kingsbury at Texas Tech) , doesn’t run it much. But the Cardinals are tenth in the league in run play percentage, so clearly there are some variations in this offense. They just wish they could have Kenyan Drake, the former Dolphin (acquired in a trade before last year’s deadline), but the former Crimson Tide star, who has evolved into one of the more productive tailbacks in the NFL, has been ruled out with an ankle injury.

We wonder if you were aware that when it comes to red zone production, the Cards are among the top five teams in the NFL on both sides of the ball. The Dolphins have slight deficiencies when it comes to rushing defense (allowing 4.9 ypc) and their red zone D, which is 21st in the league – that is, on those occasions when they let teams get that far. Arizona may travel quite a bit on the ground.

I suppose I could afford the Cards a slight edge here, and remember that Kingsbury is a rather sizzling 15-7-1 ATS in his brief coaching career. But there is too much evidence to support an UNDER on the total, including an inviting number.

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