The impact of this game for both of these teams is huge. The Bears are playing to keep a lead in their division, and this game is integral to the playoff hopes for the Dolphins, as well. The league is oddly even for the first time in years, and that's never more evident than how close this matchup is tonight. Every game from here on out is a playoff game, and the Bears need to get it done soon. Additionally, the Bears have a chance to help Devin Hester make history against a team who's special teams are, admittedly, not the world's greatest.
After the jump, we've got some game preview, but I wanted to take a second to let you know about a special gameday treat. Sean Jensen returns for the Inside Scoop, and in a first, he'll be joining us just one hour before kickoff! The thread for your questions will go up at 4pm ET, and Sean will join us around 7:30 ET to answer your questions personally. So get in there, and get your answers straight from a man who's livin' the High Life in Miami right now.
When Miami has the Ball
Don't expect Miami to suddenly get away from what they are. They're an explosive running team who also happens to have a couple of legitimate receiving threats in Marshall and Bess. I would expect them to use the run to set up some opportunity for Thigpen to make some plays to Marshall and Bess downfield. If Thigpen struggles early, or god forbid, he gets hurt as well, expect a healthy dose of the Wildcat (my high school mascot.) They've got two great backs in Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, who aren't maximizing themselves. Let's hope that trend doesn't reverse itself tonight. On the flipside, Thigpen can move around a little bit, so if you're not bringing him down quickly, he might make a play on a breakdown.
Key Match-Up: Julius Peppers vs. Jake Long, Bears DL vs. Dolphins OL.
Jake Long is playing on an injured shoulder, which from many accounts isn't the best idea. However, he's probably the best LT in the game right now, and he's the Dolphins best chance to contain Julius Peppers on the outside. If Long should go out, look for their RT to slide over, and at that point Peppers will likely draw more double teams and chips, hopefully opening something up for the rest of the defensive line.Some of the Dolphins struggles in the run game this season stem from an underperforming interior line, and hopefully the rest of the defensive line can capitalize on that in Week 11.
Key Match-Up 2: Bears LB corps. vs. Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams
Not much to say about this one other than, if you let these guys get outside you, they will cut you and cut hard. Keeping them funneled inside to where you can get run support from your other linebackers and safeties is key.
When the Bears have the Ball
The Bears should continue the practices that have gotten them to where they are over the past couple weeks. Use the run to keep the Dolphins honest, and take advantage when they give you something. I don't expect the Bears run game to have a ton of success here, and the Dolphins should be able to bring a pretty significant amount of pressure, with Wake and Dansby prowling. I won't get into the specifics of the line, because Nique did that last night over here. If J.C. can keep away from the interception monster, the Bears should be able to find steady, if unspectacular success against the Dolphins defense.
Key Match-Up: Jay Cutler vs. the Dolphins pass coverage
This is unfortunately the kind of situation where we've seen Jay Cutler come out and turn into Bad Favre, using his arm to force throws that don't have a chance. While their interceptions numbers don't show it this year, they can definitely sniff out an interception, particularly if they're double or triple covering the receiver at the time. The big targets tonight downfield will be Knox and Bennett, and that will hopefully leave a lot of mismatches on Olsen, who I think may have a big game.
If the Dolphins punt to him, their new special teams coach should also be fired. It's a little harder to get away with not kicking it to him on kickoffs, but you might see him short leg/directional kick some more. We could see something really special tonight folks. I hope you're ready for it.