Traveling west and playing the Las Vegas Raiders (2-0) was always going to be a difficult task for the Miami Dolphins.
But it just got tougher.
The Dolphins (1-1) will be 5 1/2-point underdogs on Sunday against the Raiders, a line that is at least partially inflated by the quarterback situation.
Miami will play without starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who has fractured ribs, an injury he sustained this past Sunday after getting crunched by Buffalo Bills defensive end AJ Epenesa.
Jacoby Brissett, who replaces Tagovailoa, has made 32 career starts. He is 12-20 in those starts, including 4-11 with the 2017 Indianapolis Colts and 7-8 with the 2019 Colts.
“We have confidence in Jacoby,” Dolphins coach Brian Flores said. “We believe in his ability to lead the offense.”
The Dolphins will have to make the adjustment from the lefty-throwing Tagovailoa to the right-handed Brissett.
But while the Dolphins make that transition, the Raiders hope to continue rolling with quarterback Derek Carr.
Carr has passed for 817 yards — a franchise record for the first two games of a season — and four touchdowns. Only three other quarterbacks — Tom Brady, Drew Bledsoe and Ryan Fitzpatrick — have ever started an NFL season with two games of at least 380 passing yards and two TD tosses.
In last Sunday’s 26-17 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, Carr completed 28 of 37 passes for 382 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. His biggest highlight was a 61-yard TD pass to speedy Henry Ruggs, who was Vegas’ first-round pick in 2020.
“You see a gear that not a lot of human beings have,” Carr said of Ruggs. “It makes it fun for me.”
Besides Tagovailoa, another injury that could factor into this game is the oblique issue that caused Raiders left tackle Alex Leatherwood to leave in the second quarter of the Steelers game. He is questionable for the Dolphins.
In addition, Raiders coach Jon Gruden said running back Josh Jacobs (toe/ankle injury) is “very questionable” for Sunday’s game. Jacobs last year became the first Raiders running back since Marcus Allen in 1983-85 to post consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.
Without Jacobs — who missed the Steelers game — the Raiders are relying on former Dolphins ball carrier Kenyan Drake as well as Peyton Barber. Drake this year has 13 carries for just 20 yards. Barber has 13 carries for 32 yards.
The real sizzle in the Raiders’ steak is in the passing game, which includes tight end Darren Waller, who made the Pro Bowl last season. Waller has gained more than 1,100 receiving yards in two straight years.
Ruggs is averaging 18.5 yards per reception in 15 career NFL games, and Hunter Renfrow has delivered 116 receptions in 31 games, including 10 starts, as Vegas’ possession receiver.
The Dolphins, however, lead their series against the Raiders, 18-17-1. In fact, the Raiders have lost seven of their past eight games against Miami.
Last year, the Dolphins rallied in the fourth quarter, beating the Raiders, 26-25, on Jason Sanders’ 44-yard field goal with one second left in the game. That Dec. 26 home loss eliminated the Raiders from playoff contention.
Waller had five catches for 112 yards in that game. Carr passed for 336 yards and one score.
But the big surprise was Dolphins running back Myles Gaskin, who rushed for 87 yards on 14 carries. He also caught five passes for 82 yards and two touchdowns, and his 169 scrimmage yards stand as his career high.
This year, though, Miami’s offense has struggled, averaging just 8.5 points in two games. The Raiders, in contrast, are scoring at a clip of 29.5 points per game.
Flores, meanwhile, is 1-0 against the Raiders. Gruden is 2-5 in his career against the Dolphins.
–Field Level Media
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