The Minnesota Vikings picked the right week to put a ton of pressure on their new play caller, interim offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski.
While the Miami Dolphins’ record may say that they are a winning team competing for the playoffs, there is little else in their profile that would suggest they can make life difficult for the Vikings offense.
Miami ranks 30th in yards per play allowed, 28th in pass yards per attempt, 23rd in rushing yards per attempt and 26th in points.
“It is a good front,” Stefanski said on Thursday. “They have Robert Quinn on one side and Cameron Wake on the other. They have our attention. Kiko Alonso is running around out there. They have 19 interceptions. We have our work cut out for us.”
Despite the 19 interceptions, the Dolphins are still only 13th in passer rating allowed. That’s not even to mention that top corner Xaven Howard, who has seven picks, is unlikely to play against the Vikings as he battles a knee injury. Plus the two rushers highlighted by Stefanski have only combined for nine sacks — though Wake does have an impressive 45 pressures on 260 pass rush snaps.
By nearly any measure, the Dolphins are more lucky than good. Football Outsiders’ DVOA statistic, which weighs opponent and situation into yards gained, ranks Miami the 24th overall defense. Pro-Football Reference’s “Expected W-L” estimates they should be a five-win team. Pro Football Focus grades them as the 27th ranked defense.
Teams have absolutely demolished the Dolphins linebackers in the passing game. While Alonso has three interceptions, opposing QBs have completed 51-of-71 passes his way at 12.2 yards per catch. Raekwon McMillan is statistically one of the worst cover linebackers in the NFL, giving up a 91.7 percent completion percentage on 36 targets with six touchdowns and zero picks.
Miami’s top pick Minkah Fitzpatrick has put together a strong year, but the other Dolphins corners outside of Howard have not. Bobby McCain has given up a 115.6 rating against and opposing QBs are 17-for-21 throwing at Torry McTyer.
Some of Kirk Cousins’ best games have come against poor defenses. This year versus Green Bay, he posted a 123.5 rating in two games with seven touchdowns, one interception and 8.9 yards per attempt. The Packers are 25th in defensive DVOA, just behind the Dolphins. He also went 18-for-22 against the Lions, who sit 29th in DVOA.
On getting the most out of Cousins, who is averaging just 6.4 yards per attempt over the last five games, Stefanski said:
“I think like anything you are trying to find that balance of what you do well and what hurts the defense, certain games that varies. I have a pretty good feel for what Kirk is good at and it’s a lot of things, obviously. I think we have a good feel for what he’s good at and maximize his potential by giving him things that he is comfortable with.”
The bottom line: If the Vikings offense can’t get rolling at home against a below average Dolphins defense, there’s little hope for the rest of 2018.