MIAMI DOLPHINS (7-6) AT MINNESOTA VIKINGS (6-6-1)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 PM ET, U.S. Bank Stadium; CBS, Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts, Evan Washburn (Field reporter)
SERIES HISTORY: 12th regular-season meeting. Dolphins lead series, 7-4. Miami has won the past three meetings, but the two teams haven't met since 2014 when the Dolphins won 37-35 in Miami. The Dolphins scored nine points in the final 1:11 to win. That was Zimmer's first year as the Vikings head coach when the team went 7-9. Teddy Bridgewater was quarterback, Matt Asiata was the lead running back and Greg Jennings was the leading receiver. The most recent game in Minnesota between the teams was in 2010, and that was a 14-10 Dolphins victory.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Both teams should be feeling desperate. Miami head coach Adam Gase said his team is in "survival mode." The phrase of the week for Minnesota has been "sense of urgency." The Vikings currently hold a playoff spot as the final seed in the NFC. The Dolphins are one of four teams at 7-6 in the AFC but trail 7-6 Baltimore for the final playoff spot due to tiebreakers.
Minnesota surely will look to run the ball after head coach Mike Zimmer's continued harping of the need during the John DeFilippo tenure. New coordinator Kevin Stefanski knows the team personnel well and has surely had Zimmer mention what he'd like to see. The Dolphins have passed the ball more than 28 times just once in quarterback Ryan Tannehill's eight games. Tannehill had just 19 pass attempts in the win against New England and Miami ran 21 times. The Vikings are 13th in the NFL against the run, while the Dolphins have the 29th-ranked run defense.
The Dolphins needed a prayer last week, and they got a miracle instead, rallying to beat the Patriots on the last play of the game. This week, a Dolphins victory would be an even bigger surprise considering the game is in Minnesota. To upset the Vikings, the Dolphins will have to move the ball against a defense that is top-five in the NFL in total yards. In other words, the Dolphins offensive line has to pave the way for running backs Frank Gore and Kenyan Drake, quarterback Ryan Tannehill has to be accurate while making good decisions, and the receivers group has to make some big plays.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Dolphins FS Reshad Jones vs. Vikings QB Kirk Cousins. Jones is a playmaker, but he seems to be in a slump of late. After intercepting two passes in the season opener, he hasn't come up with a pick since. He also had one tackle for loss in the opener and just two in the 10 games since. Cousins, meanwhile, has put up impressive numbers all season, passing for 3,698 yards for 24 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He has completed 70.6 percent of his passes.
--Dolphins OLB Kiko Alonso vs. Vikings RB Dalvin Cook. Alonso is one of the top tacklers in the NFL again this season with 116 stops. He has also made numerous big plays with three interceptions, three forced fumbles, three tackles for losses and one fumble recovery. Cook, who played his high school football at Miami Central, will be playing his hometown team. For the season, Cook is second on the team in rushing (367 yards) and a 4.2 average.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Vikings LB Anthony Barr. Barr will need to keep an eye on Miami's running backs. The Dolphins' dual threat of Frank Gore and Kenyan Drake has been effective and versatile. Gore leads the team with 708 yards rushing. Drake has 463 yards rushing and 366 yards receiving. Drake, particularly, has been explosive. He has 41 receptions and finished off Miami's "miracle" comeback last week against New England at the end of the 69-yard, multi-lateral play. Barr tied a season high with seven tackles as Seattle focused on running the ball and had his first sack.
FAST FACTS: DOLPHINS GW 69-yard TD in Week 14 was longest play from scrimmage to win game with no time remaining in 4th Q since 1970 merger. ... QB RYAN TANNEHILL completed 14 of 19 (73.7 pct.) for 265 yards with 3 TDs vs. 0 INTs for 155.2 rating last week. Aims for his 3rd in row with 2+ TD passes & 100+ rating. ... RB FRANK GORE had 116 scrimmage yards (92 rush, 24 rec.) in Week 14. Has 18,530 career scrimmage yards & surpassed HOFer LaDAINIAN TOMLINSON (18,456) for 5th-most scrimmage yards in NFL history. ... RB KENYAN DRAKE took lateral 52 yards for GW-TD as time expired in Week 14. Aims for his 4th in row with TD catch. ... WR KENNY STILLS had 8 catches for 135 yards & TD in Week 14. Aims for his 3rd in row with rec. TD. ... LB KIKO ALONSO had team-high 10 tackles & TFL last week. Aims for his 3rd in row with 10+ tackles & TFL. Ranks 3rd in NFL with 116 tackles. ... DE ROBERT QUINN aims for his 3rd in row with sack. Has 3.5 sacks in his past 4. ...
VIKINGS QB KIRK COUSINS passed for 208 yards & 1 TD last week. Ranks 4th in NFC in pass yards (3,698) & tied for 5th in TD passes (24). ... RB DALVIN COOK had 83 scrimmage yards (55 rush, 28 rec.) & TD catch last week. Has 75+ scrimmage yards in 4 of his past 5. ... WR ADAM THIELEN leads NFL with 103 catches & ranks 3rd in rec. yards (1,236). ... WR STEFON DIGGS ranks 6th in NFC with career-high 88 catches. Has 75+ rec. yards in 4 of his past 5. Thielen & Diggs are 1 of 2 pairs of teammates (ANTONIO BROWN & JuJU SMITH-SCHUSTER) with 85+ receptions each in 2018. ... S HARRISON SMITH is 1 of 2 safeties (DERWIN JAMES) with 70+ tackles (70), 3+ sacks (3) & 3+ INTs (3).
PREDICTION: Minnesota is holding on for dear life to the sixth seed in the NFC and will be playing the game with a new play-caller after firing offensive coordinator John DeFilippo. Miami is 1-5 away from home and has lost its last five road games but appears to possess the offensive talent necessary to end its road skid.
OUR PICK: Dolphins, 24-19