2021 Dynasty/Fantasy Game Analysis Week 17: Titans 34, Dolphins 3 (By Ross Jacobs)
The Titans thumped the Dolphins here obviously, but I do have a couple of narratives to bust after watching this game.
Clearly the Dolphins recent success was more schedule-based than anything. It's much easier to look like a good team when you're playing the worst 2 or 3 teams in the league every week. But I have to admit that this wasn't quite as big a beatdown as the score would indicate. The Titans scored 10 points in the final 10 minutes off of turnovers as the Dolphins flailed away trying to mount a comeback. Before that Tennessee was doing ok offensively but definitely weren't great.
Another factor here was the rain. It was coming down heavy and that greatly affected the gameplans of both teams. It was terrible for RC's BTO (baby throw offense) for Miami. It greatly helped Tennessee, however, because it forced them to do what they should have been doing for weeks...give D'Onta Foreman the ball like you would Derrick Henry. That worked out pretty well.
I don't think this was some big coming out party for the Tennessee defense though. They are ok, safe, disciplined, but they were getting run on early and their pass defense hasn't been good all year. Elijah Molden's emergence is helping though. We'll talk about him later. It seemed like just one of those games that lines up nicely. I want to see Tennessee stop a real offense before I get on board with them. The Chiefs and Bengals are a far cry from the Dolphins.
Tennessee is not a great team. They might not even be the best team in the AFC. But they are a solid, disciplined team that rarely beats themselves, and now they are getting back the engine of the offense. By all accounts it sounds like Henry is somehow healthy and ready to make a playoff run. If that's true then you have to think Tennessee are the favorites to make the Superbowl.
I can't stand the man, but I have to give Mike Vrabel some credit. He's the first former Belichick assistant to actually succeed in this league by copying his coach/boss. I'll have to think about it more, but Vrabel is on my short list for Coach of the Year.
This loss knocked Miami out of the playoffs. They'll still come out firing next week trying to beat the division rival Patriots and keep them from winning the division, but I don't think that's going to happen. New England is still hoping to win the division if the Bills somehow lose to the Jets, so they have everything to play for. I imagine we'll see a close game because Miami really isn't as bad as they looked here against the Titans, but I do expect the Patriots to find a way to win which would lock up mine and RC's under bet against the Dolphins.
--Why didn't the Titans just give D'Onta Foreman the ball like this weeks ago? It's been there the whole time. He's not Derrick Henry but he does as good an impression as anyone in the league. The funny thing is he still was riding the bench on the first series like always. I have no idea why they always start with Hilliard but they do.
Foreman is headed back to the bench with Henry back obviously. He'll be a free agent this year, but I'll bet a dime to a dollar that nobody around the league signs him to be their starter. Henry returning for the playoffs is going to cost Foreman money because there's nothing like a successful playoff run to prove to GM's that you can play. Most likely he comes back to Tennessee on a cheap deal to be Henry's backup again.
--AJ Brown disappeared after his monster performance last week. It was a combination of the rain, Xavien Howard, and Tennessee building a big lead. Nothing wrong with Brown. He should be considered a WR1 from here on out, although a streaky one due to the offense and Tannehill's limitations. Getting Henry back will only help him.
--The craziest thing I'm walking away from this game thinking...the biggest reason the Miami offense got shut down is because Tennessee shut down the engine of their offense, Jaylen Waddle. How did they do this when Waddle has been a ppr monster tearing teams up with these underneath throws?
Elijah Molden is already one of the best slot corners in the league. He was all over Waddle and wiped him out with ease. Waddle finally caught a deep ball late in the game for 45 yards with another corner on him. Before that Molden only allowed him to catch 2 passes for a combined 2 yards. Molden is the better Tyrann Mathieu and we're just finishing up year one. Let's see how long it takes the media to figure out how good he is.
--Miami went with a split of Miles Gaskin and Duke Johnson here even though Johnson played far more snaps as a pass blocker. They both looked pretty good running the ball (which makes me worry about the Tennessee run defense) and might have run for more yards if Miami didn't get down so quickly. Johnson is the better of the two by a lot though and Miami knows it.
Neither guy will be starting here next year if I had to bet on it, but Johnson might stick as the 3rd down back. It was no secret that Miami wanted Najee Harris or Javonte Williams in the 2021 draft. They won't miss on drafting a high RB again. Brian Robinson or Isaiah Spiller will be wearing a Dolphins jersey next year, most likely Spiller since RC loves him and will hate this landing spot.
*RC NOTE: I will love this landing spot (hopefully)…because there will be no split role situation thrust upon Spiller because Gaskin or Duke are so good Flores ends up doing a/wasting time with a Javonte/Mel Gordon type thing. I want Spiller to go to a place where he rockets right to the main carries.
--In the immortal words of Troy Aikman, I really like Christian Wilkins (10 tackles, 1 tfl). 82 tackles (5.1 per game) on the year for a DT is nuts. He's averaged 8 tackles a game over his last three games.
He isn't getting the huge sack numbers like Donald, but he's one of the best DT's in the game and I won't hear otherwise. There are other ways to impact the game than just getting sacks on defense and Wilkins does all those things well in addition to being a great leader. He'll get his recognition in due time.
--Tennessee has fully committed to Zach Cunningham now. He'll be the starter in the middle next year. I suspect David Long will be the other start and Rashaan Evans will rotate in. Jayon Brown is the odd man out for some reason. Personally I think he's the best of the bunch, but what do I know?
I don't care for Cunningham really. He's a run stopper but sucks in coverage. Long is a good player and who I would pair with Brown if it was my team. I bet he doesn't get nearly the same tackle counts next year with Cunningham in the fold though. Cunningham is Vrabel's boy and nothing will change that.
Snap Counts of Interest
41 = Foreman
15 = Hilliard
57 = Swaim
29 = Firkser
36 = Duke
15 = Gaskin