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2017 NFL Wildcard Playoff Preview: Miami At Pittsburgh

2017 NFL Wildcard Playoff

(Jim Rassol/Sun Sentinel)

Can Jay Ajayi run all over Pittsburgh’s defense again? Read a preview for the 2017 NFL Wildcard playoff game below (Jim Rassol / Sun Sentinel)

The Miami Dolphins defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 30-15 back in week 6. However, the Dolphins are huge underdogs despite getting the upper hand on the Steelers earlier this year. If the Steelers can manage the win the rematch they will play Kansas City in the divisional round. If Miami wins they will go on to play New England for the 3rd time this year. What are the keys to victory for each team in this Wildcard playoff showdown? For more on the rest of the playoff teams, click here!

10-6 Miami Dolphins At 11-5 Pittsburgh Steelers

Sunday, January 8th, 2017 1:05 ET: CBS

Spread > Miami +12.5 – Under/Over 46

WHY The Miami Dolphins Will Win:

Jarvis Landry anchors an explosive Miami Dolphins offense (Al Diaz Miami Herald)
  1. Jay Ajayi Will Torch This Defense Again:

Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi made his first career NFL start against the Steelers in week 6. He did nothing but run for 204 yards on Pittsburgh’s shoddy defense. A formula that seems to pan out pretty well for finding success in the postseason is being able to run the ball effectively. Since Ajayi took the reigns over full time in week 6, he has been the number one graded running back in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus. Since that time he has rushed for the most yards in football with 1,155 yards since week 6. Ajayi has not only been the best analytical back all season, he has changed Miami’s season.  The Dolphins are 9-2 record since inserting him into the lineup as their every down back.  Ajayi leads NFL in yards after contact 2.52. There aren’t enough good things you can say about the former 2015 5th round pick from Boise State. It will be a challenge this go around as all-pro center Mike Pouncey is on injured reserve.

On a side note, I want some credit for calling Jay Ajayi a fantasy sleeper prior to this season. Not only that but Arian Foster found himself on this year’s version of ‘Don’t Eat The Cheese: Fantasy Busts of the year. That’s 2 for 2, Go me!

Can Jay Ajayi have a repeat performance against the Steelers in the playoffs? (ESPN)

2. Matt Moore Is Better Than You Think:

Is it so crazy to say that Matt Moore might actually be better than Ryan Tannehill? Here’s something interesting Bill Simmons wrote in his recent column on the ringer.

Chew on these numbers …

QB 1: 14 starts, 2,800 yards, 24 TDs, 9 picks
QB 2: 13 starts, 2,995 yards, 19 TDs, 12 picks

QB 2? That’s Ryan Tannehill’s 2016 season before he injured his knee.

QB1? Matt Moore’s last 14 starts for the Dolphins?—?11 in 2011, three this season.

I truly believe people are sleeping on Matt Moore. In 3 starts this year he has 8 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. Moore’s QBR on the season is 81.3 while Tannehill’s is 55.5. How is the Tannehill vs. Moore conversation even an argument? Miami’s offense is quietly very explosive ranking 5th in the NFL with 89 big plays. Big plays are considered rushes of 10 yards or more and completions of 25 yards or more. Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills are always threats to hit the home run touchdown catch at any time. DeVante Parker is also a very physical receiver that could give the Steelers trouble.

3. Adam Gase Is The NFL Coach Of The Year:

Adam Gase deserves a lot of credit just for getting the Dolphins in the playoffs. The Fins are not littered with talent like the Steelers are but they are very well coached.  In a way, Gase is a sort of disciple of Peyton Manning who was Peyton’s offensive coordinator during Manning’s Bronco days. Gase is one of the most innovative offensive coaches the league has to offer. Give him a lot of credit for changing the culture in Miami. Gase wasn’t afraid to bench guys for showing a lack of effort. Now Miami firmly believes in Gase who has been able to transform the Dolphins from completely dysfunctional to very well run. Face it, this is the brightest future the Dolphins have had since the Dan Marino era. On the opposite sidelines, I have been a firm antagonist of Mike Tomlin. The Steelers head coach is the most overrated coach in the NFL. The Steelers are just 1-4 in the last 5 years in postseason play. That’s not good enough when you have a hall of fame quarterback. The Steelers often times descend to the opponent’s level of play. Adam Gase is going to have these guys fired up because no one else seems to believe in them. Miami has nothing to lose and have been overachievers all season. What’s not to like here?

Read About The Dolphins Playoff X-Factor HERE!

WHY The Pittsburgh Steelers Will Win:


Read 3 reasons why the Steelers can defeat the Dolphins (Joe Sargent Getty Images)

1. Ben Roethlisberger, Enough Said:

C’mon Matt Moore can’t seriously beat Ben Roethlisberger in a playoff game, right? Big Ben is a hall of fame quarterback and is still considered one of the best in the game. Roethlisberger will be playing in his 17th career playoff game. You know what you’re going to get with this guy. He has a record of 11-6 in the playoffs which is pretty darn good too when you’re battling Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and a normally tough Ravens crew year after year. The Steelers are winners of 7 games in a row playing their best football at the right time. Roethlisberger, 34, is still in the prime of his career throwing 29 touchdowns and 13 picks on the year.

2. Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown Will Have Big Games:

Is there a more explosive duo in the league than these two guys? Miami actually did a pretty good job on these tow guys in week 6 limiting them to only 153 yards between the two of them. That’s not going to happen again. Le’Veon Bell has been on a tear late in the season and ended up leading the league in all-purpose yards. The Dolphins gave up 4.8 yards per carry to running backs this season which was the worst of any team. You can pencil in Bell to have a huge game. Antonio Brown will also have a much bigger day as well. Byron Maxwell is expected to miss the game after he limited Brown to only 39 yards in week 6. That’s going to end up being a huge loss for Miami unless Tony Lippett came become a hero overnight. Over the course of the season guys like Eli Rogers, Cobi Hamilton, and Ladarius Green have become huge factors in the passing game taking a lot of pressure off of the two superstars. If those complementary players can win the one on one matchups that come their way, Miami doesn’t have a chance to win.

The numbers show that Miami is one of the weaker teams in the playoffs (ESPN)

3. Pittsburgh Has The Much Better Defense:

Defenses win championships. That is the mantra everyone has been told that is an NFL fan. Let’s compare the defensive numbers of each team. Miami ranks 29th in yards allowed, 18th in points allowed, and have a point differential on the season of -17 points. Pittsburgh ranks 12th in yards allowed, 10th in points allowed, and have a +72 point differential on the year. The Steelers have a more talented roster by a mile. Young guys like Sean Davis and Javon Hargrave have given the Steelers a boost in recent weeks. Even the ancient James Harrison still contributes leading the team with 5 sacks. This isn’t the old Steel curtain defense, but it is a much better unit than the Dolphins. Outside of Kiko Alonso, Tony Lippett, Ndamukong Suh, and Cameron Wake the Fins other starters have been far below average.

Read About The Steelers Playoff X-Factor HERE!

The Dolphins have 1 win against a team with a winning record this year. That came via beating the Steelers. I’ll be honest, I like the upset here. Sometimes you just get that gut feeling. The entire planet seems to be riding the Steelers false hype train. It’s hard to win 8 games in a row in the NFL. I wouldn’t be shocked at all to see Miami pull off the upset when all of the pressure and expectations seem to be on the Steelers forefront. The Steelers have disappointed in the past 5 years going 1-4 in playoff bouts. I think Adam Gase devises a gameplan that shocks the world.  Even if I’m wrong, How can you not pick the Dolphins getting 12.5 points! Even if things go Pittsburgh’s way, I can’t fathom them beating Miami by 13 or more.

Dolphins Defeat Steelers 27-26

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