East Rutherford, NJ — November 24, 2023 -- Miami quarterback,Tua Tagovailoa in the first half as the Miami Dolphins defeated the NY Jets 34-13 at MetLife Stadium on November 24, 2023 in East Rutherford, NJ to play in the first “Black Friday” NFL game. Courtesy The Record/ Chris Pedota.

Miami Set to Travel to Washington to Face Commanders

The Miami Dolphins travel to Landover, Maryland, to face the Washington Commanders Sunday. Both teams have had far different experiences in the 2023 season. Miami looks to stay dominant while Washington tries to inch their way back into the NFC Wild Card picture.

Going into Sunday, Miami will go for its first 9-3 record since 2000, Washington’s defense gets yet another rough matchup and a surprising quarterback duel could be in store at FedEx Field.

Fins Up

Miami head coach Mike McDaniel has his team rolling into Week 13. The Dolphins are 8-3 and have a +88-point differential on the year so far, which is good for fifth in the league. Wide receiver Tyreek Hill leads the league in receiving yards and touchdowns. Hill is also getting momentous buzz for NFL Offensive Player of the Year and could contend for MVP. All this to say, Dolphin fans have not felt this positive about their team in over 20 years.

Coming into the season, many circled Miami’s defense as the weak link on the team. But with the addition of defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, Miami ranks eighth in total yards allowed per game and are top 11 in both passing and rushing yards allowed per game. However, with the loss of star pass rusher Jaelan Phillips due to an Achilles injury in last week’s win over the Jets, the defense will need to step up to fill Phillip’s hole.

As stated earlier, Miami is looking to start the season 9-3, a feat they have not done since 2001. Notably, in that 2001 season, the Dolphins finished 11-5, but choked the division away to the New England Patriots.

Commanders Defense Can’t Catch a Break

After trading edge rushers Montez Sweat and Chase Young at the trade deadline, Washington showed their cards and revealed they will not be in contention for the 2023 season. In the four games after the Oct. 31 trade deadline, the defense on average has allowed 30.5 points per game and has allowed opposing offenses to have an average of 348.8 yards per game.

It didn’t come as a surprise that Commanders head coach Ron Rivera fired defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio the day after their 45-10 Thanksgiving blowout loss against the Dallas Cowboys. Though, their first matchup without Del Rio will be against the top offense in the league in terms of total yards. The Dolphins have scored 28+ points in six of their 11 games while Washington has allowed opposing teams to score 28+ in eight of their 12 games.

It does not look great for Washington’s defense Sunday. But one glimmer of hope is that Miami is just 3-3 on the road and have scored significantly less points on the road compared to when they are in Miami. The Dolphins score 38.8 points per game at home and 24.2 points on the road.

Odd Quarterback Duel

Surprisingly, both quarterbacks in this game are top 5 in passing yards this season. In a game in which the Commanders defense might underperform against the potent Dolphins offense and the Washington offense playing from behind, it could be an exciting passing performance by both teams on paper.

With the addition of offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy in the offseason, Commanders quarterback Sam Howell leads the league in passing yards. While opponents may say that most of Howell’s yards occur when playing from behind and the game is out of reach, most didn’t expect Howell to be on pace for 4,730 yards and 26 touchdowns.

For Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, he is the engine of the most electric offense in the league. According to ESPN, his projected numbers are 4,910 yards and 34 touchdowns. If Tagovailoa does end up with numbers similar to that and the Dolphins end the season positively, expect a possible MVP award for the gunslinger.

Kickoff is at 1 p.m.

About Nick VanZandt

Nick VanZandt is a senior journalism student at the University of Florida and this is his third semester working for WRUF.

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