Miami Dolphins (4-4) at San Diego Chargers (4-5)
SERIES HISTORY: 28th meeting. The Dolphins lead the series, 14-13.
The Chargers are glad to see the Dolphins -- at home. San Diego beat Miami in their last visit, 30-14, in 2015. When the Chargers battle the Dolphins in Miami trouble starts: six straight losses there for the Chargers. Any time these teams match up, the epic game from the 1981 playoffs comes to mind. The Chargers won in overtime. It remains one of the top contests in team, and league history, with the image of a spent Kellen Winslow being assisted off the field a hot, humid night. In the 1994 playoffs, the Chargers edged the visiting Dolphins, 22-21, in an AFC divisional game on their way to their lone Super Bowl.
KEYS TO THE GAME: After this week's elections, Chargers fans could be in a foul mood regardless of what they think about president-elect Donald Trump. A measure failed that would raise hotel occupancy taxes to help pay for a new stadium for the Chargers in San Diego and the future home of the franchise remains in doubt.
Getting back to football, both teams are on the run this season, Miami with Jay Ajayi and San Diego with Melvin Gordon. Ajayi has 646 yards rushing with 529 as a key in the Dolphins three straight wins. The Chargers counter with Melvin Gordon, who has 768 yards and nine TDs rushing and last week amassed 261 yards from scrimmage, 196 rushing, 65 receiving, second most in the history of this offensive-crazy franchise history.
Ajayi's success will be most important to help the Dolphins maintain ball control, meaning keep the ball away from Philip Rivers, the most under-appreciated QB in the NFL. He consistently leads an inconsistent Chargers lineup, this year completing 63.4 percent with 2,560 yards passing and a rating of 96.2.
San Diego is No. 5 in the NFL in run defense (85.3 yards per game), but Ajayi just gained 111 yards on the previous No. 1 (New York Jets). Conversely, the Dolphins are 30th in the league in run defense (136.1 yards per game).
Watch for the Chargers to be aggressive with Rivers early in attempt to get an early lead that forces the ball out of Ajayi's hands and into those of Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill, whose passing game is 29th in the NFL with an 87.4 rating, eight TD passes and seven interceptions.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Chargers DE Joey Bosa vs. Dolphins RT Ja'Wuan James. Bosa, the No. 3 draft, has been outstanding. He has four sacks, 16 quarterback pressures, 16 tackles, six for losses in four games and could be a top candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year. James struggled early in the season, partly due to technique changes, and was benched for overtime of the Cleveland victory. He allowed at least two strip-sacks although he's been better recently. Still, this is a huge matchup. If James can't protect QB Ryan Tannehill the passing game becomes a major problem concern.
--Chargers running game vs. Dolphins run defense. Gordon was sensational in Sunday's win over the Titans, rushing for 196 yards and a score. Any offense with Philip Rivers at quarterback is apt to lean on the passing attack. But Rivers and others are more than happy to have Gordon shoulder his share in the name of balance and preventing hits to Rivers. Miami's defense against the rush is 30th in yards allowed per game. The matchup between Miami DT Ndamukong Suh and the Chargers' interior line, especially C Matt Slauson, will be worth watching. Suh must keep Chargers blockers busy so they can't get to the second level where the Dolphins linebackers include former Charger Donald Butler.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Chargers LG Spencer Pulley. This undrafted rookie from Vanderbilt saw the field late in the game on Sunday, filling in for Orlando Franklin (concussion). Considering Franklin's plight, Pulley, who saw action in two games this year while also playing right guard, could have a significant role against the Dolphins.
INJURY REPORT: Miami -- Out: CB Xavien Howard (knee). Questionable: S Isa Abdul-Quddus (ankle), T Jermon Bushrod (shoulder), Leonte Carroo (knee), CB Chris Culliver (knee), TE MarQueis Gray (ankle), LB Jelani Jenkins, WR Jarvis Landry (shoulder), TE Dion Sims (concussion), G Anthony Steen (neck), WR Kenny Stills (calf). San Diego -- Out: LB Jatavis Brown (knee), WR Jeremy Butler (ankle), LB Denzel Perryman (hamstring). Doubtful: S Jahleel Addae (collarbone), WR Travis Benjamin (knee). Questionable: G Orlando Franklin (concussion), TE Hunter Henry (knee), CB Craig Mager (concussion), WR Tyrell Williams (knee).
FAST FACTS: Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry has 45 catches (9 per game) for 474 yards (94.8 per game) and a TD in last five road games. Since 2014, has 243 receptions, 4th in NFL. LB Kiko Alonso leads Dolphins with 67 tackles, including 30 tackles, 3 TFL and tow FRs in last three road games. DT Ndamukong Suh seeks sack in third consecutive game. Since rookie 2010 season, Suh has 46.5 sacks, tied for most by a DT. DE Cameron Wake had two sacks, two forced fumbles last week and made four sacks in last three games. ... Chargers won three of their past four games, including a 43-35 win over Tennessee last week as they scored two defensive TDs -- safety Dwight Lowery on a 36-yard fumble-return and CB Brandon Flowers on a 33-yard interception return. TE Antonio Gates is after TD catch in third consecutive game and Ranks second in NFL history among TEs with 108 TD catches.
PREDICTION: Winners of three out of last four -- including a split with Denver -- the Chargers are a nightmare for any NFL team but are in last place in the AFC West, best division in the league. They scored 30-plus points in six games and 43 last week. Four of their five losses were by less than a TD -- 6, 4, 1, 3 and 8 points.
OUR PICK: Chargers, 42-24.