MIAMI DOLPHINS (0-0) AT LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (0-1)
SERIES HISTORY: 29th regular-season meeting. Dolphins lead series, 15-13. These teams have played the previous four seasons, with Miami holding a 3-1 lead. The most famous game in this series is the 1982 playoff game, won by San Diego, 41-38, in overtime. Miami won last year on a fourth-quarter interception return for a touchdown by linebacker Kiko Alonso.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Offensively, everything starts for Miami by getting RB Jay Ajayi going, and defensively it all starts with stopping the run. If Miami can run the ball and stop the run, life will be easy. If Miami can't run the ball or stop the run, life will be like it was during last year's 1-4 start.
Ideally, Ajayi runs well enough to make the Chargers play an eight-man front. Once that happens, look for QB Jay Cutler to favor WR DeVante Parker on downfield throws in 1-on-1 situations, some up high and others on Parker's back shoulder.
Miami's pass rush, led by Pro Bowl DE Cam Wake and Pro Bowl DT Ndamukong Suh, must disrupt Rivers on a regular basis or the secondary will get riddled with passes of all lengths.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Dolphins LT Laremy Tunsil vs. Chargers DE Melvin Ingram. Tunsil, a starter at left guard last season, is a first-round pick who has loads of potential but did not have a great preseason. Ingram is a veteran who can rush the passer with either speed or power. He had 1.5 sacks last week against Denver. Tunsil will need good technique or he'll get QB Jay Cutler in trouble.
--Chargers RB Melvin Gordon vs. Dolphins run defense. Gordon was limited to 70 yards on 24 carries last year against Miami. The Dolphins made big additions -- SLB Lawrence Timmons, DE William Hayes, DTs Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor -- to stop the run. They were effective last year against Gordon, who entered the game No. 3 in the league in rushing, but there are still concerns about this unit.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Chargers TE Hunter Henry. Henry is the obvious understudy to Antonio Gates, but he brings plenty to the table. After a rookie year in which he caught eight touchdown passes, he was hyped to be a big part of the Chargers' attack. Not only didn't he have a catch in the loss at Denver, but he wasn't even targeted. Look for the offensive scheme to swing his way as the team tries to get him involved.
FAST FACTS: Dolphins QB Jay Cutler will make his team debut after spending the past eight seasons with the Chicago Bears. Cutler planned to become an analyst on Fox TV broadcasts this season, but he changed his mind and rejoined former Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase (now the Dolphins' coach) after an injury sidelined QB Ryan Tannehill. ... Chargers TE Antonio Gates needs one touchdown reception to make history. Gates has 111 career touchdown catches, which is tied with Tony Gonzalez for the most by a tight end in NFL history. ... Dolphins DE Cameron Wake leads all active players with 81 1/2 sacks since 2009. ... Chargers RB Melvin Gordon tallied 132 yards from scrimmage in his last game against the Dolphins.
PREDICTION: After nearly storming back for a victory against the Denver Broncos in Week 1, the Chargers will earn their first win in their new home. Look for Gordon to provide a steadying influence.
OUR PICK: Chargers, 24-22.