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Bucs Look To Fend Off In-State Rival Dolphins

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By Max Luckan

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - OCTOBER 31:  Philip Wheeler #52 of the Miami Dolphins enters the field prior turnover the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Sun Life Stadium on October 31, 2013 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

Philip Wheeler #52 of the Miami Dolphins enters the field prior turnover the game against the Cincinnati Bengals (Credit, Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers came very close to a major upset win over the NFC’s best Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. But they couldn’t stave off Russell Wilson and the Seahawks offense.

So, the Bucs sit with an 0-8 record on the year, and have now lost 13 of their last 14 games under head coach Greg Schiano. While the Bucs did finally show some improvement, it still wasn’t enough to get a win and Schiano remains on the hot seat.

Meanwhile, the Miami Dolphins have a bit of drama brewing themselves regarding bullying in the locker room. The Dolphins are in the thick of the playoff race, so they cannot be happy with the distractions.

Dolphins Season Record

The Dolphins currently hold a 4-4 record and are third in the AFC East behind the New England Patriots (7-2) and New York Jets (5-4).

So far Miami has won key games against the Indianapolis Colts, Atlanta Falcons, Chicago Bears, and Cleveland Browns. However, the Dolphins were blown out by the New Orleans Saints, and they lost close games to the Baltimore Ravens and Buffalo Bills. In Week 8, the Dolphins were also defeated by the Patriots.

Despite the 4-4 record, however, the Dolphins are right in the middle of the playoff race in the AFC and an easy win against the Bucs could be really helpful for them.

Dolphins on Offense

Some people say Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill has regressed this season, which may be accurate seeing as how he’s thrown nine interceptions to 11 touchdowns this season. But somehow, the Dolphins still have four wins to date.

Offensively, the Dolphins are ranked 28th in the NFL, averaging a mere 315.2 yards per game, 21.8 points per game, and only 97.6 rushing yards per game. The team has not gotten much production out of running backs Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas, and the offensive line has underperformed.

The Dolphins will continue to run the football, but the offense should start taking more shots downfield in the passing game with wide receiver Mike Wallace.

Dolphins on Defense

On the defensive side of the ball, the team has not been much better. Currently, Miami is ranked 23rd in the NFL in total defense, allowing an average 368.8 yards per game. Opposing teams have pretty much been able to throw the ball at will against the Dolphins, but there have been some key injuries on this side of the ball, mainly cornerback Brent Grimes.

The linebacker corps is strong for the Dolphins, so stopping the run hasn’t been too much of an issue. Theoretically, the Dolphins have a strong group of core players on the defensive side, but the execution and turnovers have not been there through the first half of the season.

Dolphins Players to Watch

Dannell Ellerbe: Signed in free agency this past offseason, Ellerbe already has an interception and two fumble recoveries for this defense.

Mike Wallace: Wallace will likely be matched up with Bucs cornerback Darrelle Revis, which should make for an extremely intriguing battle.

Cameron Wake: The defensive end has been Miami’s best player on defense this season. The Bucs offensive line will have its hands full against Wake.

Final Word

The Dolphins lead this in-state rivalry 5-4 all-time. The Bucs came very close to their first win last week, and have a good shot to win again this weekend. These two teams also met in the preseason, so Greg Schiano and Joe Philbin know each other well.

For more Bucs news and updates, visit Bucs Central.

Max Luckan lives in Tampa, FL and is a sports writer covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and NFL. Luckan has been covering the Buccaneers for a few years now. Max is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.

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