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Seahawks at Dolphins: Things-I-Think-I-Think-Style

Is Seattle's 1-4 road record about playing poorly, quality opponents, or stage of development?

Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

A few things I think I think about Seattle's road performances and their matchup with Miami:

1. Seattle has been VERY competitive on the road. Seattle is 1-4 on the road this season, but the record is a bit misleading. The Hawks are averaging 15 points scored and allowing 18.4 away from home. At home Seattle scores 24.6 and allows 13.8. Clearly, the Seahawks have work to do on the road but they're not being outclassed at all. The road losses have each been by one score, where Seattle could tie or win on its last offensive possession. Seattle has every reason to be confident heading to Miami, but little reason to look past the Dolphins.

2. Seattle's offense vs Miami's defense is a lot like the Jets matchup. It features two high-quality units with strengths that mirror each other's. Just looking at the drive stats, Miami's defense is a slightly better version of New York's. The Jets excel at forcing fumbles while the Dolphins are better at stalling drives out. DVOA sees things similarly--as a matchup of top 10 units--with Seattle's offense ranked 9th and Miami's defense 10th. Inside those overall rankings, Seattle's passing game is rocketing upwards from its dismal early season showing to 8th overall. The run game has been elite all year (4th). It'll be interesting to see how well it holds up against Miami's stout run defense (5th in DVOA). However, the passing game should have its opportunities to put points on the board as Miami is ranked only 15th in pass defense. They have some injuries in the secondary.

How Bevell sets up this Miami defense is an interesting game within the game, just like against the Jets. I was fascinated by how Bevell would counter Rex Ryan's aggressive schemes, and he did so with aggressive play calls. (I was pleased to see he didn't fall into the trap of going ultra-conservative, even after the Wilson fumble for a TD.) I am curious how aggressive he will remain on the road.

3. Seattle's defense is better than Miami's offense There is little reason to suspect that Miami can move the ball consistently against Seattle's defense, again, a repeat of the Jets game. On a per drive basis, the Dolphins and Jets have virtually identical offenses. DVOA tells the same story. Miami doesn't run it or pass it efficiently. Ryan Tannehill's accuracy and blocked pass problems followed him from Texas A&M to the NFL, though he does some things well. Also, if you follow Omar Kelly (Dolphins beat writer for the Sun-Sentinel) on Twitter you are aware that Jake Long is no longer playing at an elite level. The opportunity is there for this defense to make some hay. If I have one fear about Miami's offense it is the possibility of Reggie Bush just having a game. I am less concerned about his ability to run the ball consistently than his ability to catch the ball underneath and extend drives.

4. Seattle must at least battle to a draw on "hidden" yards and explosive plays. Hidden yards come on (1) returns that set up favorable field position, (2) penalties that do the opposite, and of course (3) turnovers/returns that create extra possessions/favorable field position. Explosive plays (+20 yards) also create favorable field position and "cheap" scoring opportunities, similar to extra base hits in baseball.

Typically, the home team has some natural advantages in hidden yards and explosive plays. I think it's safe to say that Miami likely has to win hidden yardage convincingly to win the game. Seattle's offense is much better equipped to consistently drive a long field and/or create explosive plays than Miami's, but that's not a recipe for road success.