Why Packers can't afford to take up-and-down Dolphins lightly

Ryan Wood
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Green Bay Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (21) lays a hit on receiver Mike Wallace (11) knocking the ball loose against the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium.

Ninth in a 13-part series on the opponents the Green Bay Packers will face during the 2018 regular season.

GREEN BAY - Sitting on the wrong side of an unprecedented quarterback draft class, the Miami Dolphins enter 2018 with uncertainty at the game’s most important position.

The Dolphins, picking No. 11 in the April draft, were widely expected to take one of the top four quarterbacks should one slip outside the top 10. Instead, Baker Mayfield (first to Cleveland), Sam Darnold (third to the New York Jets), Josh Allen (seventh to Buffalo) and Josh Rosen (10th to Arizona) were drafted in the first 10 picks, the first time since the 1970 merger that four quarterbacks were taken that high.

The Cardinals traded up from No. 15 to grab Rosen. In doing so, they prevented the Dolphins from drafting a potential franchise quarterback, insurance in case Ryan Tannehill is unable to return from a torn ACL that cost him all of 2017.

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Now, their hopes rest on Tannehill’s surgically repaired left knee. The former first-round pick suffered the injury in August, leading to the Dolphins’ failed experiment last season with an aging Jay Cutler. If healthy, Tannehill gives the Dolphins a chance to win. Under quarterback whisperer Adam Gase’s leadership in 2016, Tannehill had a resurgent season, leading the Dolphins to the playoffs with a 10-6 record.

The problem, of course, is Tannehill’s knee. It took a career year in 2016 for Tannehill to lead the Dolphins to the postseason, and a career year is far from certain for a quarterback returning from a torn ACL. Behind him, backups Brock Osweiler, David Tales and Bryce Petty don’t inspire confidence. So a lot is riding on what kind of quarterback Tannehill can be post-surgery.

Here are three more things to know when the Packers host the Dolphins:

Trap game

Even in the middle of July, it’s fair to say the Packers should beat the Dolphins. Barring injury, the Packers will be favored — and probably by a significant margin. Yet this is not a game the Packers can afford to overlook, especially if Tannehill is playing at his 2016 level. The Packers host Miami in the midst of their toughest stretch of the season. The two preceding games are trips to play  the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots, perhaps the best NFC and AFC teams. The following two games are trips to Seattle on a short week and at Minnesota in prime time. Wins could be scarce in November. This needs to be one.

Climate change

Home field has not been friendly for the Packers in this series. The Dolphins have a 4-2 record inside Lambeau Field, which might be surprising considering their warm-weather home environment. But only twice have the Packers hosted the Dolphins in November or later, and only once has it been as late as Nov. 11. The Packers are 1-1 against the Dolphins in those two games. Considering there’s more than a 30-degree difference in average high temperatures in November between Green Bay and Miami, the Packers certainly will hope for an early winter.

Philbin reunion

It’s not quite a homecoming, but for the first time Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin will face the team that fired him. Philbin left his job as Packers offensive coordinator when the Dolphins hired him as head coach in 2012. After finishing 7-9 in his first season, the Dolphins were 8-8 in each of his next two. They fired him with a 1-3 record four games into 2015. Philbin certainly hasn’t forgotten. Chances are a win would feel awfully sweet.

Packers schedule glimpse

Nov. 11 vs. Dolphins, noon, CBS

Week before: at Patrots, Nov. 4.

Week after: at Seahawks, Nov. 15.

On the horizon: at Vikings, Nov. 25.

Miami Dolphins

Coach: Adam Gase (16-16, third season with Dolphins).

2017 record: 6-10, third in AFC East.

Scoring offense: 17.6 points per game (28th in NFL).

Total offense: 307.7 yards per game (25th).

Scoring defense: 24.6 points allowed per game (29th).

Total defense: 335.7 yards allowed per game (16th).

Series: Packers trail 4-10.

Last meeting

On a sweltering October afternoon in south Florida, the Packers survived the heat to rally and win 27-24. The Dolphins took a touchdown lead with a 5-yard pass from Ryan Tannehill to Mike Wallace with 9:13 left, but the Packers scored the game’s final 10 points. Their game-winning touchdown came after one of the more forgotten, brilliant plays of Aaron Rodgers’ career, a fake-spike completion to then-rookie Davante Adams for 12 yards. With no timeouts, the game would have ended if Adams had been tackled inbounds. Instead, it set up the game-winning touchdown one play later, a 4-yard completion to tight end Andrew Quarless with 3 seconds left.

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