MIAMI (9-9) at LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (10-8)
Sunday, 4:25 p.m. EDT, CBS
OPENING LINE: Chargers by 3, according to FanDuel SportsBook.
SERIES RECORD: Dolphins lead 19-17.
LAST MEETING: Chargers beat Dolphins 23-17 on Dec. 11, 2022, in Inglewood, Calif.
DOLPHINS OFFENSE: OVERALL (6), RUSH (T-25), PASS (4), SCORING (11).
DOLPHINS DEFENSE: OVERALL (18), RUSH (4), PASS (27), SCORING (24).
CHARGERS OFFENSE: OVERALL (20), RUSH (28), PASS (7), SCORING (13).
CHARGERS DEFENSE: OVERALL (20), RUSH (28), PASS (7), SCORING (T-21).
TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Dolphins minus-7; Chargers plus-5.
DOLPHINS PLAYER TO WATCH: QB Tua Tagovailoa is healthy. He’s entering his second year in Mike McDaniel’s system and fourth year overall after leading the NFL with a 105.5 passer rating in 2022. He set career highs in yards (3,548) and TD passes (25) in 13 games. He has three TDs and no interceptions in two starts against the Chargers.
CHARGERS PLAYER TO WATCH: LB Eric Kendricks made his name at UCLA before becoming the heart of the Minnesota Vikings’ defense for eight seasons. After being cut for salary cap reasons this offseason, the Chargers brought him back to the West Coast to stabilize their struggles stopping the run. Kendricks, who begins his push for an eighth straight season making at least 100 tackles, has already been voted a captain by his teammates.
KEY MATCHUP: Tagovailoa vs. the Chargers pass rush. Tagovailoa was only sacked twice in last season's game, but was under constant pressure as the Los Angeles secondary took away his easy throws and forced him to hold onto the ball. Making matters worse, the Chargers didn’t have star edge defender Joey Bosa, who was out because of groin surgery. If Tagovailoa cannot establish an early rhythm to keep Bosa and Khalil Mack out of his face, it will be a tall task for the oft-injured passer.
KEY INJURIES: LT Terron Armstead was banged up during training camp and did not practice Wednesday with back, ankle and knee injuries. Armstead battled various injuries throughout the 2022 season, and there were many times when he played in a game despite not practicing. … Jaylen Waddle missed the preseason after suffering an injury during a joint practice against the Atlanta Falcons. He was listed Wednesday with an oblique injury and was a limited practice participant. … CB Jalen Ramsey will open the season on IR after tearing the meniscus in his left knee at the start of training camp. … Chargers rookie LB Daiyan Henley is unlikely to make his NFL debut because of a hamstring injury.
SERIES NOTES: The Chargers are 1-1 in home games against the Dolphins since moving to Los Angeles. … Miami won seven straight in the series from 1995-2008. … The Chargers and Dolphins have split their four playoff meetings, with the most recent being a 22-21 win in San Diego by the home team as part of their unlikely run to a Super Bowl appearance in the 1994 season.
STATS AND STUFF: The Dolphins have won their past two season openers. … WR Tyreek Hill finished 2022 with 119 catches and 1,710 yards receiving, both single-season Dolphins records. He joined Randy Moss and the only receivers in NFL history with at least seven TDs in each of their first seven NFL seasons. … The Dolphins made the playoffs last season in their first year under McDaniel and for the first time since 2016. … CB Xavien Howard was selected to his fourth Pro Bowl last season. Howard leads the NFL with 28 interceptions since 2017. … Miami was second in 2022 in yards per play (6.14). … The Dolphins will have a new defensive coordinator in Vic Fangio, who is entering his 37th season as an NFL coach. … Chargers QB Justin Herbert will make his 50th start on Sunday. He already holds the league record for most completions through 50 games with 1,316. ... Los Angeles was stingy on third-and-short, allowing a NFL-low 48.6% conversion rate (18 of 37) with less than 2 yards to go. ... RB Austin Ekeler led the league with 18 touchdowns (13 rushing, five receiving) in 2022. He has 38 touchdowns from scrimmage over the past two seasons. ... WR Keenan Allen can join Antonio Brown (126) and Julio Jones (127) as the third player in NFL history to reach 800 grabs in fewer than 130 games. Allen has 796 catches in 126 games. ... All eight of Bosa’s forced fumbles over the past two seasons have come on strip-sacks. He has 13 total sacks in that span. … CB Michael Davis had a career-high 15 pass breakups last season, two of which came against Miami. He is one of seven active NFL players to have at least 10 breakups in three straight seasons.
FANTASY TIP: Herbert threw for 367 yards and one touchdown without an interception against Miami last season despite only hitting on two pass plays of 20-plus yards. With new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore calling plays, Herbert will be given more chances to strike down the field, making him and a talented group of receivers all the more attractive in all fantasy formats.
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The Associated Press