With the incredible (insane) focus on rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and his first NFL start, it's almost easy to forget the significance of the Miami Dolphins game against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday as they look to extend their winning streak to three games.
The Dolphins will be back in action for the first time since they defeat the New York Jets 24-0 on Oct. 18 to even their record at 3-3. The Rams come to South Florida after handling the Chicago Bears, 24-10, at the new SoFi Stadium on Monday night.
Here are different ways this game could play out:
The Dolphins will win because ...
-- Well, of course, we have to start off with Tua and the Dolphins winning because he'll do exactly just what the team and its fans have been expecting all along. That means he'll show great accuracy and spread the ball around.
-- Running back Myles Gaskin will pick up where he left off against the New York when he had his best performance of the season.
-- Wide receiver DeVante Parker will have through a groin issue that had him on the injury report all week and again come through in the clutch, the same way he did when the Dolphins rallied to defeat the Rams in 2016.
-- Offensive coordinator Chan Gailey will come up with a great game plan to neutralize the damage defensive tackle Aaron Donald can inflict on the Dolphins offense.
-- Head coach Brian Flores and his staff will come up with another game plan to frustrate Rams quarterback Jared Goff the way he did in Super Bowl LIII when the New England Patriots recorded a 13-3 victory.
-- Cornerback Xavien Howard will make it five games in a row with an interception, and it will come at a crucial moment.
-- The Dolphins will stuff the Rams running game, which will enable them to let loose with their blitzes.
-- Kicker Jason Sanders will continue his perfect start and nails a last-second field goal for a big Dolphins win.
The Dolphins will lose because ...
-- The Rams will find a way to confuse and disrupt Tagovailoa for a less-than-stellar starting debut.
-- Tagovailoa won't get any help from the running game, allowing the Rams to tee off on him.
-- The Dolphins will let Donald make two or three game-changing plays.
-- Cornerback Jalen Ramsey will beat DeVante Parker to a ball to come up with a key interception.
-- The Rams' constant pre-snap motion will confuse the Dolphins defense and create big holes in the defense.
-- Rams wide receivers Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods will take turns lining up as the slot receiver and make it a difficult afternoon for second-year Dolphins cornerback Nik Needham.
-- Rams head coach Sean McVay will come up with a game plan to counteract what the Dolphins and a small measure of revenge for his Super Bowl loss.
What actually will happen ...
We're 5-1 in picking Dolphins games this season, but this one is really tough to call because of the uncertainty surrounding Tagovailoa.
Despite what he accomplished at the University of Alabama, the reality is we just don't know what kind of NFL quarterback he'll become and we know even less how his first start will go.
This game will mark — incredibly — the fourth time the Rams have traveled to the East Coast for a 1 p.m. Eastern time kickoff this season. They're 2-1 in the previous three games, defeating the Eagles and Washington and losing against Buffalo. There's the added element this week of the Rams playing on a short week following their Monday night home victory against Chicago.
Another thing that makes this game difficult to gauge is each team's schedule so far, which leaves question as to just how good the Rams and Dolphins are.
The Rams are 5-2, but four of their wins have come against the four teams from the dreadful NFC East team. The Dolphins are 3-3, but two of the wins came against teams that seem headed for a top pick, the Jaguars and Jets.
The Rams clearly look better than they did last year when they took a dip after going to the Super Bowl in the 2018 season, but they're not quite as explosive as that team either.
One key stat to remember about the Rams is they've outscored their opponents 93-33 in the second half.
The Dolphins clearly looked like a team on the rise before their bye, so now the question is whether that momentum disappeared because of the week off or, just as importantly, because of the quarterback change.
The forecast for Sunday in Miami Gardens calls for about a 50 percent chance of rain during the game, which isn't likely to help either offense.
So expect a close game, expect the Dolphins to do everything to make life easier for Tagovailoa (quick passes, extra blockers, screens), and hope this is the game they come up with a key play in the fourth quarter to pull out a victory against a quality opponent.
Dolphins 20, Rams 17