Race for top draft pick heats up when Dolphins face Redskins
MIAMI (AP) — The week’s worst matchup in the NFL is so bad it could be good.
The Miami Dolphins and Washington Redskins have yet to beat the point spread, much less another team. That makes Sunday’s showdown of interest — at least to the sort of folks who rubberneck at traffic accidents, and to Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who might be drafted No. 1 in April by the team that loses.
Washington (0-5) is favored for the first time in 2019 after firing coach Jay Gruden this week. Miami (0-4), coming off a bye, has a chance for a change after being outscored by 137 points so far.
Neither team should be overestimated.
“If you don’t show up to play, then you can get beat on any given Sunday by any given team,” Miami running back Kenyan Drake said.
Here are things to know about teams ranked No. 31 (Washington) and No. 32 (Miami) by the AP Pro32:
WHO’S NO. 1?
The stakes might be the biggest for a Dolphins-Redskins game since they met in the 1983 Super Bowl, because the loser will take the lead in the race for the top draft pick.
It’s not a must-lose situation, however. The Dolphins have two games remaining against the winless Jets and one against the winless Bengals, and the Redskins play host to the Jets in Week 11.
“As much as everybody wants us to go out and secure the No. 1 pick, I don’t give a damn,” Miami center Daniel Kilgore said. “We’re out to win.”
NEW SHERIFF IN TOWN
Gruden’s replacement is Bill Callahan, who became the eighth coach hired since Dan Snyder bought the Redskins. None of the previous seven managed a winning record.
Callahan was head coach of the Oakland Raiders in 2002-03, when he worked for Bruce Allen, now the Redskins’ president.
“We have 11 regular-season games left, and we still can accomplish many of our goals,” Allen said.
Practices were more physical and had a quicker pace this week.
“It’s really the focus of fundamental football,” Callahan said.
Callahan’s biggest on-field change for the Redskins might be a heavier emphasis on running the ball. They’re next to last in the NFL in rushing attempts per game, ahead of only the Dolphins.
Adrian Peterson, who has totaled just 108 yards rushing on 40 carries this season, should be happy about Callahan’s commitment to establishing a ground game at all costs.
“It’s about rush attempts, and it’s about pass completions,” Callahan said. “If we can combine those two and create big plays off of it, I think we’ll be successful.”
Case Keenum, expected to start at quarterback for Washington, isn’t opposed to the philosophy.
“If we get completions, we convert on third downs, we’re on the field more, we get to run the ball more,” Keenum said. “It’s sustaining drives. Whatever we need to do to move the ball forward, if we’re on the field more, then there’s more for everybody.”
Quarterback Josh Rosen will start his third game in a row for Miami and try to jump-start an offense that has produced only two touchdowns and four field goals. He said a victory would give the young, rebuilding Dolphins new life.
“Everything is just easier with a win,” Rosen said. “It just brings some of the joy back into the game.”
The game might be decided by simultaneous second-half collapses. After halftime Miami has been outscored 81-0, and Washington has been outscored 73-23.
Callahan had the Redskins run sprints at the end of practice this week to improve conditioning. The Dolphins noted they’ve been in contention at the break in their past three games.
“It’s cool that we have good film of good halves and we know how it should be and how it needs to go,” Miami guard Mike Deiter said. “But that’s all it is — a half. It’s got to be four quarters, or else you’re not going to win games.”
AP Sports Writer Stephen Whyno contributed to this report.
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