Game Preview: Miami at Oakland

The Dolphins will try to rebound Sunday at Oakland and more importantly try to keep themselves alive in the AFC playoff race, but they'll have to do so without wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who was downgraded on Saturday from doubtful to out. There also has been no determination as to whether Chad Henne will return at quarterback or Tyler Thipgen will make his second consecutive start.

Regardless, here's a breakdown of the matchup.

WHO: Miami Dolphins (5-5) at Oakland Raiders (5-5)

KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET

SITE: Oakland Coliseum

SURFACE: Natural Grass

TV: CBS, Gus Johnson, Steve Tasker


KEYS TO THE GAME: Embattled Dolphins offensive coordinator Dan Henning said he wants to be more balanced in his play-calling, but Miami has to stay out of so many long down-and-distance situations. Do expect fewer options for QBs Chad Henne (knee) or Tyler Thigpen at the line and more dedicated run plays after Dolphins running backs combined for 12 yards on seven carries last week. Oakland allows 128.5 yards per game on the ground, but churns out 152.1 rushing yards of its own. The Raiders have talked all week about being more aggressive in all three phases. They don't want the Dolphins' pass rush becoming a big factor against Jason Campbell, who struggled badly when Oakland fell behind last week, or Bruce Gradkowski — whoever lines up at quarterback for the Raiders.

FAST FACTS: The Dolphins have a four-game winning streak in Oakland. ... The Raiders seek their first four-game home winning streak since 2002-03.



Dolphins free safety Chris Clemons has been experiencing pain from a groin injury he suffered against the Titans on Nov. 14. But that's nothing compared to the pain he felt watching his teammates lose last week's game to the Chicago Bears without him.

Clemons, a first-year starter, watched last Thursday's 16-0 loss from the sideline because he wasn't medically cleared to play. Rookie free safety Reshad Jones replaced Clemons and contributed five tackles (one for a loss).

"It really hurt me. Seeing everyone get fired up for the game made me want to cry. That's for real," said Clemons, who is third on the team with 41 tackles and has also recorded half a sack and forced two fumbles this season. "I realized I had to stay positive and support my teammates."

Clemons said his absence taught him about the importance of following through with treatment when healthy or not, and doing what's necessary to take care of his body, which is experiencing the wear and tear of the workload an NFL starter gets.

Dolphins coach Tony Sparano has repeatedly pointed out how Clemons, who was taking first-team and third-team reps in training camp, had taken more snaps in practice than any other player on the team.

The coaches gave him last week off to rest his body, and now Clemons believes he's ready to finish out strong.

Clemons said watching the Bears have success on third downs, converting 10-of-18, was especially difficult because he's confident he would have made a difference on some of Chicago's conversions.

"We have to be better than that on third downs. We are better than that," said Clemons, who has returned to his starter role in practices this week. "We have to get off the field. It's just a couple of things that needed to tighten up. I'll be back, and we'll get it right."



-- CB Sean Smith missed Thursday's practice with an excused absence. Smith has made 15 tackles the past three weeks since returning to the starting lineup for Game 8 at Baltimore.

--WR Brandon Marshall, who didn't practice all week because of an injured right hamstring, will miss his first NFL game due to injury since the opening game of his rookie season in 2006.

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