The Dolphins have won nine consecutive regular season opener, which is the longest current streak in the league and is tied for the second-longest in NFL history.<P>But they will be hard-pressed to extend it Sunday night when they travel to Tennessee to face a Titans team many analysts are projecting to represent the AFC in Super Bowl XXXVI.

Tennessee is coming off consecutive 13-3 seasons, and has lost only once at home in the last two regular seasons.

What follows is a quick look at Sunday night's game against Tennessee:

WHO: Miami Dolphins (1-4 in the preseason) vs. Tennessee Titans (3-1)

WHERE: Adelphia Coliseum, Nashville, Tenn.

KICKOFF TIME: 8:30 p.m. ET

TELEVISION: ESPN (Mike Patrick, play-by-play; Joe Theismann, Paul Maguire, analysts; Suzy Kolber, sidelines

LINE: Tennessee by 6½

COACHES: Tennessee, Jeff Fisher (8th full season); Miami, Dave Wannstedt (2nd year in Miami, 8th year in NFL)

SERIES RECORD: The Dolphins lead 14-12 (Tennesse is 1-0 in playoff meetings)

LAST MEETING: 1999 at Miami, Dolphins 17, Titans 0

INJURIES: Dolphins — WR Dedric Ward (foot) is out; S Shawn Wooden (hamstring) is doubtful; TE Shawn Draper (back), DT Ernest Grant (knee), LB Morlon Greenwood (foot), LB Tommy Hendricks (hip), TE Jed Weaver (ankle) are questionable; DT Tim Bowens (knee), G Mark Dixon (back), FB Deon Dyer (hand), DT Daryl Gardener (back), DT Jermaine Haley (hamstring), RB J.J. Johnson (knee), QB Ray Lucas (groin), S Brock Marion (knee), G Todd Perry (ankle), RB Lamar Smith (ankle), CB Patrick Surtain (knee), LB Zach Thomas (knee), S Brian Walker (hamstring) are probable.

Titans — CB Andre Dyson (toe) is out.


Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor vs. Titans tackle Brad Hopkins: This matchup of Pro Bowl players could go a long way toward determining whether the Dolphins can get some pressure on Steve McNair.

The Dolphins running backs vs. Titans linebacker Greg Favors: It's not just Kevin Carter and Jevon Kearse the Dolphins have to worry about when it comes to protecting Jay Fiedler. Favors will come in on the blitz often, and it will be up to the back in the game to pick him up.

The Dolphins coverage teams vs. Titans kick returner Derrick Mason: Mason set an NFL record for all-purpose yardage last season as he earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl as a kick returner. He will present quite a first test for new Dolphins special teams coach Keith Armstrong's troops.

WHEN THE DOLPHINS HAVE THE BALL: Moving the ball against the Titans defense won't be easy. Remember that it was Tennessee, and not Baltimore, which led the NFL in fewest yards allowed in 2000. The Titans employ the Bears' "46" defense, which paved the way to a Super Bowl title in the mid-1980s. That means in-your-face football. Tennessee will crowd the line of scrimmage, throw a lot of blitz and put a lot of pressure on the Dolphins. The drawback to that style of defense is that it leaves Tennessee vulnerable to the big play. And that's where the Dolphins have to strike. A key to the Titans' success on defense last year was that they had two great cover corners in Samari Rolle and Denard Walker. Rolle is still around, but Walker left as a free agent and is now in Denver. The Titans drafted Andre Dyson in the hopes he would take over for Walker, but he's out with a toe injury. The starter on Sunday will be DeRon Jenkins, who flopped last year in San Diego after joining the Chargers as a free agent. He's the guy the Dolphins have to attack. Running the ball will not be easy, even though Lamar Smith looked just great in the preseason.

WHEN THE TITANS HAVE THE BALL: The good news for the Dolphins is that Eddie George traditionally has gotten off to slow starts during his NFL career. But he's still Eddie George. Stopping him has to be priority No. 1 for the Dolphins. And No. 2. And probably No. 3 as well. The Dolphins also have to be careful not to let Steve McNair break free for a long run when they chase him out of the pocket. McNair isn't likely to hurt the Dolphins badly with his passing, because the Dolphins' defensive backs are much better than the Titans' receivers. The Dolphins defense is healthier than it has been since the start of camp, so there's every reason to be optimistic they can keep Tennessee to a low point total.

BOTTOM LINE: The Dolphins' streak of nine straight season-opening wins includes four victories on the road. One of those came at Mile High Stadium in 1999, against the defending Super Bowl champion Broncos. So history suggests it would be foolish to discount the Dolphins in this game. Miami still isn't getting a whole lot of respect, primarily because many are still skeptical about their offense. But the Dolphins showed enough offensively during the preseason to suggest this is a new day for the offense.

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