THE CRYSTAL BALL

The good news heading into Monday night's game against Philadelphia is the Dolphins' home record in prime-time December games, which is 26-7. The bad news is the Dolphins' recent overall problems in December and the Eagles coming in with an eight-game winning streak. So what's going to give? Here's how we think the game will unfold.

The Dolphins can't possibly be worse offensively than they were at New England. For one thing, the weather is going to a lot nicer. For another, the Philadelphia defense has given up some yardage despite its lofty record.

The Eagles have regularly allowed opposing rushers to reach 100 yards, so it would figure that Ricky Williams would be able to reach that number.

But the Eagles have stiffened in scoring territory. That means the Dolphins aren't just going to move up and down the field, but they will have some success running the ball.

At some point, they will have to make some plays in the passing game, and the key here will be how well they handle the Eagles' heavy blitzing.

Make no mistake, Philly will blitz more often than New England did last week. The Eagles, actually, blitz more than just about any team in the league.

That puts the onus on the offensive line, tight ends and backs to pick up those guys so Jay Fiedler (who is operating at less than 100 percent) isn't running for cover.

On defense, the Dolphins need to keep the Eagles from dinking and dunking their way down the field.

The Eagles are not a big-play offense; what they have is a good stable of running backs who will make plays in the running game and the passing game.

The Eagles smoked the Dallas defense in the second half last week, but the Dolphins defense can be very tough at home.

Donovan McNabb doesn't scramble as much as he once did, but he can be dangerous throwing on the move.

Where Philly has a big edge in this game is on special teams.

The Eagles have a dangerous punt returner in Brian Westbrook, who won a game against the Giants with a long return for a late touchdown.

The Eagles kicker, David Akers, is among the most accurate kickers in the league, while Olindo Mare has not had a great season.

In the end, it very well come down to those guys.

The Dolphins need this game very badly, but so do the Eagles, who are fighting St. Louis for home-field advantage in the NFC.

We honestly are having a hard time figuring out the Dolphins these days, but prime-time game at home spells a close win the way we see it.

The call: Dolphins 18, Eagles 16.


Dolphins Report Top Stories