Predicting the outcome

The Dolphins start the second half of the season this Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals hoping to salvage something, anything, out of a season where everything seems to go wrong. Arizona has never beaten the Dolphins in eight meetings, so maybe this is just what the Dolphins need. But will it be that easy? Here's how we think the game will unfold.

Let us begin by answering our own question: No, it will not be that easy.

First and foremost, it won't be easy because the Dolphins right now are such a mess that no game will be an easy game.

Second, even though the record doesn't show it, this is a better Arizona team than in recent years.

The Cardinals are still a work in progress in former Vikings coach Dennis Green's first year at the helm, but they have made tremendous improvement on defense.

Just ask the Seattle Seahawks, who were shut down in the Cardinals' upset victory a few weeks ago. Or the Atlanta Falcons, who barely survived at home while beating Arizona 6-3.

Last week's 38-14 loss at Buffalo might lead one to believe the defense got torched, but the truth is Buffalo racked up a whopping 209 total yards in that game and it was the special teams (87-yard kickoff return and punt returns of 35 and 40 yards) that led down the Cardinals.

Since we all know the Dolphins don't break long kick returns, that won't happen to the Cardinals this week.

The truth is the Arizona pass rush has been very good this season and it has helped the Cardinals record 18 takeaways, which is tied for league best.

That doesn't exactly bode well for a Dolphins offense that turns the ball over and can't protect the quarterback.

Arizona isn't very good against the run on defense, but the Dolphins haven't exactly been ripping up opposing defenses on the ground.

On the other side of the ball, Arizona is brutal when it comes to passing, although things are bound to get better now that 2003 rookie sensation Anquan Boldin (the guy who should have been a Dolphin) is back from a knee injury.

But the Cardinals have had some success running with Emmitt Smith, and it's one area where the Dolphins have had problems on defense.

The game plan here for Arizona is simple: Run the ball a lot on offense and blitz the Dolphins.

Arizona isn't nearly good enough on offense to score a lot of points on the Dolphins defense, but its defense is good enough to shut down Miami.

It all adds up to yet another low-scoring game, and the feeling here is that Arizona might be more up for this game because having a bad record isn't as big an issue with them given their constant rebuilding status.

The Dolphins also might have a hard time getting up for a game against Arizona after getting pounded on Monday night with practically no playoff hope left.

Arizona also has the intangible of wanting to finally get that first victory over the Dolphins.

Before the season started, it would have seemed inconceivable that Arizona could come to Miami and steal a victory, but that's how this crazy season has turned out.

The call: Arizona 17, Miami 13.

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