Predicting the outcome

It's a new-look Dolphins team that will take on the Seattle Seahawks Sunday afternoon, with Jim Bates taking over as the head coach and A.J. Feeley returning to the starting lineup at quarterback. But will all the changes make a difference for the Dolphins. Here's how we think the game will unfold.

In Seattle, the Dolphins face a team that came into the season with huge expectations but has severely underachieved so far.

The Seahawks are tied for first in the NFC West, but their record is only 5-4 and they have lost twice to division rival St. Louis.

Perhaps Seattle's biggest problem has been the inconsistency of quarterback Matt Hasselbeck (the guy the Dolphins went after in the spring of 2001) and a defense that has racked up the interceptions but also given up too many big plays.

Hasselbeck, incidentally, didn't practice all week and he is listed as questionable for the game with a thigh injury. If he can't play, then Trent Dilfer would start in his place.

What Seattle has done consistently well, especially in recent weeks, is run the ball, and that does not bode well for the Dolphins.

The Miami run defense has been a problem all year because the team only had Larry Chester for a game and two plays and Tim Bowens was only available for a couple of games himself.

Seattle figures to give the Dolphins a heavy dose of Shaun Alexander in this game, and don't be surprised if he extends to four his streak of games with at least 150 yards on the ground.

On the other side of the ball, the Seahawks have major injury problems at linebacker, where starter Anthony Simmons is out of the year and fellow starter Chad Brown is questionable because of a knee injury.

The Dolphins have run the ball fairly well in recent weeks and figure to continue to try to establish a running game with Sammy Morris and Travis Minor.

It's the passing game where the Dolphins have struggled all year, and Feeley has had his share of problems.

What Feeley must do in this game is not force passes when there's nothing there. He also needs to do a better job of avoiding the arms of oncoming pass rushers after having a few passes batted down in the Arizona game.

One of those tipped passes resulted in an interception that was returned for a touchdown by Cardinals cornerback Duane Starks.

The biggest issue on offense is the pass protection, which has been spotty at best all season.

Rookie Rex Hadnot steps into the starting lineup for the injured Jeno James at left guard, which only adds more youth and inexperience to the line.

The line will be under pressure in this game, and you can bet Seattle will do its share of blitzing.

Change often can do a team some good, and the Dolphins have talked about the tempo of practices really picking up since Bates took over.

But the reality is it probably won't make a difference against Seattle. The biggest reason the Dolphins are 1-8 is they just don't have the personnel to match up against a lot of teams, and that's the case in this game.

The normal Dolphins team would have the ability to pull off a victory against an overrated Seattle team, but this obviously isn't a typical Dolphins team.

The effort will be there, and the Dolphins probably will hang close for a while, but in the end it will be another setback.

The call: Seahawks 23, Dolphins 16.

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