Breaking down the game

The Dolphins are a bruised and battered team as they head to Oakland for their game against the Raiders. The team is beat up physically and the psyche can't be that good either after last weekend's dreadful performance at Cleveland. It's too late for the Dolphins to get themselves back in the playoff race, but that doesn't mean the rest of the season doesn't have significance.

As he tried to explain earlier this week, Coach Nick Saban is trying to build a foundation here with the Dolphins and it's clear it's not there yet.

The Dolphins have dropped six of their last seven games and actually seem to have regressed as the weeks have gone by.

The truth is this is a better team that what we've seen lately, but it's time for that to be proven out on the field.

More than anything, the Dolphins need to be able to do something in the passing game. That area has been mediocre all season and reached a new low last week when Sage Rosenfels started at quarterback.

Gus Frerotte will be back in the starting lineup against Oakland and he needs to start showing why the Dolphins bothered signing him as a free agent in the first place.

The Dolphins are going against the 19th-ranked pass defense in the league, so there's no reason Frerotte can't have some success.

But he'll need help from the receivers, who really haven't lived up to their reputation this season -- and that includes everyone from Chris Chambers to Marty Booker to Randy McMichael.

We would anticipate Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams again having success on the ground, but the Dolphins need to stop abandoning the running game so quickly.

The only thing is offensive coordinator Scott Linehan is a proponent of the passing game, it's just that the Dolphins' personnel isn't suited to that style.

Defensively, it's obvious this is going to be a tough matchup for the Dolphins, particularly without Junior Seau and Zach Thomas.

The secondary will have to deal with Randy Moss, who should play despite minor injuries, and Jerry Porter, who's coming off a huge game at Washington.

Kerry Collins is prone to making mistakes at quarterback, but the Dolphins will have to put pressure on him, otherwise it's going to be a long afternoon.

Despite the standings, this is a big game for the Dolphins because right now there's little reason for hope -- for this year or even next. And some positive signs would be a nice change at this time.

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