Game Preview: Dolphins-Vikings

The Dolphins will try to make it three in a row on Sunday when they take on the slumping Minnesota Vikings at Dolphin Stadium. Here is a complete look at the matchup.

MIAMI DOLPHINS (3-6) VS. MINNESOTA VIKINGS (4-5)

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

SURFACE: Grass

TV: FOX, Sam Rosen, Tim Ryan

SERIES: 10th meeting. The Dolphins lead the series 5-4, including a 24-7 victory over the Vikings in Super Bowl VIII on Jan. 13, 1974 at Rice Stadium in Houston. The Vikings, however, have won the past three meetings. Sunday's game will mark only the fourth time these teams have played in Miami.

2006 RANKINGS: Vikings: offense 18th (17th rush, 18th pass); defense 6th (1st rush, 26th pass). Dolphins: offense 15th (22nd rush, 12th pass); defense 2nd (12th rush, 4th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Dolphins have finally put the focus on RB Ronnie Brown, and his 54 carries the past two weeks are a big reason Miami has won consecutive games. But Brown is nursing a groin injury that kept him out of practice mid-week and LG Jeno James (knee) is out, so making headway against the league's top-ranked run defense could be difficult. The Vikings would love nothing more than to put the onus on inconsistent QB Joey Harrington. Minnesota has its own quarterback issues with QB Brad Johnson throwing five interceptions against one interception during the team's three-game losing streak. Miami will stack the box against RB Chester Taylor and dare Johnson to beat them through the air. Part of Johnson's struggles is a lack of a go-to receiver to beat the Dolphins' shaky secondary.

FAST FACTS: Vikings: Johnson's 26 victories as a Vikings rank fifth on the franchise's all-time list. ... First game in Miami since 1988. Dolphins: Harrington is 0-6 against Minnesota. ... WR Chris Chambers needs 56 receiving yards to pass O.J. McDuffie (5,074) for fourth in franchise history.

PERSONNEL NEWS

Vikings:

-- CB Fred Smoot (groin) was added to the injury report Thursday and is listed as questionable. He missed at least a portion of practice. Smoot had practiced for the first time Wednesday after returning to the team following the death of his half-brother on Nov. 5. Smoot missed last Sunday's loss to the Packers. Asked if Smoot would start Sunday, Vikings defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin said, "That remains to be seen."

-- WR Marcus Robinson took part in a portion of practice for a second consecutive day Thursday and remains listed as questionable on the injury report. Robinson has missed three consecutive games because of a lower back injury.

-- MLB Napoleon Harris took part in a portion of practice Thursday and wore a slightly bigger soft-cast wrap to protect his dislocated left wrist. He remains listed as questionable.

-- RB Chester Taylor (calf) missed part of practice Thursday and was listed as questionable before being upgraded to probable on Friday. Taylor also was on the report last week.

-- CB Cedric Griffin (foot) missed part of practice Thursday and is listed as questionable. But he was upgraded to probable on Friday and there is little doubt he will play Sunday; defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin said if Griffin does not start for Fred Smoot that the rookie corner would be the main nickel back.

-- LB E.J. Henderson (hamstring) missed part of practice Thursday and was listed as questionable before being upgraded on Friday.

-- LG Steve Hutchinson (knee) missed part of practice Thursday and was listed as questionable, but he also was upgraded to probable on Friday.

-- DT Pat Williams (foot) missed part of practice Thursday and is listed as probable. Williams also was on the injury report last week.

-- C Matt Birk (neck) missed part of practice Thursday and is listed as probable.

-- RG Artis Hicks (hip) missed part of practice Thursday and is listed as probable.

-- FB Richard Owens (knee) missed part of practice Thursday and is listed as probable.

-- LB Dontarrious Thomas (hamstring) missed part of practice Thursday and is listed as probable.

Dolphins:

-- DT Dan Wilkinson will share snaps with Jeff Zgonina in place of injured starter Keith Traylor (knee). The two will hope to plug the holes as well as Traylor does in an effort to contain nicked-up Vikings RB Chester Taylor.

-- LG Kendyl Jacox will take the place of Jeno James (knee) on an improving offensive line that has seemingly jelled since LT Damion McIntosh and RG L.J. Shelton swapped positions four games ago.

-- RB Ronnie Brown (groin) didn't participate in team practice Thursday for the second consecutive day, but he did some running on the side and ran some simulated drills. All signs point to him playing Sunday.

-- RB Sammy Morris may have to pick up the slack in case RB Ronnie Brown's carries are curtailed due to a groin injury. Morris had his best game of the season last week against the Chiefs, as he gained 37 multi-purpose yards.

-- LG Toniu Fonoti, a recent acquisition, may rotate with Kendyl Jacox or even replace him if Jacox is struggling against the Vikings' front four.

INSIDE THE CAMPS:

Vikings:

With veteran Tony Richardson likely finished for the season because of a broken arm, the Vikings appear set to go into Sunday's game at Miami with tight ends Jeff Dugan and Richard Owens serving as their fullbacks.

Both have received snaps at the position this week during practice, and while the Vikings might look outside the organization eventually, it doesn't appear that will happen this week.

Richardson suffered a fractured right forearm early in Minnesota's loss to Green Bay on Sunday. He already was playing with a fractured right thumb.

Signed as a free agent after spending his first 11 seasons with Kansas City, Richardson served as the lead blocker for running back Chester Taylor and also was an option out of the backfield as a receiver.

He will finish the season with 13 receptions for 111 yards and with five rushing attempts for 12 yards. Richardson's injury will take six weeks to heal, and with only seven games left in the season, the Vikings are expected to place him on injured reserve this week.

"Tony Richardson is a great leader on our team," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. "He's a great leader in the locker room. He does a great job for us in the huddle. He's a calming influence; he has great experiences.

"I don't think that you can replace the experience that he has, but again, anytime somebody goes down with an injury, it gives other guys opportunities to be able to shine. Somebody is going to get an opportunity to go in there and show us what they can do."

Dugan and Owens both saw some time at fullback either in the Vikings' minicamps or training camps. Owens has played in every game this season at tight end. Dugan, however, was inactive for the first eight games before being up on the 45-man game-day roster last Sunday just in case Richardson's thumb did not hold up.


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