Game Preview: Houston at Miami

The playoff picture in the AFC will come into better focus after Sunday's game, and the Dolphins clearly could put themselves into the thick of the race for the last one or two playoff spots with a victory over the Houston Texans. It won't be easy, though, judging by the history of this series, one that has included nothing but heartache for Miami. Here's a look at Sunday's matchup.

WHO: Houston Texans (7-7) at Miami Dolphins (7-7)

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

SITE: Land Shark Stadium


TV: CBS (Ian Eagle, Rich Gannon)

PREDICTION: Texans 24-23

KEYS TO THE GAME: Which philosophy will prevail? The Texans have more or less abandoned any hope of running the ball this season, placing a large burden on QB Matt Schaub. As long as he receives solid protection, Schaub will go after rookie CB Vontae Davis — a popular target of Miami opponents. The Dolphins will feed the ball to RB Ricky Williams until Houston proves it can stop him or Miami falls behind multiple scores. QB Chad Henne has a strong arm, but he has also thrown eight interceptions over the past four games.

FAST FACTS: Schaub has completed at least 70 percent of his passes in six of seven road games. ... Williams has set an NFL record for the longest stretch between 1,000-yard seasons — six.


Houston Texans:

-- LT Duane Brown, who has been nursing a sprained knee that forced him out of the second half of Sunday's 16-13 victory at St. Louis, practiced for the first time this week on Thursday. He practiced on a limited basis, which gave him hope that he might be able to play against the Dolphins and outside linebacker Joey Porter. Brown should be a game-time decision.

-- OT Rashad Butler has worked with the first team in practice in case he has to start for the injured Duane Brown. This is Butler's third season with the Texans, and it would be his first starting assignment. He played the second half of the Rams game and did well in pass protection. He's got quick feet and knows how to shuffle them when a pass rusher is trying to knock him off balance, so he might do well against Porter if called on.

-- OT Ephraim Salaam will be the swing tackle, the backup on both sides, if Duane Brown is inactive. Salaam, who played for the Texans from 2006-08 before signing with Detroit, re-signed this week. The coaches say he's in good shape because he was on the street for only two weeks. Salaam knows the system well. If Brown can play, Salaam will be inactive.

-- CB Dunta Robinson enters the 15th game without an interception. He's the team's franchise player earning $9.957 million. He covers the opponent's best receiver each week. He's knocked down a lot of passes, but he's yet to pick one off. Rookie Glover Quin, the other starting corner, doesn't have an interception, either.

-- RT Eric Winston, who played left tackle at the University of Miami, will be blocking veteran OLB Jason Taylor when he drops down to end in passing situations. Taylor has recorded seven sacks in what is expected to be the last season of his career. Winston has been terrific at pass protection in his fourth season.

Miami Dolphins:

-- OLB Jason Taylor returned to practice on Thursday after sitting out Wednesday. He didn't appear to be limited a day after sitting out to rest his injured right shoulder. Taylor, who has contributed 37 tackles, seven sacks, one interception, and forced three fumbles this season, is expected to play in Sunday's game against the Houston Texans. Taylor's been playing with the injured shoulder since the Oct. 12 Jets game, but it got re-injured earlier this month in the Dec. 6 win over the Patriots.

"They present big problems. You've got two of the best pass rushers in the game over the course of the last 10 years sitting there, coming off the edge, so you've got to be able to protect with your backs. You've got to be able to protect with your tackles," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said of facing Taylor and Joey Porter.

-- C Jake Grove (ankle) appeared to be working at full strength. Although he was active last week he didn't play as his replacement Joe Berger has filled in admirably.

-- Former University of Tennessee punter Britton Colquitt was signed to the practice squad this week. That's not a good sign for punter Brandon Fields, especially coming a few days after Sparano said he wasn't happy with Fields' hang time on a few punts Sunday.

-- WR Greg Camarillo openly disagreed with the official's call on him for unnecessary roughness on safety Michael Griffin in overtime of Sunday's loss to the Titans that helped set up the game-winning field goal. However, Mike Pereira, Vice President of NFL Officials, said that Camarillo deserved the flag because Griffin had clearly, "given himself up."

"There's no attempt to get up. (Camarillo) comes up and bangs him pretty good, even in slow motion. We're out to protect players, and when a player gives himself up we don't feel that he has to be hit. We've told the officials that's the case. ... I feel this play was correctly officiated," Pereira told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

-- RB Ricky Williams, who has fumbled four times in the last two games, losing two, was working on ball security during practice Thursday. The Titans have forced 12 fumbles this season. Only four teams have more takeaways (13) via fumbles, including: Philadelphia, New Orleans, Kansas City and Detroit.

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