Week 12 Preview: Miami Dolphins

In Week 12, the Oakland Raiders hope to bounce back after a humiliating 35-3 defeat against Pittsburgh last weekend. The Raiders play host to Tony Sparano and his Miami Dolphins on Sunday. The Dolphins have had an up-and-down season in 2010, but they have been a far better team on the road.

Game Info

-- In Week 12, the Oakland Raiders play host to the Miami Dolphins.

-- The kickoff time is set for 1:05 p.m. PT. The game will be broadcasted on CBS with Gus Johnson and Steve Tasker in the booth.

-- Oakland comes in with a record of 5-5. Out of their bye week in Week 10, the Raiders were the talk of the league; riding a three-game win streak, many of the national pundits were calling Oakland's revival an overdue return to their glory years. However, those who follow the franchise closely are well aware that Oakland, while definitely improved, has a long way to go yet. Last weekend was evidence of that as the Pittsburgh Steelers brought Oakland back down to earth with a 35-3 beating.

-- Miami comes in with an identical 5-5 record, although their season has been more of an up-and-down roller coaster ride than Oakland's. After winning their first two games of the season, the Dolphins dropped the next two. Following a Week 5 bye, they have traded wins and losses.

-- Last weekend in Miami, the Dolphins were shutout by the Chicago Bears, 16-0. The much-maligned Dolphins offense managed only 187 yards of total offense in the loss. Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams combined for only 11 yards on six carries.

-- Interestingly, Miami has faired far better on the road than at home. They are 1-4 at home but 4-1 on the road.

-- Oakland leads the all-time series record at 16-12-1.

-- The last time these two teams faced off was in Week 11 of the 2008 season. Playing in Miami, the Raiders lost, 17-15. In Week 4 of 2007, the Raiders beat the Dolphins 35-17 in Miami.

-- Miami is currently riding a four-game winning streak in Oakland.

-- Oakland is looking for their first four-game winning streak at home since the 2002-03 season.

-- Miami is led by head coach Tony Sparano. Sparano became head coach in 2008, after five seasons as offensive line and assistant head coach in Dallas. In three seasons, Sparano has compiled an overall record of 23-18. In his first season in 2008, Sparano led the Dolphins to an 11-5 record and an AFC East division title. It's been tough sledding for Sparano and the Dolphins since then, as they've gone 12-14.

Injury Report

For the Raiders

Out: CB Chris Johnson (groin), WR Chaz Schilens (knee)

Questionable: TE Zach Miller (foot)

Probable: CB Nnamdi Asomugha (ankle), SS Tyvon Branch (shoulder), FS Hiram Eugene (neck), G Robert Gallery (fibula), WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (hamstring)

For the Dolphins

Doubtful: WR Brandon Marshall (hamstring)

Questionable: C Joe Berger (knee), LB Karlos Dansby (toe), QB Chad Henne (knee), WR Roberto Wallace (knee)

Probable: T Vernon Carey (knee), S Chris Clemons (groin), S Tyrone Culver (ankle), Reshad Jones (shin), T Jake Long (shoulder)

Raiders Offense vs. Dolphins Defense

Last week's 35-3 loss was just as much an aberration as it was a result of circumstance. This offense is far better than the 182 total yards they compiled against the Steelers, but at the same time, Dick Lebeau's defense is easily the best the Raiders will face all season and arguably the best in the NFL.

That being said, Jason Campbell and company have to step their game up against a very good Dolphins defense. Miami defensive coordinator Mike Nolan has orchestrated a group that's allowing only 309.5 yards per game, good for seventh best in the NFL. The secondary has only allowed 196.8 yards per game through the air, good for fourth best in the league and right behind Oakland (193.2).

In Noland's 3-4 scheme, the strength of the defense is definitely found in the linebackers and defensive backs. Seven-year veteran Karlos Dansby leads the team in tackles with 63. He is listed as questionable for the game, but it's going to take far more than a toe injury to keep Dansby out.

Dansby is one of Miami's two inside linebackers. The other is six-year veteran Channing Crowder. Crowder missed the first four games of the season and has had an inconsistent year thus far. When he's on, Crowder can be a productive defender, but he has a tendency to disappear and lose focus.

Rookie left tackle Jared Veldheer will have to keep his head on a swivel, as he'll likely have to contain the pass rush of outside linebacker Cameron Wake. Wake ranks fourth on the team in tackles with 31, but owns 10 of Miami's 26 sacks this season.

Miami's defense is not adept at creating turnovers, but that is not say they aren't capable of playing aggressively. Safeties Yeremiah Bell and Chris Clemons rank second and third on the team in tackles. After missing last week's game with a groin injury, Clemons is likely to return to action this Sunday.

Miami's corners, Vontae Davis and Sean Smith, are both in their second years. The two youngsters have picked off one interception apiece. Logically, Miami knows that the strength of Oakland's offense is in the running game. Darren McFadden and Michael Bush will draw a lot of attention and will likely see plenty of eight-man fronts.

It's a stretch to expect the Raiders to do much in the vertical passing game, as it's been a disappointment all year long. Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson will surely call for a few shots down the field, as he usually does, but the rate of success on such plays hasn't been successful, to say the least. Tight end Zach Miller, who's coming off a poor game against Pittsburgh and an arch injury, should be relied on heavily. Unless the Raiders are avoiding third and long situations with a successful running game, as always, Miller will be the primary asset to move the chains.

This game will be a nice opportunity for a bounce back performance for Jason Campbell and the offensive line. Besides Cameron Wake, the Dolphins have a poor pass rush, and more so than the average starting quarterback, Campbell has proven himself to be terrible when under pressure.

Advantage: RAIDERS

Raiders Defense vs. Dolphins Offense

The Raiders got some good news this week with Pro Bowl cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha slated to return to the lineup. In addition, Miami wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who has been a disappointment this season, will likely miss his first game since the opening game of his rookie season in 2006.

Dolphins offensive coordinator Dan Henning has come under a lot of fire this season. Last week, the Dolphins were shutout 16-0 against the Chicago Bears. For the season, the Dolphins are averaging a paltry 17.2 points per game, a mark that is only better than San Francisco and Carolina. There are some people in and around the organization who have pushed for his firing and the ascension of quarterbacks coach David Lee. There's even been some talk that quarterback Chad Pennington, whose career is likely over, is a candidate for the position.

Chad Henne started the first eight games at quarterback before giving way to Pennington. But after only two plays in a Week 10 game against Tennessee, Pennington went down with a shoulder injury. Henne replaced him, but he too was knocked out of the game with a knee injury. Third-stringer Tyler Thigpen has played since then, but all indications point to Henne reassuming the starting spot.

Despite owning two very capable running backs, the Dolphins are only averaging 97.9 rushing yards per game this season. Ronnie Brown has had a poor season, running for only 454 yards and three touchdowns. His "backup" Ricky Williams has often been a better runner. Williams has 401 yards on 24 less carries than Brown, but he has only one touchdown and has fumbled three times.

With Marshall out for Sunday's game, the Dolphins will rely on Davone Bess and Brian Hartline. Bess managed only one catch for nine yards last week, but has been relatively consistent all year long. He's a very good slot receiver and does an above average job after the catch. Hartline has arguably been the most consistent receiver for the Dolphins. He is second on the team in receiving yards with 540, despite having 10 less catches than Bess. However, Hartline and Bess do a better job of moving the chains rather than putting points on the scoreboard.

Tight end Anthony Fasano is tied with Bess for the team lead in touchdown receptions with three. He's fourth on the team in receptions (26) and receiving yards (383). He has a knack for the big catch as he's averaging 14.7 yards per catch.

For all of Miami's struggles in the run game and the injuries they have suffered at quarterback, the offensive line does a fairly good job against the pass rush. In total, Dolphins quarterbacks have only been sacked 19 times this season. Of course, that protection is led by former first overall pick Jake Long. Long will be good to go on Sunday despite a banged up shoulder. He has not disappointed since entering the league in 2008 and he has become one of better left tackles in the game.

Advantage: RAIDERS

Special Teams

Dan Carpenter handles place kicking duties for Miami. On the year, he's hit 22 of 25 field goals with a long of 54. He's got a strong leg as he's hit seven field goals within 40-49 yards and three from 50 yards out.

As usual, the Raiders have a marked advantage in the punting game. Shane Lechler leads the NFL with an average punt length of 49.0 yards. Miami punter Brandon Fields is among the league worst with an average punt of 43.2 yards. He has a long of 68 yards and has placed 19 of 41 punts within the 20-yard line.

Rookie Nolan Carroll is the primary kick returner for the Dolphins. He is supported by running back Patrick Cobbs. Davone Bess is the primary punt returner. He has returned 12 punts for 126 yards—an average of 10.5 yards per attempt.

For the Raiders, Nick Miller has had a tough going of late in the punt return game. He's averaging 7.2 yards per attempt but against Pittsburgh, Miller only managed 17 yards on four returns.

Jacoby Ford didn't have a return last week, but Raider Nation is well aware of what he's able to if given enough room. Rock Cartwright will be back to return along with Ford.

Advantage: RAIDERS

Outlook and Prediction

Miami will be a great midseason barometer for this team. Oakland was clearly outmatched by a better opponent last week. In Miami, the Raiders face an opponent that they can clearly beat, but a lot of that will depend on their ability to capitalize on their latent advantages and how quickly and efficiently they can reset, re-shift and move forward.

This is a different Raiders team, as they have proven this season. Although they are prone to hiccups, they have shown better mental toughness than in years past.


Dolphins 17

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