What: AFC/NFC clash
When: Sunday, November 21st, 1:05 (PST)
Where: Qwest Field, Seattle, Washington
Dolphins Key Players:
QB Jay Fiedler: Fiedler lacks top arm-strength and athleticism but for most of his career he has gotten the job done. Not this season however. With no supporting cast to speak of and a sieve-like line, Fiedler has struggled. On the season he has completed 59.2% of his passes for 1,185 yards, seven touchdowns and eight interceptions. When the Dolphins lost RB Ricky Williams it was figured that Fiedler would struggle to make plays and that has been the case. Teams have been able to key on the passing game and rush five and six men and Fiedler has been battered and bruised being sacked 24 times in only seven games. If Fiedler has time he makes fairly good decisions and can lead a team, but that isn't the case this season.
WR Chris Chambers: Chambers is the big-play threat on the offense. He can stretch defenses with his speed and he is dangerous with the ball in his hands. Problem is, with Fiedler's weak arm and the lack of pass protection his yards per catch are down almost three yards (12.6). If Fiedler has time Chambers can make defenses pay. His 35 receptions are second on the team and his three touchdowns are tied for first with TE Randy McMichael.
MLB Zach Thomas: When the Dolphins took him in 5th round of the 1995 draft, "experts" thought Thomas was too small to be a big-time player in the NFL. All he has done in his eight seasons in the NFL is register 1,115 tackles (139 per year) and gone to the Pro Bowl the last five years. Thomas, who is known for having good quickness and solid diagnosing skills, has slowed a little but he is still a sure tackler and smart making all of the defensive adjustments.
DE Jason Taylor: Thomas' brother-in-law and best friend, Taylor brings heat off the edge like no other player in the NFL. Taylor is relentless in his pursuit and even though he is light for a defensive end (255 lbs.) he is strong at the point of attack and his long arms allow him to bat down balls at the line. This season he has 4 sacks, which is down a little from his average over the last five seasons (13.7 per year).
CB Patrick Surtain: Surtain, along with fellow corner Sam Madison, have made up one of the best cornerback tandems in the league, but 2004 has seen them tail off a bit. Surtain leads the defense with six passes defensed and two interceptions. Surtain is more quick than fast, but he is strong and wins battles with receivers most times. Now in his seventh season in the league he is still an elite corner who plays bigger than his frame would suggest (5'11", 192 lbs).
Taylor vs. Seahawks LT Walter Jones: Seems every week we focus on who Jones is facing. Taylor is one of the quicker ends in the league and, as mentioned above, he likes to use his long arms to bat down balls at the line of scrimmage. Jones must not only concentrate on keeping Taylor out of QB Matt Hasselbeck's face, but he also must keep Taylor's hands down, as Hasselbeck has had a number of passes batted down.
Dolphin CBs vs. Seahawks WRs: Darrell Jackson, Koren Robinson (if he plays), Bobby Engram, Jerheme Urban and Jerry Rice are a formidable bunch on paper but they have been spotty in their play all season. Jackson dropped a sure touchdown last week, Engram and Rice have been injured, and Robinson has struggled with drops. Surtain, Madison and nickel corner Antuan Edwards are all solid and it will be up to the wideouts to concentrate on their routes and getting open quickly so Taylor and the front-seven can't wreak havoc in the Hawks' backfield.
Seahawks DE Grant Wistrom vs. Dolphins LT Damion McIntosh: Wistrom is expected to play this week, albeit in a limited role, after missing four games with a small fracture in his knee. Wistrom is a disruptor and if he can get into the Dolphin backfield, he should be able to open up opportunities for fellow DE Chike Okeafor who has been stymied since Wistrom went out. McIntosh has played admirably this season but he just doesn't have the physical abilities to keep the speed rushers off of his quarterback.
Hasselbeck vs. Himself: In two of his worst games since he came to Seattle, Hasselbeck looked awful in losses to division rivals Arizona and St. Louis. Against San Francisco, Hasselbeck seemed to find a groove and it is imperative that he get off to a fast start against a weakened, but game Dolphins defense.
News and Notes: The Dolphins lead the all-time regular season series over the Seahawks, 6-2, while the Dolphins have captured two of the three playoff matchups; The three playoff meetings are the most against any team in Hawks history; This, the ninth regular-season game between the two teams, will be played in the fifth different venue. The Seahawks and Dolphins played at the Orange Bowl (1977, 1979), Kingdome (1987, 1992), Joe Robbie Stadium-renamed Pro Player Stadium in 1996 (1990, 1996, 2000) and Husky Stadium (2001); After averaging 61.2 yards per game rushing and a 2.6-yard average per rush attempt over the first five weeks, the Dolphins have produced an average of 118.5 yards rushing per game; Miami is one loss away from clinching its first losing season since going 6-10 in 1988.
PROBABLE: S Yeremiah Bell (ankle); QB Jay Fiedler (neck/left shoulder); K Olindo Mare (right calf); RB Travis Minor (ankle); T John St. Clair (ankle)
QUESTIONABLE: WR Marty Booker (ankle); DT Mario Monds (hand)
OUT: G Jeno James (knee)
PROBABLE: S Ken Hamlin (toe); QB Matt Hasselbeck (thigh)
QUESTIONABLE: LB Chad Brown (knee)
OUT: LB Anthony Simmons (wrist); LB Tracy White (hamstring)
Prediction: Seahawks 17 – Miami 14
.NET Reporter Scott
Eklund writes for Seahawks.NET every week. Feel free to contact him at email@example.com.
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