NFL Week 12: Oakland Raiders v Miami Dolphins Game Preview
David Wilson – Dec 1, 2011At first sight, the 7-4 Raiders visiting the 3-8 Dolphins might seem like a lopsided contest, but the resurgent Dolphins have won three of their last four contests, with their only loss being on the road to the division leading Dallas Cowboys on a last second field goal.
This is not the time to sleep on Miami, this team is a lot better than their record would indicate.
Oakland will be high on confidence riding a three game winning streak with victories against San Diego, Minnesota, and Chicago. It all makes for an interesting game on Sunday.
Dolphins Offense v Raiders DefenseÂ
Miami come into the game with the 21st ranked offense, 16th in rushing, and 23rd in passing. Oakland has the 27th ranked defense, 27th against the run, 19th against the pass.
The Dolphins running game is generating a disappointing 3.9 yards per carry, whilst the Raiders are conceding at an average of 5.3 yards. Reggie Bush leads Miami with 567 rushing yards, and has looked good at times, though certainly nowhere near as good as Matt Forte, and the Raiders run defense is a statistical anomaly. They conceded 173 yards on the ground against the Bears last week, most of which came on a few big runs, but otherwise mostly contained the running game all day. It has been and up and down season in run defense for the silver and black.
The battle on the line as always will have big effect on the outcome of this phase of the game, and the Dolphins front five has played well under its potential this year. Even the usually excellent Jake Long has looked average, and right tackle Marc Columbo continues to struggle badly, particularly in pass protection just like he did when he played in Dallas. The line has been better pass blocking than run blocking, but that isnâ€™t saying much.
The defensive line is the big strength of the Raiders defense, and Oakland should expect to have an advantage here.
The Raiders got good play out of all three of their starting linebackers last week, which is encouraging as this has been a season long area of weakness for them. If they continue to play to this level, their defense will be tough to score on. They will hope that recent incidents in Alabama don't impact on Rolando McClain's availability for this fixture, or the rest of the season for that matter.
Quarterback Matt Moore has been a main reason for the Dolphins recent run of good form, completing 63% of his passes for an 87.8 rating. By far his most prolific receiver is Brandon Marshall, who many of the Raiders will remember from his days with the Broncos. He already has 59 receptions for 850 yards and three touchdowns. There is support from Brian Hartline and Davone Bess, but Marshall is the major threat.
Tight end Anthony Fasano may only have 19 receptions, but always seems to come up big when it matters (four touchdowns), and is an excellent blocker in the running game.
The Raiders secondary is in better shape than it was a few weeks ago, with recently added Lito Sheppard playing at a good standard. Strong safety Tyvon Branch having a career year, and is vastly improved in coverage since 2010.
This group have intercepted six passes in the last two weeks. The key matchup is Marshall against the Raiders number one cornerback Stanford Routt. Routt has justified Oaklandâ€™s faith in him after signing a big contract this off season by having one of the lowest completion rates against him in the league.
The Dolphins have conceded 34.0 sacks so far this year, which is far above the league average, and the Raiders defense must look to take advantage of that with their strong pass rush. Columbo has conceded four of those sacks and 27 pressures so far this year, and he will go against Kamerion Wimbley, who has been the Raiders best defensive player so far. Wimbley may well be in for a big day as Columbo is a huge liability in pass protection.
The Dolphins have conceded a number of sacks through poor blitz pickup, and blitzing is something that Oakland has done much better this year. If Oakland can stop the run, they have to be confident of getting to Moore one way or another.
Raiders Offense v Dolphins DefenseÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
Oakland brings in the 12th ranked offense, 4th in rushing and 18th passing. Again, the statistics donâ€™t tell everything as Carson Palmer continues to look more comfortable at quarterback as the season goes by. Miami has the 16th ranked overall defense, 7th against the run, at an excellent 3.7 yards per carry, but 24th against the pass.
That is an area of weakness that Palmer will hope to exploit.
Although Darren McFadden is not expected to play, Michael Bush is more than capable of carrying the load. Bush may not have the breakaway speed and elusiveness of McFadden, but he is a big, powerful runner (245lbs) who punishes defenses with his physical style of play.
The Raiders offensive line got badly mauled by the Bears last week, and they will certainly feel that they have something to prove. They will be up against a strong defensive front seven from Miami, with the huge Paul Soliai (355lbs) at nose tackle, and Karlos Dansby at ILB.
Left tackle Jared Veldheer will be facing his third elite edge rusher in as many weeks in ROLB Cameron Wake (6.5 sacks), and will be hoping to fare better this week than he did against Julius Peppers against Chicago.
Again, Veldheerâ€™s performance will be the key to protecting Palmer and having success through the air.
A number of teams have opted to run multiple receiver sets against the Dolphins in order to keep Soliai off the field, as he is a monster in the run game, but contributes little in pass rush. Raiders coach Hue Jackson will hope to have Denarius Moore or Jacoby Ford back in order that he has that option to play with.Â Cornerback Sean Smith especially has looked vulnerable in coverage, and struggled against Dallas and Buffalo in the last two weeks.
In many ways this game for the Oakland offense is a re run of last weekâ€™s game against Chicago, playing a Dolphins defense that is strong against the run, but weaker in coverage.
Everyone knows that Oakland has the best kicking duo in the NFL, and possibly the best kicker/punter combination ever in Sebastian Janikowski and Shane Lechler. Dolphins punter Brandon Fields is no slouch himself, and kicker Dan Carpenter has been very accurate this year.
With the probable absence of Jacoby Ford, neither team has a major threat in the return game, although the Raiders have shown a weakness in their punt coverage on occasion. That was not in evidence last week however, as Devin Hester had a total of seven punt return yards.
Oakland will find it tough going in the running game against the Dolphins defense, but may use a more efficient passing game to set up Michael Bush on the ground. If Denarius Moore is back, I expect him to have a big day.
Likewise Miami will look to establish Reggie Bush in the run game, but if Oakland contained Matt Forte last week, they shouldnâ€™t fear what Bush brings to the table.
This is going to be a tough game, and flying across country to play is always an issue for west coast teams. The Raiders must be favourites, but it wouldnâ€™t take a lot for the Dolphins to pull out a win.
Follow me @linebacker41
Like Raider Nation Times
How Would You Grade the Raiders Live Mock Draft?