After being away from home for nearly a month, the Miami Dolphins (4-5) return to Sun Life Stadium to play the Dallas Cowboys (2-7) on Sunday. Trailing 16-3 after the first quarter in their last game against Philadelphia, the Dolphins outscored the Eagles 17-3 to pull out a 20-19 win at Lincoln Financial Field.
Meanwhile the Cowboys are hoping the return of quarterback Tony Romo will help end their seven-game losing streak. Romo suffered a broken clavicle in the Cowboys’ 20-10 Week 2 victory over the Eagles and haven’t won since.
The last time the Cowboys and Dolphins played each other, Dallas defeated Miami 20-19 at Cowboys Stadium on Nov. 24, 2011, which was Thanksgiving Day. Miami holds a 7-6 series advantage in the series, which includes Dallas’ 24-3 Super Bowl VI triumph.
Dallas at Miami
Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET (Sunday)
Spread: Miami -1
Three Things to Watch
1. Tony Romo
During Romo’s absence, not only did the team struggle to a 0-7 record, but not surprisingly, the offense did as well. The Cowboys have averaged 14.2 points in their last five games, which is the second-worst production in the NFL during that span. The team also has not scored a touchdown in three separate games.
With Romo under center, the Cowboys are 14-2 in his last 16 starts. In the first two games this season, Romo was 61-of-79 for 623 yards and four touchdowns.
Romo could be the spark the Cowboys and in particular, wide receiver Dez Bryant, need. Bryant also returned from injury, a broken bone in his foot, just a few weeks ago. In the three games since his return, Bryant has 12 catches for 161 yards and a touchdown.
2. Dolphins’ linebackers
Miami's defense is dealing with some injuries, in particular to their linebacker corps. Koa Misi (abdomen) and Jelani Jenkins (ankle) did not practice on Wednesday or Thursday and both are likely to be designated Questionable for Sunday’s game.
“That’s a day-by-day deal for us and we’ll see how it goes," Dolphins interim head coach Dan Campbell said earlier this week. "Today they didn’t go out there, both of them it will probably be a game-time decision to be honest with you. I would say Koa is probably a little bit better at this point, but we’re optimistic about both.”
Campbell suggested that Neville Hewitt would likely start if Jenkins cannot play. Spencer Paysinger, who has been out with a neck injury, returned to practice on Wednesday and could be available for Sunday’s game.
3. Home-field Advantage
The Dolphins have been the definition of road warriors when it comes to their first nine games of the season. Miami is the first team since the 1970 merger to have just two games scheduled in its stadium in the first 10 weeks. The Dolphins were the designated home team at Wembley Stadium when they lost to the New York Jets 27-14 in London on Oct. 4.
"You know get back in a rhythm with that where you’re not traveling and you get your home crowd and you’re just traveling down the road," Campbell said. "You’re not flying out to go play another game, so there again I’ve said it before - I don’t want to put a lot of stock into it. Of course we’re happy to be home and I think our crowd is going to be into it. They’re going to be ready to go, which always you can use to your advantage. But bottom line we got another game and whether it’s there or it’s here or it’s in the parking lot, we got to go win.”
While returning home will be nice for the players, Miami hasn’t had that much of home-field advantage lately, as the team has gone 19-23 at Sun Life Stadium since 2010. The Dolphins did however, play their best game of the season at home when they destroyed the Houston Texans 44-26 in Week 7.
Dallas will certainly be a different team with the return of Tony Romo. While the offense should receive a lift from the quarterback, Romo certainly won’t solve all of the Cowboys’ problems.
The Cowboys’ defense is ranked 17th in yards allowed and this unit gives up an average of 23.8 points per game, which is 18th in the NFL.
The biggest key for the Dolphins will be the play of their offensive line. Not only do they have to protect quarterback Ryan Tannehill, but the front five also need to open up lanes for running backs Lamar Miller and backup Jay Ajayi.
If Tannehill has time to throw the football, the Dolphins should be able to expose the Cowboys’ secondary.
Prediction: Dolphins 27, Cowboys 24
— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.