After a stunning and spectacular performance last week in their 38-10 victory over the Tennessee Titans in Nashville, the Miami Dolphins (2-3) will return to Sun Life Stadium for the first time in nearly a month as they will take on the Houston Texans (2-4).
In Dan Campbell’s first game as interim head coach, the Dolphins showed a lot of fight and emotion. During their three-game losing streak before their bye week under previous coach Joe Philbin, the team appeared to be disinterested and lifeless.
Against the Titans, Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw for 266 yards and two touchdowns. He also completed 76 percent of his passes last week.
Brian Hoyer and DeAndre Hopkins led the Houston Texans to a 31-20 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars last Sunday. Hoyer threw three touchdown passes, two to Hopkins.
Sunday will mark the first time the Texans and Dolphins played each other since the 2012 season when the Texans defeated the Dolphins 30-10. Miami is 0-7 all-time against Houston.
Houston at Miami
Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS
Spread: Miami -4
Three Things to Watch
1. Dolphins' Game Plan
In the Dolphins' first four games of the season, they passed the ball 73 percent of the time. Against Tennessee, Miami rushed the ball 32 times and passed just 29 times. The Dolphins also ran the ball effectively as running back Lamar Miller had his second-best game as a pro.
Miller finished Sunday's game with 113 rushing yards and a touchdown. Houston Texans defensive lineman Vince Wilfork said on a conference call on Wednesday that the Dolphins team that played last week is the one that fans will see the rest of the season.
“The Dolphins got back to doing what they do best — running the ball,” said Wilfork. “Last week everybody got a sneak peek at what they really are. They are a ground-and-pound team. They’re tough. They’re physical. As you can see, their coach got them fired up to play, and they responded. We’re going to get their best.”
Houston’s defense gives up 109 rushing yards per game, which is 17th in the NFL in that category. So it will be interesting to see if Campbell and the Dolphins can run the ball as successfully as they did last week.
2. J.J. Watt and Vince Wilfork
As most people know, the Dolphins' offensive live hasn’t played well this season. Miami’s offensive line has given up a total of 12 sacks this year, which ranks 14th in the NFL. This week, the Dolphins will have a tough test as their offensive line will be against J.J. Watt, Wilfork and the rest of the Texans' front seven.
Campbell knows despite the Texans' defense not playing as well as they did last season, the Dolphins will have a huge challenge ahead of them.
"Defensively they present issues, said Campbell. "They go base defense you got Clowney on one end and Watt on the other and you’ve got big boy in the middle, Wilfork. That’s tough. They funnel everything back to him and so we have our hands full.”
Houston is 16th in total defense, but because of their potential matchup problems they pose for the Dolphins, they can’t afford to let up on Sunday.
3. Miami's Rushing Defense
After the first four weeks of the season, the Dolphins' rushing defense ranked last in the NFL. Against the Titans, the team's rushing defense looked completely different than it did earlier this season.
Miami held Tennessee to 63 yards rushing on 18 attempts. This week however, the Dolphins will be facing one of the better running backs in the NFL in Arian Foster and the Texans' offensive line.
“They’ve got a great running back, Arian Foster, a guy that I respect and have actually enjoyed some good conversations with," said Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. "And an offensive line that they’ve been moving around guys left and right, but one that’s playing pretty well. So, we definitely have a challenge."
The Titans aren't known for being a team that wants to run the football, but the Texans are. While Foster has just 104 yards in three games after returning from injury, he did rush for 1,246 yards in 2014. So it will be a challenge for the Dolphins to slow Foster down on Sunday.
After looking like the biggest disappointment in the NFL the first four weeks of the season, the Dolphins have received a lot of praise in the media for their toughness against the Titans last week. While Miami looked great against Tennessee, they should come back down to earth a bit this week.
The Texans have a few playmakers that will challenge the Dolphins. With Grimes and the Dolphins' secondary not 100 percent, Hopkins should be able to have a big day on Sunday. That will then open things up for Foster and Houston's rushing attack.
Watt doesn't have the monster numbers that he has had the previous two season, but a game against the Dolphins could be exactly what the doctor ordered. Look for Watt and the Texans' defense to put a lot of pressure on Tannehill and the Dolphins offensive line and that should force a few turnovers.
Prediction: Texans 28, Dolphins 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.