Dolphins v. Raiders:
Riding a three-game winning streak and sitting atop the AFC West, the Oakland Raiders are enjoying their success while being sure to stay grounded.
With their first playoff berth in nine seasons in sight, the Raiders will look to overcome a dismal recent history against the Miami Dolphins when they visit Sun Life Stadium on Sunday.
Oakland (7-4) hasn’t won four consecutive games since 2002, when it went on to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl in the team’s most recent postseason appearance. Last week’s 25-20 victory over Chicago kept the Raiders in the driver’s seat in the division race, one game ahead of surging Denver.
All they have to do now is keep winning.
“It’s a good feeling for us to be able to be in first place and not have to look, `Oh, hopefully somebody loses,’ or, `Get this win and hopefully this team loses,” receiver Louis Murphy said. “It’s good to be in control of our own destiny.”
The upcoming schedule doesn’t do Oakland any favors. After facing the Dolphins, the Raiders play at undefeated Green Bay on Dec. 11 before a home date with Detroit on Dec. 18.
“Everyone realizes the opportunity that we have,” defensive end Richard Seymour said. “You don’t want to be the guy that squandered it away. Just trying to play smarter and still play aggressively.”
Victories over the Dolphins, however, have been few and far between the past two decades. Oakland has lost 10 of the last 12 regular-season meetings dating back to 1992, and it has lost five of the last six matchups in Miami.
The Raiders dropped the most recent meeting in Oakland 33-17 on Nov. 28, 2010, rushing 12 times for 16 yards — their lowest total since running for 13 yards in a loss to San Diego in 1997.
Oakland was held to a season-low 73 yards rushing Sunday, far less than an average of 149.2 that ranks fourth in the league. Darren McFadden’s return from a foot injury suffered Oct. 23 against Kansas City is still up in the air, though he has taken part in light workouts this week.
Michael Bush ran for 69 yards against Chicago, marking the first time he’s been held to fewer than 96 in his four starts since replacing McFadden.
Getting the ground game going against Miami may be a challenge, as the Dolphins are allowing an average of 72.2 rushing yards over their last five games — second-best in the NFL during that span.
Miami (3-8) held Dallas to 85 yards on the ground on Thanksgiving Day, but lost 20-19 on a field goal as time expired — ending the Dolphins’ three-game winning streak following a 0-7 start.
Matt Moore went 19 for 32 with 288 yards and a touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall, who had five receptions for 103 yards.
Coach Tony Sparano is still hearing questions about his job status, as he fell to 28-31 in his fourth season with Miami. Still, he remains confident the Dolphins can get back on track.
“We don’t get any style points for a loss,” Sparano said. “We’ll string some more together here, we’ll get back at it. I told them I was proud of them.”
Miami ranks 24th against the pass, allowing an average of 248.1 yards. It’s only allowed two TDs while picking off six passes in its last four games, though, success it hopes to continue against Carson Palmer.
Palmer threw for 301 yards against Chicago, marking the third time in the last four games he’s thrown for at least 299. Though his eight interceptions are cause for concern, coach Hue Jackson said he’s confident in Palmer’s abilities.
“We’re growing in the passing game,” Jackson said. “This guy’s a proven passer. He knows how to throw the ball and he’d be the first to tell you there’s throws that are normally layups for him that he needs to get better at too.
“But at the end of the day, I think we’re growing all across this football team.”
It’s unclear if Palmer will have the injured Jacoby Ford as a target Sunday. Ford has missed the last two games with a sprained left foot suffered Nov. 10 against San Diego. He hopes to practice this week.
Ford had four catches for 108 yards and a touchdown in the loss to Miami last season. Davone Bess had six grabs for 111 yards for the Dolphins.
About the Author
Written by Calvin Reed
My name is Calvin Reed. I just moved to Rochester, NY from Miami, FL. I obtained a bachelors degree in Journalism from FIU. I am ac huge Miami Dolphin fan! I live for the Fish & find it to be an incredible honor to be blogging about them for the rest of the 2011 season & hopefully for years to come. Let Go Fish!!!