Dolphins-Raiders: Key Matchups

Kris CardellaContributor INovember 14, 2008

One game over the midway point of the season, the Miami Dolphins (5-4) have turned heads and nearly erased the memory of the 1-15 season a year ago. They play disciplined, they play tough, and they've shown other teams in the NFL that it is not easy to leave Dolphin Stadium with a win.

The Oakland Raiders (2-7), on the other hand, are headed in an entirely different direction.  Coach firings, starter cuts, and poor quarterback play are just the beginning of this struggling franchise's problems. But the Raiders do bring one thing to the table:

A solid ground attack.

The Raiders trounced the Dolphins last year in Miami to the tune of 35-17. Justin Fargas set a career high in rushing yards, while former quarterback Daunte Culpepper scored five touchdowns.

The Dolphins will have to control the game on the ground, while keeping the Raiders from amassing any yardage with their dangerous running backs.

Now, without further ado, the matchups.


Darren McFadden/Justin Fargas vs. Dolphins' Defense

It looks as if the Raiders will have McFadden back in the lineup this week after being sidelined for over a month with turf toe. Fargas is also healthier coming into this contest, which means Oakland will have all of its weapons.

Miami's run defense has been a roller coaster in the past few weeks. Two weeks ago against Denver, they allowed 14 total rushing yards. Last week against Seattle, they gave up 126.

The Raiders might also try to give the Dolphins a taste of their own medicine. Darren McFadden ran the wildcat formation at Arkansas with much success in his college career. Like Ronnie Brown, McFadden can find creases, but can also make a pass down field.

Oakland brings in the NFL's eighth-ranked rushing offense on Sunday. Miami needs to maintain their discipline and make Andrew Walter win the game with his arm.


Ronnie Brown/Ricky Williams vs. Raiders' Defense

The Dolphins' running game finally started to come together last week against Seattle, thanks in part to a 51-yard touchdown run by Ricky Williams.

The Raiders are 29th in the NFL against the run, giving up over 150 yards per game.  This should bode well for the Dolphins, but they have struggled establishing the run against poor run defenses.

In Week Nine against Denver, who carries the NFL's 27th-ranked run defense, they only were able to muster a total of 75 rushing yards.

So whether it's the wildcat or just up-the-gut, the Dolphins need to establish their presence on the ground against the Raiders.


Dolphins' Receivers vs. Raiders' Secondary

There is one thing very predictable about the Dolphins. Chad Pennington will not make a lot of mistakes, and he will put the ball in the right spot for receivers to catch it.

So this puts pressure on the Dolphins' wideouts to get separation and make reliable targets for Pennington. This may be difficult, as the Raiders' pass rush, led by Derrick Burgess, is formidable.

Oakland's pass defense, led by cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, has been one of the bright spots on the team, allowing opposing quarterbacks just over 190 yards per game and a rating of 77.7.

The Dolphins will rely mostly on their running game, but they can use their perimeter speed to help build an early lead in the game. Ted Ginn can break big plays, and Greg Camarillo can get open anywhere on the field. Early leads have contributed to Miami's success in the past few weeks, so it would be wise to continue that trend.

The only advantage the Oakland has over Miami is their special teams, but Dolphins' coach Tony Sparano has not let up in his pursuit to improve kick coverage. The Raiders are outmatched in every other phase of the game. That, paired with a trip across three time zones, will lead to a long day for Tom Cable's struggling team.


Miami 28, Oakland 9