MIAMI DOLPHINS @ HOUSTON TEXANS
Current Line: Texans -12
Time: 1 pm Eastern
Location: Reliant Stadium. Houston, Texas
On Sunday, the Miami Dolphins will kickoff the 2012 regular season against a potent Super Bowl contender; the Houston Texans. The game will officially mark the start of a new era in South Beach with a new head coach in Joe Philbin and a rookie quarterback in Ryan Tannehill. Miami couldn't have been matched up with a tougher opponent to begin the campaign as the Texans will be out to prove that they could have won their first franchise title a year ago if it wasn't for an injury to QB Matt Schaub. Last season the Dolphins finished with a forgettable 6-10 record however they were a very respectable 9-7 against the spread. On the other hand, Houston wrapped up the regular season with a 10-6 record, falling to the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Divisional round but were an impressive 11-5 against the spread.
Dolphins Defense vs Texans Offence
Houston has one of the most dynamic offences in the NFL with elite players at the skill positions. Houston is led by signal caller Matt Schaub. While Schaub isn't in the same company as quarterbacks such as Rodgers, Brady and Brees, he is one of the most reliable and accurate passers in the game. Miami's defense will have its hands full with the Texans running back duo of Arian Foster and Ben Tate. Foster burst out onto the scene in 2010 when he rushed for 1,161 yards and added 16 touchdowns. He followed that up with a stellar 1,224 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns last year. Although Foster will take the majority of the carries, Ben Tate will see his share of work. In 2011 Tate was handed the ball 175 times for a total of 942 yards. If Miami somehow manages to stop the Texans run game they must find a way to contain one of the top wide recievers in the league; Andre Johnson. Sean Smith will be given the task of covering Johnson which promises to be an interesting matchup. One of their few weakness can be found in the offensive line where the Texans will start an unproven 2011 seventh round pick.
Without a doubt the Dolphins defense is one of the most underrated units in the league. Miami's defensive front was ranked in the top 10 last year and have been hovering around that position for several years now. Miami's defense which features one of the NFL's best pass rushers in Cameron Wake and Karlos Dansby who should thrive in the 4-3 formation, will benefit from the fact that they are returning their entire front seven.
Dolphins Offence vs Texans Defense
Ryan Tannehill's first NFL start comes against one of the leagues top defenses, featuring an overwhelming pass rush and a talented secondary. While Jake Long will certainly be able to hold the fort, rookie Jonathan Martin is bound to get beat by the Texans linebackers throughout the course of the game. Altough the Dolphins no longer have to game plan for Mario Williams when playing the Texans, Miami will now deal with the likes of Brian Cushing and J.J Watt.
In order for the Dolphins to record their first win against Houston in franchise history they must exploit a weakness in the Texans defense up the middle of the field. As a result, running backs Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas will see a ton of touches both in the air and out of the backfield. Miami will also utilize many short passes to their most reliable recievers Davone Bess, Anthony Fasono and the now healthy Brian Hartline who will provide a signficant boost to the Dolphins offence. Bush has high expectations for himself in 2012 with a goal of being the league's leading rusher. One thing is for sure, Bush will definitely recieve plenty of opportunities on Sunday.
The Dolphins kicker and punter combo is arguably second in the league to only the Oakland Raiders. Dan Carpenter and Brandon Fields have been nothing short of brilliant in their careers for Miami. Carpenter has proven to be an incredibly reliable kicker and his abilty to bail out the Dolphins offence has not gone unnoticed. Fields' contributions have been significant as well seeing as he provides the Dolphins defense with the best chances to succeed by giving the opposition poor field position. Both teams have solid kick returners in Marcus Thigpen (Dolphins) and Trindon Holliday (Texans).
While I don't expect the Dolphins to leave Houston with a massive upset win, I do believe they will cover the spread and keep the game relatively close.
PREDICTION: Texans 26 Dolphins 16
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