49ers at Dolphins: Game preview, odds, prediction

The Miami Dolphins host the struggling San Francisco 49ers at Hard Rock Stadium in Week 12. Here’s a preview, along with odds and a prediction for Sunday’s game.

The 6-4 Miami Dolphins will love a matchup against the 1-9 San Francisco 49ers. Miami’s running game should trample all over a San Fran defense surrendering yards in chunks on the ground.

The Dolphins also enter Week 12 with some solid momentum. Head coach Adam Gase’s team has won five in a row. By contrast, Chip Kelly and the 49ers haven’t won since shutting out the Los Angeles Rams on Monday night in Week 1.

It’s no wonder the Dolphins are heavy favorites with the oddsmakers. The AFC East franchise is tipped by 8.5 points by Odds Shark.

Odds

Line: MIA (-8.5)

Over/Under: 46.5

Miami can make good on that mooted margin of victory by keeping the ball on the ground. The 49ers have been woeful resisting the run this season. Kelly’s men are no heroes in the trenches, having surrendered 1,795 rushing yards through 10 games, per Sporting Charts. This is despite using more than one first-round draft pick on the defensive line in recent years. Yet neither Arik Armstead nor DeForest Buckner have delivered this season.

The Dolphins have also invested heavily in one side of the line of scrimmage. But their investments have being paying off along a terrific O-line.

First-rounders Laremy Tunsil, center Mike Pouncey and tackle Ja’Wuan James are all creating movement in the running game. So are veteran acquisitions such as tackle Branden Albert and guard Jermon Bushrod. It’s a formidable group, but health is a concern this week. Tunsil injured his shoulder in last week’s 14-10 win over the Rams.

However, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport downplayed the extent of the problem:

That’s good news because Albert missed the game in Los Angeles, along with Pouncey. So the Dolphins need Tunsil, especially with Albert still uncertain to play this week, according to offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen.

Even without two mainstays such as Albert and Pouncey, the Dolphins should still knock open holes for Jay Ajayi. The running back has translated the stout blocking in front of him into some unlikely and huge numbers this season. Ajayi is averaging 5.6 yards per carry and has already amassed 802 yards. Few would have believed the former fifth-round pick in 2015 capable of such production.

If Ajayi treats the Niners defense the way most runners have, the Dolphins will win comfortably. Aided by a consistent ground attack, quarterback Ryan Tannehill can selectively pick holes in the 49ers secondary.

Tannehill has recently struck up a prolific connection with wide receiver DeVante Parker. The second-year wideout dominated the Rams last week. He’s been hitting his stride among the NFL‘s most productive players at his position, per Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald:

For the second straight week, wide receiver DeVante Parker led the team in targets – grabbing eight of the 10 thrown his way for 79 yards and the game-winning touchdown. His 18 targets and 13 receptions the last two weeks ranks in the top 10 for all NFL wide receivers.

Expect Tannehill to look Parker’s way again any time he needs a big play this week.

As for the Niners’ offense, quarterback Colin Kaepernick will need all of his rushing skills to avoid a fired-up Miami D-line. The Dolphins are finally getting consistent performances from their big-ticket items up front.

In particular, malcontent tackle Ndamukong Suh is getting close to his dominant best. Suh is manhandling blockers and splitting double teams for fun. It’s no wonder 34-year-old rush end Cameron Wake has been on a tear. He’s seeing more single blocks thanks to Suh, and has amassed 4.5 sacks in his last three games.

The Dolphins have the weapons to keep Kaepernick in the pocket and destroy Kelly’s up-tempo, read-option offense.

Pick: Dolphins 24, 49ers 10

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