Fearless Prediction: Dolphins-Titans

Game Snapshot

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

SURFACE: Grass

TV: CBS (Dick Enberg, Dan Fouts)

KEYS TO THE GAME: Titans QB Vince Young is day-to-day with a

right hamstring injury, and his availability could determine the

outcome. His mobility forces opponents to take another running

option into account, creating more holes for RB Chris Johnson. If

Kerry Collins plays, he’ll have to complete more downfield passes

to pull Miami’s safeties away from the line. The Dolphins use the

run to set up the pass, but QB Chad Henne needs to be a factor.

Tennessee is far better defending the run and the secondary is

often vulnerable due to a weak pass rush.

FAST FACTS: The Dolphins are 6-0 in December under coach

Tony Sparano. … Titans CB Cortland Finnegan is averaging 38.8

yards on his five interception returns.

Personnel News

Dolphins:

  • Rookie QB Pat White, who has only four carries for three

    yards in the last five games, including no action in Sunday’s win

    over Jacksonville, mourned the death of Bengals receiver Chris

    Henry, who was a redshirt freshman at West Virginia in Henry’s

    last season there.

    “The media made him out to be a criminal and a bad guy,

    but any question I had he answered,” he said. “If I ever needed

    help with anything he helped me. It’s a sad situation, but

    hopefully he’s moving on to a better place.”

     

  • SS Yeremiah Bell, the Dolphins’ leading tackler with 98, was

    already limited in practice with a splint on his left thumb. He

    practiced on a limited basis Thursday with a knee injury.

     

  • ILB Reggie Torbor, a key cog in Miami’s linebacker rotation,

    returned to practice on a limited basis with a hamstring injury.

     

  • OLB Joey Porter, who has been nursing a right knee injury for

    most of the season, practiced on a limited basis.

     

  • RT Vernon Carey, who’s been hampered by a back injury,

    practiced on a limited basis.

     

  • C Jake Grove, who has missed the last three games with an

    ankle injury, continues to practice on the second unit behind Joe

    Berger, who took over when Grove went down.

     

Titans:

  • QB Vince Young’s hamstring probably won’t keep him from

    starting on Sunday, barring a setback. Young is 6-1 as a starter

    and has thrown seven touchdowns to just three interceptions with

    a passer rating of 90.9 this year.

     

  • RB Chris Johnson needs 374 yards over the final three games

    to become the sixth running back in NFL history to run for 2,000

    yards in a season. Johnson has his eyes on Eric Dickerson’s

    single-season record of 2,105.

     

  • C Kevin Mawae sat out Wednesday with a back injury but

    practiced fully on Thursday after getting what amounted to a day

    off.

     

  • LB Keith Bulluck, who had 10 tackles and two interceptions

    Sunday vs. St. Louis, was back on the practice field after

    getting Wednesday off.

     

  • DT Tony Brown has missed two days of practice with a minor

    knee problem but expects to practice on Friday.

     

  • TE Craig Stevens has not practiced this week because of a

    concussion.

     

  • LB David Thornton has not practiced because of a shoulder

    injury, and there appears to be a chance he could be shut down

    for the season, though the Titans would only do that as a last

    resort.

     

Inside The Camps

Dolphins:

While the Dolphins’ sixth-ranked run defense in the AFC is

feeling good about itself after holding pesky Jaguars tailback

Maurice Jones-Drew to just 59 yards on 3.3 yards per carry, it

knows it has a true Titan on its hands this week in Chris Johnson,

the league’s leading rusher.

“He is amazing. Little guy can fly. He is becoming a pest

and I know he is going for a record and he is going to be fired

(up) for that,” said Dolphins outside linebacker Jason Taylor. “Him

in the backfield with Vince Young, it makes it more difficult to

defend that football team. He is probably the most dynamic back in

the league right now.”

Johnson has gained at least 100 yards in each of the last

eight games and leads the NFL with 1,626 yards at 6.0 yards per

carry with 11 rushing touchdowns and two reception touchdowns. The

Titans are ranked first in rushing yards per play (5.4) and second

in rushing yards per game (165.3).

However, the Dolphins have allowed just two 100-yard rushers

all season — Carolina’s DeAngelo Williams (122) and the Jets’

Thomas Jones (102). Both were victories for Miami.

Johnson leads the NFL with 20 carries that went for 20 yards

or more. This includes TD runs of 91, 89 and 85 yards, something no

runner in league history has done in a career let alone one season.

“If you watch him, he’s the best back in the game, period.

He’ll kill a pursuit lane. Half the team’s got to over-pursue and

half the team’s got to under-pursue and hopefully he doesn’t split

the middle,” said middle linebacker Channing Crowder. “You know how

I like to talk about players and say they’re good but then I’ll put

a little something on the end that he can’t do. He has it. Whatever

‘it’ is he has it as a running back and he is amazing.”

However, while the Dolphins have given up 25 passing plays

of 25 yards or more, they’ve only given up five running plays of 15

yards or more, and just one over 35 yards.

A big reason for that has been the solid play of nose tackle

Paul Soliai, who took over for injured nose Jason Ferguson the last

three games, as well as the breakout season for defensive lineman

Randy Starks. Soliai, who had four tackles, including one for loss,

while consistently collapsing the middle of the Jags’ line last

week, will be up against seven-time Pro Bowl center Kevin Mawae on

Sunday.

Although the Dolphins will certainly go after the Titans’

31st-ranked pass defense, they’ll be sending a rejuvenated Ricky

Williams at Tennessee’s seventh-ranked rushing defense. Since

taking over for injured running back Ronnie Brown, Williams has

gained 100 yards or more in four of the last five games. Williams

is a huge fan of Johnson’s.

“It’s hard to miss. I mean he’s having a great year,” said

Williams, who set the Dolphins’ single-season record in 2002 with

1,853 yards. “I mean he has a chance to get 2,000 yards and he’s so

fast. Anytime we have SportsCenter on here you always see him

running up and down the field so it’s hard to miss.”

Williams needs just 25 yards to reach 1,000 yards for the

first time since 2003. The six-year gap between 1,000-yard plateaus

would be the longest by any back in NFL history, surpassing the

current mark of five years held by five runners: O.J. Anderson,

Mike Garrett, Gary Brown, Mike Anderson and Ernest Byner.

For running backs with 200 or more carries, Williams is

third in the NFL with a career-best 4.9 yards-per-carry, trailing

only DeAngelo Williams (5.3) and Johnson (6.0).

“That is pretty remarkable,” coach Tony Sparano said of

Williams. “One of the big things is that for a large part of the

season the guy is sharing time. Now it says a little bit about us

running the football and what we have done that way with him. Also,

his average per carry, if I am correct, is one of the best, if not

the best that he has had.

“That tells you a little something about him making the most

of his opportunities early on when he wasn’t getting the ball 25

times a game. Ricky is a guy, as I have said before, takes

tremendous care of himself and is really ready for this coming into

this.”

Titans:

Vince Young was back on the practice field for the Tennessee

Titans on Thursday, testing his injured right hamstring.

Young split the first-team reps with veteran Kerry Collins,

who got all the reps in Wednesday’s practice.

Young not only is battling a hamstring problem, but

according to coach Jeff Fisher, is also still having issues with

the right knee that kept him out of last Friday’s practice. He

injured his hamstring in Sunday’s 47-7 win over the St. Louis Rams,

pulling up gimpy at the end of a 44-yard run in the second quarter.

He did not return to the game.

After Thursday’s practice, Young said he felt pretty good,

considering it had only been five days since he pulled the muscle.

He was able to drop back without limping or any obvious

limitations.

“It felt good. From pulling it on Sunday to right now on

Thursday, it’s kind of crazy to me right now, but God works in

mysterious ways,” he said.

Fisher was happy to have Young back on the practice field on

Thursday, and said he hopes to add to his workload on Friday.

“It was a huge step for him, and hopefully we’ll take

another one tomorrow. He still has a lot of time. Today is

Thursday, and like we said, he’s been a quick healer,” Fisher said.

The Titans are 6-1 since Young was reinstalled as the team’s

starting quarterback after an 0-6 start. Tennessee (6-7) is in a

crucial game at home Sunday against the Miami Dolphins (7-6), one

of a host of teams ahead of them in the chase for the AFC’s final

wild-card playoff berth.

Young said he was glad to be able to practice, and though he

did not fully say that he would be under center on Sunday, it is

likely that barring a setback Young will start against the

Dolphins.’

“It’s always good to practice. You can’t go out there and

think you can just turn it on and do well. That’s not how I think.

You’ve got to practice,” Young said.

Teammates indicated that Young looked good to them during

his work on Thursday.

“He’s doing the things he’s supposed to do. I thought he

looked good out there today and was really in tune to everything

that was going on yesterday,” tight end Alge Crumpler said.

PREDICTION: Dolphins 19-17