Fearless Prediction: Dolphins-Titans
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
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.
Inside The Camps
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."
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