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Tennessee Titans at Miami Dolphins Preview
By Jeff Fuqua
Posted December 23rd, 2005

On Christmas Eve Day, the Tennessee Titans (4-10) will be in sunny Miami to take on the Dolphins (7-7) in a game only important in generating some positive momentum heading into the offseason. The Dolphins are riding a four-game winning streak and were 24-20 winners last week against AFC East rival the New York Jets. A tough season for the Titans would have done a 180 last week with a win against the NFC's best Seattle Seahawks but they fell 28-24 losing seven of their last nine games. Titans Coach Jeff Fisher needs to win one of their final two games to match last year's 5-11 mark and give Titans fans some added Christmas joy.

When the Titans Are On Offense
The Titans were able to break a 10 quarter touchdown dry spell in the second and third quarters last Sunday against the Seahawks though went dry again in the fourth quarter. QB Steve McNair (3127 passing yards, 16 touchdowns, nine interceptions) had one of his best games of the season and the team finally saw some significant production from the wide receivers. His passer rating of 104.1 was his second-highest of the season. WR Drew Bennett had his season-best game with eight catches for 93 yards and two touchdowns. TE Ben Troupe had his biggest game so far as a Titan with six catches for 116 yards. Good news for McNair is that reception leader, Erron Kinney, is slated to return from a knee injury which has sidelined him the past few games. RB Chris Brown, who doesn't have a 100-yard game this season, is questionable with a shoulder injury but RB Travis Henry is set to return from his ankle problems which has shut him down the past few weeks. The Titans, ranked 23rd in the league in rushing, hasn't shown the ability to run the football lately even against the bottom-feeders in the league and are especially weak in short yardage situations.

The Dolphins put the Jets' Brooks Bollinger on his bum six times last Sunday and currently leads the league in sacks with 45. DE Jason Taylor has 11 sacks and appears to be ending his season strong. Ex-Titan Kevin Carter is still getting it done with 42 tackles and five sacks. And you can bet former Titan Lance Shulters (73 tackles, three interceptions, two sacks) will be looking to show Tennessee they gave up on him too early both verbally and physically. The Fins have been getting better production lately from CBs Sam Madison (49 tackles, one interception) and Reggie Howard (43 tackles, one sack, one interception) but they are only ranked 23rd in the league against the pass. McNair, and the league's seventh-ranked passing offense (234.6 yards per game) will look to do it through the air as it appears unlikely they will be very productive on the ground against the 20th-ranked rushing defense the Fins currently rank. Of course, MLB Zach Thomas (137 tackles, two sacks, one interception) is still being productive registering a game-high 11 tackles in the Fins' win last Sunday.

Advantage: Even

When the Dolphins Are On Offense
Miami's winning streak has everything to do with the production of their running game which now ranks 16th in the league. Rookie RB Ronnie Brown has 886 rushing yards so far this season and Ricky Williams has come on strong of late with 463 yards on the ground. Brown is listed a questionable with a knee and may not play so the Titans will get a heavy dose of Williams who is supposedly quicker than before his departure to join the '04 Bob Marley Tour. He gained 70 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown last week against the Jets. Though Dolphins QB Gus Frerotte is listed as questionable with a problematic finger, he is expected to give it a go on Saturday. His prime target is WR Chris Chambers who has 72 receptions and nine touchdowns in a Pro Bowl season. The Fins are 15th in the league in passing and spread the ball around well. TE Randy McMichael (51 receptions, five touchdowns) should be licking his chops if he saw how the Titans handled Seattle TE Jerramy Stevens who had four catches for 53 yards including a 22-yard touchdown.

The Titans have given up 100 or more yard games to opposing running backs in three consecutive games and hasn't been able to stop the run with eight-man fronts. The 18th-ranked rushing defense in the league will once again stack it in to shut down the run and force the Fish to throw the football. The Titans need a big game from DT Albert Haynesworth (47 tackles, 2.5 sacks) who seems to set the tone for the defense if he is disruptive on the inside. The Titans will certainly need to tackle better which means better results from the linebacker and safety positions. The Titans 18th-ranked passing defense has improved as rookie corners Pacman Jones (50 tackles) and Reynaldo Hill (42 tackles, three interceptions) have gained experience but they were torched last Sunday by Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck who had a big day on them last week. They will certainly need the pressure on Frerotte which means a productive day from DE Kyle Vanden Bosch (12.5 sacks) who didn't get to the quarterback last week and DE Travis LaBoy (35 tackles, six sacks). Look for a big game from LB Keith Bulluck (119 tackles, four sacks, two interceptions) who was snubbed from the Pro Bowl and will be looking to make a statement.

Advantage: Dolphins

Special Teams

Both the Titans and Dolphins are solid on special teams coverage. Miami's Olindo Mare is the league's third-rated kicker and Tennessee's Rob Bironas is ninth. Fins Punter Donnie Jones is ranked 11th while the Titans Craig Hentrich is 16th. The Titans Pacman Jones averages 12.9 per punt return and 25.6 per kick return. The Fins Wes Welker averages only 9.6 per punt return and 22.6 per kickoff.

Advantage: Even

Fearless Prediction

The Dolphins are now officially out of the playoff hunt but on a roll and wanting to end strong. The Titans are just trying to finish up a tough season on a positive note. The Titans haven't been able to slow any team who has a balanced offense this season and there isn't any reason to think things will change on Saturday. In turn, the Dolphins defense looks to be returning to form and should play physical against a Titans offense without much of a rushing threat. It appears Santa will be dropping a lump of coal on Titans fans this Christmas Eve.

Dolphins 24, Titans 13

Best wishes to everyone this holiday season from goTitans.com!

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Titans 17
Seahawks 13
V. Young:
17/28, 171 yards,
1 INT, LG 29,
RT 63.2
C. Johnson:
36/134, 3.7 AVG, 2 TDs, LG 12
N. Washington:
6/83, 13.8 AVG,
LG 29

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Total Offense
Total: 351.4
Passing: 189.4
Rushing: 162.0
Scoring Avg.: 22.1
Total Defense 28th
Total: 365.6
Passing: 258.7
Rushing: 106.9
Scoring Avg.: 25.1

V. Young
Attempts: 259
Completions: 152
Yards: 1879
Touchdowns: 10
Interceptions: 7
Passer Rating: 82.8
C. Johnson
Carries: 358
Yards: 2006
Average: 5.6
Touchdowns: 14
K. Britt
Receptions: 42
Yards: 701
Average: 16.7
Touchdowns: 3

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