If you watched “Hard Knocks,” the Miami Dolphins look like a mess but at leaset rookie QB Ryan Tannehill showed some promise. Houston, meanwhile, is the chic pick to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. So Sunday’s game looks like a mismatch.
Tannehill has to make his first start against Houston’s ferocious pass rush. Considering how efficient and productive Matt Schaub is, Tannehill might find himself having to throw and throw some more, which will only hurt his chances of escaping unscathed.
The Texans should be even more comfortable in the second year with defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ 3-4 base (with a blitzing attack) scheme. Because Houston’s defense will be facing a rookie quarterback in Tannehill, we can expect heavy blitz packages from all angles as Phillips attempts to rattle the young quarterback, with the assumption Tannehill can’t pick apart the voids left behind. He has a lot of weapons between returning linebackers Brooks Reed, Brian Cushing and Connor Barwin, to go along with rookie speedster LB Whitney Mercilus, which makes it difficult to know just where the heat will be coming from. Texans DE J.J. Watt (dislocated left elbow) and LB Brian Cushing (bruised ribs) are expected to start after missing time in training camp with injuries.
Lost in Houston’s magical 2011 season was the fact that QB Matt Schaub didn’t take the Texans home. He’s back after a foot injury that ended his season in Week 10, and that’s a significant boost for a playoff-caliber team. Schaub hopes to be his ol’ self, and that means finding Andre Johnson when he’s open. He’s usually open. Oh yeah, and Houston also boasts one of the NFL’s best backfield duos in Arian Foster and Ben Tate.
The Texans are the only team Miami has never defeated. Dolphins haven’t won in Houston since 23-20 victory over the Oilers on Nov. 17, 1996.
DOLPHINS NOTES: Joe Philbin will make debut as head coach … Club has 24-21-1 (.533) record on Kickoff Weekend … QB Ryan Tannehill (No. 8 overall) will be 1st Dolphins rookie QB to start season opener in club history. Registered last collegiate start at Reliant Stadium in Meineke Car Care Bowl & completed 27 of 40 passes for 329 yards with 1 TD in Texas A&M 33-22 win over Northwestern … RB Reggie Bush(1,086) reached 1,000 rush yards for 1st time in career last season & tied career-best with 6 rush TDs (6 in ’06). Dating back to 12/4/11, Bush aims for 5th consecutive 100-yard rush game. Posted career-high 12 catches vs. Texans on 11/18/07 (w/Saints). RB Daniel Thomas had career-high 107 rush yards on 18 carries (5.9 avg.) in last meeting vs. Hou… Since ’08, WR Davone Bess leads Dolphins in receptions (260) & receiving yards (2,669) … TE Anthony Fasano ranked 2nd on team with 5 TD catches in ’11 … DE Cameron Wake led team in sacks for 2nd consecutive season last year (14 in ’10; 8.5 in ’11)
TEXANS NOTES: Won AFC South title for 1st time in ’11 & clinched 1st playoff berth in club history … Club aims for 7th consecutive win vs. Miami. … For career, QB Matt Schaub is 4-0 as starter vs. Dolphins. Schaub (98) needs 2 TD passes to reach 100 career … RB Arian Foster averaged NFL-best 141.6 scrimmage yards per game (1,841 total in 13 games) in ’11. Since ’10, Foster leads NFL with 26 rush TDs. Foster (1,224) & RB Ben Tate (942) were only NFL RB duo with 900+ rush yards apiece in ’11. Tate rushed for 103 yards in only meeting vs. Dolphins … In 5 career games vs. Mia., WR Andre Johnson averages 103.8 rec. yards & has 4 TD catches. Since ’03, Johnson ranks 2nd in NFL with 9,656 rec. yards (Reggie Wayne, 10,647) … TE Owen Daniels (299) needs 1 catch to join Johnson as only players in franchise history to reach 300 career … Defense set club season record in sacks (44) in ’11 … LB Connor Barwin had career-best 11.5 sacks in ’11, 3rd-most sacks in season in club history (Mario Williams, 14 in ’07; 12 in ’08) … LB Brian Cushing led team with 114 tackles last year. LB Brooks Reed (6) & DE J.J. Watt (5.5) combined for 11.5 sacks as rookies last season.
WAGERWEB.COM TRENDS: Under is 3-1-1 in the last 5 meetings. Underdog is 5-1 ATS in their last 6 meetings. Road team is 4-0 ATS in their last 4 meetings.