Although playoff aspirations are slowly slipping away from the Miami Dolphins (5-7), this Sunday's matchup against the playoff-bound San Francisco 49ers (8-3-1) gives them an opportunity to upset a contender.
Offensively, the Dolphins have to be immediately worried about the sheer strength of the 49ers defense (ranked first in the NFL). The defensive line of San Francisco (ranked fourth in the NFL) is only the beginning. The secondary (ranked second in the NFL) is deep and wreaks havoc on opposing offenses.
Ryan Tannehill is going to have to be incredibly careful with the football this Sunday. He has to avoid forcing balls through the nonexistent holes of the 49ers defense, so Miami can avoid losing the turnover battle, something that has been critical for them all season.
Reggie Bush has to continue on his current productive streak for the Dolphins to have a chance in this game. The 49ers defense must be worn down, and that comes from pounding the football all afternoon. Daniel Thomas should get ample carries as a power runner and hopefully the Miami offense can get the ball through the end zone.
Defensively, the Dolphins must be strong in the run, something they started the season out doing but have faltered as of late. It is no secret that the 49ers prefer to run the football, led by star running back Frank Gore. As a power runner with immense speed, Gore is hard to limit offensively. And if Miami cannot get anything going offensively, the 49ers will wear the Dolphins down.
The quarterback scenario is interesting for the 49ers. If Colin Kaepernick continues to start, the Dolphins also have to adjust for the option play, while avoiding giving up too much in the passing game. The Miami secondary is coming off a huge performance against Tom Brady and should build off its momentum in this one.
If Miami can accomplish all of this, they might just upset the San Francisco 49ers.