The Miami Dolphins (7-3) will host Houston Texas (1-8-1) at 1:00 p.m. Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium; Here are five things to look out for in the game:

Tua and the Dolphins att*ck

Let’s see if the Dolphins Offensive can still find different ways to win, a skill that will come in handy in the future. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has been one of the NFL’s best in the last three weeks with a passing rating of at least 135.0 each game, with nine total touchdowns and no interceptions. Meanwhile, runner Jeff Wilson Jr. rushed for 119 yards in a 39–17 win over Cleveland on November 13, the passing protection unit did not allow dismissal in the last two games, and eight players caught the pass against the Browns.

In other words, the offense shows incredible variety, especially when you consider Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, who combined totaled nine receptions, 110 yards and one touchdown against Cleveland. Lately, running has been effective, passing has been effective, and the same goes for pass protection, run blocking, ex*cutions, and call-to-play. Of course, the Dolphins play the so-called “soft” portion of the schedule, but consider this mid-season training in the approximate portion of the schedule that follows the Houston game.

Dolphin pass protection vs. DL Jerry Hughes Texans

Dolphins fans know Texans defensive lineman Jerry Hughes from his days at Buffalo (2013-21). Hughes is 10th in the league with 8.0 sacks. He moves from side to side, so Dolphins left-back Terron Armstead and right-back Brandon Shell will be busy. The dolphins will also need to be aware of the Texans’ acrobatics up front.

Armstead has done a great job against elite passing players this season, but we’ll see if Shell, who have been doing well, will be able to continue in the passing protection unit that has only allowed two layoffs in the last three games (both against Detroit) and none in the last two matches. Recent history has shown that if the Dolphins can keep Tagovailoa upright and safe, good things will happen in the passing match.

Dolphins’ pass trio of Chubb, Phillips and Ingram

Houston, who starts as quarterback Kyle Allen instead of Davis Mills, allowed 28 sacks, finishing 10th in the league. The Dolphins are ranked 20th in the NFL but are still experimenting with ways to use their trio of runners, Bradley Chubb, Jaelan Phillips and Melvin Ingram, effectively. We’ve seen the trio use a variety of ways in the last two games since the Dolphins acquired Chubb as part of their Denver deal.

But most of all, look for Chubb on the right edge, where he played 75% of his snaps with the Dolphins. Look for Phillips on the left, where he has played 66% of his snaps since taking over Chubb. Ingram has played 57% of his snaps on the right side since the Chubb acquisition. If he’s comfortable inside, this could be where most of his pictures come up when he’s on the pitch alongside Chubb and Phillips. But the Dolphins need to find a way to generate a passing rush as they head into the final seven games of the regular season.

Dolphin Defense vs Texans RB Dameon Pierce

The Dolphins are ranked 16th in running defense with an average of 116.9 yards per game. Texas rookie Dameon Pierce is seventh in the NFL with 780 rushing yards, three touchdowns and a 4.5 yards per carry average. But he comes off a season-worst 10 yards on eight carries in a 23-10 loss to Washington. Pierce is fourth in the league in rush attempts (175), so he will have his chances.

But Pierce only has 354 yards from touch, which puts him 19th in the league. Amongst the top seven in rushing yards, only Josh Jacobs of Las Vegas, who is ranked third in rushing yards, comes close to Pierce in rushing yards before touching with 293, who ranks 12th. On the other hand, Pierce’s 426 touch yards rank fifth in the league. Oh, and Pierce is second in the league in tackles broken with 22, just behind Tennessee’s Derrick Henry (23) and ahead of Cleveland’s Nick Chubb (21). Pierce has the best chances for Houston’s offensive success.

Focusing on the Texans, not looking ahead

Texans probably aren’t good enough to consider this a trap. Houston is on a five-game losing streak, the longest current slump in the league, while the Dolphins are on a four-fight win streak, the longest in the NFL with Kansas City and Baltimore.

Houston fans would probably want their team to lose to get one step closer to the #1 pick in the 2023 draft, but the Texas players will be trying to win, so the Dolphins can’t take this team lightly. Yes, Houston is a bad team and yes, Houston has not scored more than 24 points in a game this season. But perhaps it’s worth noting that his only win was away, a 13-6 decision in Jacksonville. It’s not worth it? Okay, sorry. I was trying to introduce a little intrigue.

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