By Abraham Gutierrez
Winners of five straight, the Miami Dolphins return home after a two-week California swing to take on yet another team from the Golden State, as the San Francisco 49ers travel to the Sunshine State hoping to interrupt the Fins’ playoff push.
Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida will be filled to capacity for what could be a lopsided matchup between teams headed in opposite directions. Opening kickoff is scheduled for Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. ET.
The last time these franchises met dates all the way back to Dec. 9, 2012 at old Candlestick Park in the Bay Area. After losing two straight games to Miami, San Francisco was able to even out the head-to-head series at 6-6, coming away with a 27-13 victory.
In his rookie season, Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill completed 17-of-33 passes for 150 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. However, the Niners were the better team that day, led by then-sophomore quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who completed 18-of-23 pass attempts for 185 yards (No TDs or INTs), and ran for 53 yards on six carries and a rushing touchdown.
San Francisco 49ers Record: 1-9-0
Things haven’t exactly gone as planned for first-year head coach Chip Kelly, as the Niners enter Week 12 with a 1-9 record and are losers of nine straight games. Occupying the cellar spot in the NFC West, San Francisco is 1-5 at home, 0-4 on the road, 1-3 against divisional opponents, 1-7 versus intraconference foes, and winless (0-2) when facing AFC teams.
49ers on offense
Under the tutelage of offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins, San Francisco is the home to one of the most anemic offenses in professional football. Heading into Week 12, the Niners offense ranks 30th in passing yards (189.8), 29th in total yards (309.6) and 24th in points per game (20.4).
However, with Kaepernick at the helm, there’s one thing that makes the Niners tricky, and that’s their ability to run with the football. Averaging just under 120 yards per game, San Francisco ranks sixth in the NFL in rushing yards per contest and will certainly try and wear down Miami’s defense for 60 minutes.
49ers on defense
As hard as it is to imagine, the Niners are actually worse on defense than they are on offense. With defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil running the show, San Francisco ranks dead last in the NFL in points (31.3), total yards (431.1) and rushing yards per game (179.5), while ranking 14th against the pass, yielding an average of 252 aerial yards per game.
At the start of the season, O’Neil demanded three things from his players in order to change the culture: Relentlessness, accountability and productiveness. Needless to say that thus far, the defensive czar hasn’t been able to get much of anything from this group, who will be tested going up against bruising running back Jay Ajayi and Miami’s improved passing attack.
49ers players to watch: Colin Kaepernick, Ahmad Brooks
Offensively, the player to watch is quarterback Colin Kaepernick (86-for-162, 1144 yards, 7 TDs, 2 INTs), particularly for his ability to scramble and extend plays (36 carries, 260 yards, TD this year). Miami’s defensive line must do their best to keep the mobile signal-caller inside the pocket. Chasing him around the field will wear the Fins’ defense down, which opens up big-play opportunities down the field.
On the opposite side of the rock, Tannehill and Co. must keep close tabs on outside linebacker, Ahmad Brooks. In his 11th season out of Virginia, Brooks leads the team in sacks (3.5) to go along with 30 tackles (22 total, eight assista) and three passes defended.
According to NFL Week 12 oddsmakers, Miami should have little trouble dealing with San Francisco in front of a sold out Hard Rock Stadium. Opening lines for this contest have the Dolphins (-7) as betting favorites by a touchdown and a point-after over the visiting 49ers (+7) and the OVER/UNDER is set at a combined total of 45.5 points.