At this point, any Green Bay Packers preview has to start with injuries. Green Bay's injury report has a whopping 16 players on it after just five weeks, and that does not even count Atari Bigby and Al Harris, still ineligible to play because injuries put them on the physically unable to perform list, or Ryan Grant and Morgan Burnett, already on injured reserve.
Rather than run down all the injuries, I will focus only on those unlikely to play: S Derrick Martin, TE Jermichael Finley, and LBs Brandon Chillar and Nick Barnett (now joining Grant and Burnett on IR) are definitely out; it is unlikely that either LB Clay Matthews or RT Mark Tauscher will play. Defensive linemen Mike Neal and Ryan Pickett are listed as questionable but will probably play, just at limited capacity.
In more ways than one, the Packers are in a world of hurt.
Green Bay cannot afford to drop to 3-3, with what will either be a desperate or more confident Minnesota Vikings team to follow and a road game against one of the three best teams in the league, the New York Jets, the following week. This team could easily find itself out of the running for the division title by the time it reaches the bye week.
So what are the home team's chances of coming away victorious? Let us examine matchups between the Packers and Dolphins:
When the Packers have the ball...
Green Bay has found its running game in the past two weeks, but Miami's defense is stout. Expect the Packers to take advantage of one of their few healthy units (wide receivers) and spread the field, utilising the short passing game and mixing in enough runs to keep Miami honest.
However, the will have almost no success throwing to the tight ends with Finley out, as Miami has exceptional linebackers. Aaron Rodgers will need to find his opportunities to go downfield and make the most of them, because the Packers are not likely to have enough possessions or consistent success to put up points any other way.
When the Dolphins have the ball...
Believe it or not, the Packers have the same number of yards rushing as the vaunted running attack of Miami. True, many of those are from a Rodgers' superior mobility to Chad Henne, but Miami will have some difficulty running the ball on the Packers' still formidable defense.
On the other hand, Miami is averaging just a couple yards less per game through the air, as Brandon Marshall has forced teams to account for the passing game. With Matthews out, the Packers pass rush becomes sub-standard, and Henne will have time to throw. Look for Miami to run to control the clock and open up big plays in the play-action passing game.
On special teams...
One expects every Packers opponent to have the edge here. Green Bay gives up about five more yards per punt return than it gets, about three more per kick return, turns the ball over more and has two punts downed inside the 20 to its opponents' eight.
However, while the Dolphins do average more than three yards better per punt return and are good at downing the ball inside the 20, Brandon Fields averages more than four fewer yards per punt than Tim Masthay. Miami has also given up a touchdown kick return and gives up about 15 more yards per kick return than they get. They have had two kicks blocked (a field goal-just like the Packers-and a punt; one was returned for a score).
Prediction: Packers 23, Dolphins 21 (Record: 3-2, vs. spread: 3-2)