At least the Miami Dolphins get a home game against a team to which they haven't lost in more than a decade as they try to finally post their first win.
Problem is, that 'home game' isn't in Florida. It's not even in the United States.
And the team they're facing is one of the hottest in football.
The New York Giants hope a trip overseas doesn't cool them off, going for a sixth straight victory and trying to keep the disheartened Dolphins winless on Sunday as the NFL plays a regular-season game in London for the first time.
Oddsmakers from Bodog.com have made New York -9.5 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday's game, the over/under has been set at 48.5 total points (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 92% of bets for this game have been placed on New York -9.5 (View NFL Football bet percentages).
The only other game played in the regular season that took place outside the U.S. came in 2005 when Arizona beat San Francisco in Mexico City. The league has held exhibition games overseas previously, but never a game that counted.
This matchup at a sold-out Wembley Stadium should give Europeans a better taste of what the NFL is all about, as opposed to preseason contests in which starters didn't play much and the results were virtually meaningless. Commissioner Roger Goodell recently said the league is even considering holding a Super Bowl in London at some point.
"It is going to be a neat experience for us," Giants quarterback Eli Manning said. "I think everyone is looking forward to going over there and be the first teams to play in an international game. It is a great opportunity. It is going to be a little different week and we have to get our minds set for that."
The Giants (5-2) have won five in a row - the last four were all decided by double digits - and are a victory shy of their longest regular-season win streak since a six-game run in 1993.
Miami (0-7), meanwhile, is off to the worst start in the franchise's 42-year history and has given up a league-high 231 points. No other team has allowed more than 200.
"We can't win in America," defensive end Jason Taylor said. "Maybe we can win overseas."
The Dolphins won the most recent meeting, 23-10 in 2003, but that's the only matchup between these teams since the Giants won 17-7 in 1996.
This trip is little more than what a flight for a game on the West Coast would be, and both teams do get their bye weeks following this contest, but Miami has the bad fortune of this being considered one of its home games.
New York has had no trouble taking care of inferior teams the past few weeks, scoring more than 30 points in relatively easy wins over the New York Jets, Atlanta and San Francisco. The Giants now face a Miami defense which has surrendered 90 points over its last two games.
A win Sunday would put New York at 6-2, the same record it had at the halfway point last season before losing six of its final eight regular-season games.
"I think overall the camaraderie of the team is a lot better," Giants defensive tackle Fred Robbins said. "We are just coming together. There is unity on the team. We understand we've been in this position a couple of times before and we don't want a relapse."
Robbins is part of a defense which has improved significantly since allowing a combined 80 points and 846 yards of offense during the 0-2 start. The Giants have surrendered a total of 69 points - only six offensive touchdowns - during the five-game win streak while holding each of their opponents under 290 total yards.
They have compiled 25 sacks in that span and lead the league with 27, including six in a 33-15 win over the 49ers last Sunday.
"Healthy, we're healthy, that's the difference," said Michael Strahan, who along with defensive end Osi Umenyiora missed a combined 16 games last season. "That is going to be the key for us going forward."
The Dolphins are far from healthy.
Last week's 49-28 home loss to the Patriots saw Miami lose top rusher Ronnie Brown and starting safety Renaldo Hill for the season to torn ACLs. The team already lost quarterback Trent Green (concussion) and safety Yeremiah Bell (Achilles') to season-ending injuries. Linebacker Zach Thomas might not make the trip to London because he was in a minor car accident after last Sunday's defeat.
The departure of Brown may be the biggest loss yet. He leads the league with 991 yards from scrimmage, ranks fourth with 602 rushing yards and had scored five touchdowns.
Jesse Chatman should see the bulk of the carries in Brown's place, though Patrick Cobbs and Lorenzo Booker could get some as well.
"You don't replace a Ronnie Brown," Dolphins coach Cam Cameron said. "But you say, 'These are the guys we have. How do we maximize the guys we have? Who are our best 11?'"
Cleo Lemon has started the last two games for Green and has had his moments, throwing for 492 yards and two touchdowns, but he's also thrown three interceptions and been sacked five times.
Manning also makes his share of mistakes - he's had at least one interception in every game - but has been fairly steady. He's thrown for two touchdown passes in three straight games.
He's backed by a running game which has been solid regardless of who gets most of the carries. Lately it's been Brandon Jacobs, who has rushed for 293 yards and two touchdowns on 51 attempts in three games since returning from a knee injury. Derrick Ward played well while Jacobs was sidelined and still ranks among the NFL's top 20 rushers with 448 yards despite getting only 15 carries over the last two weeks.
"Guys are more responsive to each other," Giants guard Grey Ruegamer said. "I think the team is a little closer than it was a year ago and guys are responding to that. We're 5-2. We like winning and we like the feeling."
By: Staff Writers - Email Us
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