Surprising Play

An organizational overhaul is beginning to pay dividends for the Miami Dolphins, giving the once-downtrodden franchise some hope.

Continuity, meanwhile, doesn't seem to have helped the Houston Texans progress.

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With consecutive wins over last season's AFC finalists, the confident Dolphins look to keep the Texans winless Sunday.

Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Texans -3 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 56% of bets for this game have been placed on Dolphins +3 (View NFL Football bet percentages).

Houston (0-4) improved in each of coach Gary Kubiak's first two seasons with the team, going 6-10 in 2006 and 8-8 last year. But the Texans are still seeking their first win of '08, and are coming off two particularly disheartening defeats.

Miami's last two games, meanwhile, have lifted the team's spirits, beating New England and San Diego by a combined 55-23 to double its win total from a season ago. The Dolphins (2-2) reshaped their organization in the offseason, hiring Bill Parcells as vice president of football operations and Tony Sparano as coach, and they've now won consecutive contests for the first time since a four-game run in November 2006.

"It's only two wins," said linebacker Matt Roth, a holdover from last year's team that has had more than half the roster turned over. "But coming from last year, it seems like we're on top of the world."

After two well-earned victories, the Dolphins could be surprise contenders in the AFC this season. They outgained the Patriots by 235 yards and the Chargers by 188.

"The Dolphins are here," receiver Greg Camarillo said. "We have arrived. Other teams would doubt us before. Now they have to prepare to play a great team. We're ready to play anybody."

The improvement of Miami's defense has been perhaps the biggest surprise. Facing an outstanding San Diego offense, the Dolphins allowed 202 yards and 10 first downs in a 17-10 win last Sunday.

That included a stuff of Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson on a fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line in the opening minute of the fourth quarter. Miami held Tomlinson to 35 yards rushing, and is seventh in the NFL in rushing defense at 82.8 yards a contest.

The Dolphins' defense has been complemented by steady play from quarterback Chad Pennington (93.5 passer rating), and a rushing offense that is averaging 126.0 yards per game. Miami's Ronnie Brown is tied for the NFL lead with six rushing touchdowns and has thrown for another.

Houston is coming off its best rushing game of the season, gaining 156 yards against Indianapolis last Sunday. But Texans backup quarterback Sage Rosenfels fumbled twice, leading to 21 points in 2:10 for the Colts as they erased a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat Houston 31-27.

Matt Schaub will return at quarterback for Houston, but he has thrown five interceptions while getting sacked eight times in three games. Schaub missed last Sunday's game recovering from a virus that forced him to spend the previous night in the hospital.

"You can't wait for that next opportunity to get out on the field and get a win," he said. "We're definitely looking forward to getting back out there this week and getting past this last game and moving on."

Schaub will try to help the Texans avoid their first 0-5 start since they lost their first six games in 2005 en route to a 2-14 finish. That led to coach Dom Capers being fired, with Kubiak taking over.

Kubiak expected Houston to make a playoff run in his third year, but the Texans are having a tough time getting on track. Kubiak, though, is encouraged by the attitude of his team.

"The way I see these guys battling and talking and going about their jobs, I expect them to pull out of it," he said. "They expect themselves to pull out of it."

Houston did have a couple of bright spots against the Colts, with rookie running back Steve Slaton continuing to impress. He has rushed for 285 yards and three TDs while catching 16 passes for 100 yards and a score in three starts.

Defensive end Mario Williams, meanwhile, had a pair of sacks - his first since Week 1.

But after two straight demoralizing defeats, the Texans have to be wondering when their hard work will finally result in a win. Houston lost 30-27 in overtime at Jacksonville on Sept. 28.

"The only thing you can try to do is just put it behind you and that's it," wide receiver Andre Johnson said of the tough losses. "It'll probably be hard."

Houston has won all three of its meetings with Miami, including 22-19 on Oct. 7, 2007. Brown rushed for 114 yards and a TD for the Dolphins in that game.

Top Betting Trends:
All games in this series since 1992
HOUSTON is 2-1 against the spread versus MIAMI since 1992
HOUSTON is 3-0 straight up against MIAMI since 1992
2 of 3 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL since 1992
Games over the last 3 seasons
HOUSTON is 1-1 against the spread versus MIAMI over the last 3 seasons 
HOUSTON is 2-0 straight up against MIAMI over the last 3 seasons 
2 of 2 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons
All games played at HOUSTON since 1992
HOUSTON is 1-1 against the spread versus MIAMI since 1992
HOUSTON is 2-0 straight up against MIAMI since 1992
2 of 2 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL since 1992
Games played at HOUSTON over the last 3 seasons.
HOUSTON is 1-1 against the spread versus MIAMI over the last 3 seasons 
HOUSTON is 2-0 straight up against MIAMI over the last 3 seasons 
2 of 2 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons
Key Player Injuries
[OG] Donald Thomas IR - Ankle - 09/10/08
[WR] Tab Perry IR - Achilles - 07/27/08
No significant injuries.

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