Two teams sitting near the top of their respective divisions will face off this Sunday. The San Francisco 49ers will look to knock the Miami Dolphins off of their five-game win streak, as they travel to Levi's® Stadium for a battle against familiar faces. The 49ers will take on their former offensive coordinator, Mike McDaniel, who is now Miami's head coach. Former 49ers also returning to Levi's® Stadium are running backs Jeff Wilson Jr. and Raheem Mostert and wide receivers River Cracraft and Trent Sherfield.
"This is just great football between two teams that haven't lost in a minute," McDaniel said. "Generally when you haven't lost in a minute, you don't want to feel that feeling, so there's a lot of incentive on both sides to make sure that they end up on top... This will be a game that the winner will definitely earn for sure."
The Dolphins enter the Week 13 matchup boasting a fast-paced offense led by an MVP-candidate in quarterback Tua Tagovaiola and an elite wide receiver duo in Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. Tagovaiola ranks first in the NFL in quarterback rating (115.7) and average yards per pass (9.0). His offensive weapons Hill and Waddle have recorded a combined 199.7 yards per game average and 10 touchdowns so far this year. As for the former San Francisco running backs, Wilson Jr. has notched 209 yards on 39 rushing attempts while in Miami and Mostert has racked up 543 yards and three touchdowns on 118 carries this season.
However, in the Dolphins last contest against the Houston Texans, Miami's offensive line allowed 5.0 sacks and six quarterback hits on Tagovaiola and another sack on Dolphins backup quarterback Skylar Thompson. The Texans defense brought down Miami's quarterback five times and did not allow a touchdown from the Dolphins after Miami's left tackle Terron Armstead left the game with a Grade 2 pectoral strain. Armstead missed Miami's first practice of the week due to his injury and is not expected to play against the 49ers this week, though the Dolphins have yet to rule him out, calling his injury "game to game."
"They have so much speed that they blow the top off stuff, which gets some people open underneath," head coach Kyle Shanahan said. "Tua, to me, is the reason that they're leading the league in explosives because he knows how to hit people over the middle. It's rarely deep. It's usually running and hitting these guys on the move and there's some really open space with all that speed and then the quarterback who can drop it over linebackers, who is not worried about safeties and is doing that part of his game as high as anyone I've seen right now."
Meanwhile, the San Francisco 49ers enter the game with the league's best defense, having allowed zero points to opposing teams over the last six quarters. Miami's offensive line will be up against the latest NFC Defensive Player of the Month, Nick Bosa, who came away with 10 tackles, five tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks and 10 quarterback hits, helping lead the team to a perfect 3-0 record in the month of November. Defensive lineman Arik Armstead is working his way back from foot and ankle injuries as he returned to practice last week and there's a possibility he might play in Week 13. Last season, Armstead notched 52 pressures and his presence could help solidify a run defense that is allowing the fewest yards per run in the NFL (3.32).
"(Bosa) is one of the better players in the entire NFL," McDaniel said. "You could easily argue, many people have, and I think a lot of teams that have played him have, that he's the best pass rusher in the NFL... From an offensive staff perspective, you have to do your due diligence to try to minimize him as best you can, knowing that you're never going to stop him and he lives and breathes pass rushing."
The run game is a core aspect of the 49ers offense. In Week 13, San Francisco will be without second-year RB Elijah Mitchell, but will likely have All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey and "wideback" Deebo Samuel available in the backfield. The matchup against Miami also gives San Francisco's backup rookie running backs Jordan Mason and Tyrion Davis-Price time to shine. Mason stepped in during the final minutes of last week's contest against the New Orleans Saints recording his highest offensive snap count (9) of the season, carrying the ball five times for 25 yards (18 yards after contact) and earning two first downs. Mason's teammates and head coach were impressed with his performance.
"He held onto that ball great," Shanahan said. "There was no way he was fumbling it, but not only did he do that, but he moved the chains when it wasn't always blocked to move the chains and I think that's what the players noticed on the sidelines."
The 49ers will have a challenge ahead of them in Sunday's contest, as the Dolphins are the league's second-hardest defense for opposing running backs to gain yards against. Miami has allowed an average of 3.7 yards per carry to RBs. Linebacker Elandon Roberts leads the Dolphins in tackles (71) and has recorded 2.5 sacks this season. A unique statistic from Miami's defense is that their secondary has allowed a 125.6 rating to opposing tight ends, which could give George Kittle the possibility of having a big game against the Dolphins.
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