3 things to watch Sunday in Miami
Miami's drastically improved rushing offense is ready to welcome back Knowshon Moreno, who is probable after missing two games before the bye week with an elbow injury. While Moreno was out, hometown product Lamar Miller led the NFL's fifth-ranked rushing offense, which is averaging 142.3 yards per game.
The third-year running back is averaging 5.7 yards per carry this season. Even recently re-signed Daniel Thomas has found room with seven carries for 50 yards in their last two games (7.1 ypc) behind an offensive line that added former Kansas City left tackle Branden Albert this offseason and is on the verge of getting Mike Pouncey back.
They will test a young Packers defensive line that ranks last in the NFL in run defense (163.0 yards per game).
"They do a nice job with their scheme and their alignment fits in with what they do with their scheme," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. "One of the most impressive stats is they lead the league with the fewest three-and-outs. I think they've had five in four games."
With Datone Jones questionable, Green Bay may lean heavily on undrafted rookies Mike Pennel and Miami (Fla.) alumnus Luther Robinson to get by. The Packers will need to carry over the positives from last week's win against Minnesota when they held Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon to under 100 rushing yards. Getting Josh Boyd back from a knee injury should help.
The Dolphins have plenty of weapons on their defensive line and aren't afraid to pull a safety down in the box, either.
That'll challenge the Packers' offensive line to not only clear running lanes for Eddie Lacy and James Starks, but also keep the pocket clean for Aaron Rodgers. The entire league passed on three-time Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Wake, who went undrafted in 2005 and spent time in the CFL before finally landing with the Dolphins in 2009.
Even at age 32, he still find ways to make an impact off the snap. His three-sack performance against the Packers in the teams' last meeting in 2010 turned the tide of Miami's 23-20 upset. The Dolphins will have defensive tackle Randy Starks (back) back after sitting out against Oakland and Oliver Vernon is coming off an 11½-sack season a year ago.
It's all added up to the Dolphins having the seventh-ranked defense in the NFL (322.3 yards per game). Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari was limited Thursday with a back injury, so it'll be important for he and right tackle Bryan Bulaga to absorb the pressure.
Miami likes to run out of its nickel subpackage, which should make for an interesting matchup with Mike McCarthy's penchant to roll out three-receiver looks.
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It likely will be in the high-80s with 75 percent humidity at Sun Life Stadium, a reversal from the Packers' practice Wednesday when temperatures hovered in the low-50s and winds swirled more than 20 mph. There's also a small chance of rain.
A fast start, good hydration and productive rotations will play a factor in how they handle the elements. The Packers haven't played a regular-season game with a game-time temperature more than 80 degrees since their 38-28 letdown against the previously 0-7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Nov. 8, 2009.
Still, the Packers say they're not too concerned, though they'll likely being donning their typical home green jerseys since Miami is allowed to choose its jersey as the home team.
"You have to put a little focus on that," receiver Jordy Nelson said. "You've just got to make sure you're prepared hydration-wise. Besides that, I think everything will be fine."