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Texans at Dolphins: What to watch as Miami looks to reach .500

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The Miami Dolphins need a win this weekend to return to .500 and keep themselves in the Playoffs picture. What do we need to see from the team?

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Last week proved the Miami Dolphins could play like the team many expected them to be before the season started. They put the first four games, and fired head coach Joe Philbin, behind them and came out in interim head coach Dan Campbell's first game and dominated the Tennessee Titans. This weekend, they will welcome the Houston Texans, a team they have never beat, to South Florida. What will it take for the Dolphins to end the seven loss streak?

Aggressive, fast start

We have talked about the Dolphins needing to get out to a fast start nearly every week of the season. In Week 6, it finally happened and Miami was able to stay ahead of the Titans for the rest of the game. This week, they have to back up everything they did to Tennessee with another fast start, both on offense and defense. If they have the same sort of impact early this week as what they did last week, the Dolphins will have to be taken seriously heading into a Week 8 Thursday Night Football game against the New England Patriots.

Cornerback Play

This might be the biggest area of concern for Miami this week, and after weeks of talking about the offensive line, it's a welcome change. Miami is likely going to be without Brice McCain today, which means the cornerbacks will be Brent Grimes, Jamar Taylor, Bobby McCain, and Zack Bowman. It is not exactly a murder's row of a secondary, especially after getting past Grimes on the list. That said, there is no reason why they cannot get the job done against Houston - especially if the defensive line is able to turn up the pressure. Watching how the corners play this week could be the biggest signal of how the outcome of this game will be for Miami.

Running game

I'm going to cheat this morning and use running game to bring up two things to watch. The first is the offense's ability to establish and sustain a ground attack, with Lamar Miller getting involved in the game plan early. Miami finally found a running game last week, the first time Bill Lazor was allowed to call a game how he wanted, rather than (apparently) being overruled by Philbin. They have to pound the ball early to open up the passing game. It worked last week, so now the team has to back that up with a second week of running.

The other is on the defensive side of the ball. The Dolphins have struggled against the run this year, but seemed to figure it out last week. This week, Miami will face the league's top receiver in DeAndre Hopkins. After him, however, the offense runs through Arian Foster. The Dolphins have to take away that option and force Houston to be one-dimensional.

What will you be watching this afternoon?