1. Jay Cutler returns to the starting lineup for the Miami Dolphins Sunday night and that must mean his two cracked ribs are fully healed and he’s ready to go, right? No. It means Cutler, who wanted to return to the game in which he got hurt and wanted to play last week at Baltimore, is either very courageous or dumb. Whichever it is, he’s not healed. Cutler, who says, he feels, “not great, not bad,” has been told by the doctors the risk of causing a greater injury if he takes another hit are not immense. But it would be very painful. He’s going to be managing pain all game long and that calls into question how well he’s going to play.
Never miss a local story.
2. The Dolphins running back rotation should be interesting. Coach Adam Gase evaded all attempts to say which player -- Damien Williams or Kenyan Drake -- will start against the Raiders now that Jay Ajayi has been traded. Here’s a secret: It does not matter. The starter is in the game for the first play. That’s all that means. It does not determine who the successor to Ajayi will be. That will be determined during the game and going forward, depending on how Drake and Williams play. The hot back will get more carries. Eventually, if one separates from the other, that guy will be the bell cow running back — or as close to it as the Dolphins can get at this stage.
3. The Raiders can present the Dolphins cornerbacks with significant issues. Since youngsters Cordrea Tankersley and Xavien Howard became the team’s starting corner duo they have not faced a team with two quality receivers such as Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. Both are big. Both have been able to get deep this year, even though Cooper is faster and Crabtree is considered more a possession receiver. Crabtree has been the more dangerous receiver in the red zone. So how do the Dolphins address this when rolling coverages to one side of the field might not necessarily work?
4. This game will determine which of these two teams is, well, more disappointing. The Raiders are 3-5 and a loss might put knock them out of the playoff picture for a while. That’s a surprise because the team was supposed to be the class of the AFC West, according to some “experts” and, well, the Raiders themselves. The Raiders had a three-game losing skid this year. They’ve lost four of the last five games. This from a team that was 12-4 last season. The Dolphins, meanwhile, are hoping to fix and offense that is dead last in the NFL in multiple categories, including the all important points. The team made the playoffs in 2016. It will be difficult to do so again without scoring enough points.
5. Hey, Sean Smith will be back in town. The Raiders will be without the services of three, count ‘em, three cornerbacks this game. Starter Dave Amerson is out. Backups Gareon Conley and Demetrius McCray are out. That will likely force Smith, a former Dolphins draft pick who left via free agency in 2013, to be available and possibly even play. He has not played since getting burned by Mike Wallace on a 55-yard bomb the first play of the game in a 30-17 loss to the Ravens. But times are tough for the Raiders so maybe Smith gets another chance. At least the scenery will be familiar.