Broncos V. Dolphins Preview
I hope the Broncos got enough R&R to finish the rest of the season on a strong note. Thankfully, the Fat Lady has not sung her tune yet, but she sure was warming up during that Monday night game in New England. This week, the Dolphins cruise on up to Denver to try to become the second Florida team to beat the Broncos this season. A 2-1 record against Florida teams would be a thin layer of frosting on this dinged up Broncos cake. The Broncos cannot take the Dolphins lightly. That can of tuna that stunk up South Beach last season is a thing of the past. The Phins’ are 3-4, and they’ve beat New England, San Diego, and Buffalo. The Broncos have a solid record (15-4) in the weeks after a bye week. However, the team stands 3-10 in the regular season against the Phins’. The Broncos have been reaching for that 400th total win since week 6, and should they come up with it on Sunday, that would give them a comfortable lead over the Chargers. My Prediction: Broncos 30 Dolphins 23.
Broncos – With their legs under them again, the offense should come out roaring. Jay Cutler claims that his finger is fine, and Tony Scheffler may return from a groin injury. Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal will line up in the receiver slots, and Brandon Stokley is expected to play after sustaining a concussion against the Jaguars. The offense is still 12th in the league despite averaging 15 points per contest in the last four games. As usual, turnovers will play the biggest role in the Broncos outcome. They go up against a tough defense that has Joey Porter leading the league in sacks. They forced 4 turnovers against the Bills last week to secure a win. The O-line has done an incredible job this season protecting Cutler, so they may be able to contain Porter better than most teams. Rookie left tackle Ryan Clady has not allowed a sack this year and his true test comes against Porter. Before the season, Clady said that he was most looking forward to facing Shawne Merriman, but since the linebacker is out for the season, Clady’s ultimate rookie challenge comes in the form of Porter. Holding onto the ball and picking up first downs is exactly what this team needs to do in order to keep the Phins’ offense off the field and give the defense a rest.
Dolphins- Don’t tell Chad Pennington that the Jets don’t miss him. I’m sure he doesn’t care. He may not even care that he is currently playing for a team that utilizes the Wildcat offense. The Dolphins don’t have many outside receiving threats so they are choosing to run this offense to confuse the defense. You might as well put the defense in a dark room, spin them around 25 times, and then ask them to do a 500 piece puzzle as quickly as possible. Basically, the QB lines up at wide receiver, the halfback lines up at QB, and the fullback is in motion before the play begins. Ronnie Brown has been very successful running this crazy concoction because teams don’t know if he’ll pass it, toss it to another back, or just run it himself. Brown has thrown for a TD, and he’s run for 7 without losing the ball. Pennington has thrown for 1710 yards and 7 TDs with 3 INTs. Ricky Williams is second on the team in rushing with 71 carries for 267 yards and 2 TDs. Williams also has a tendency to fumble the ball. He’s lost it 4 times, but only once has it been recovered by the other team. The Broncos will get to see the #1 overall pick, Jake Long. More specifically, Elvis Dumervil will get to see a lot of Jake Long. He’s improved the O-line drastically. The team allowed 42 sacks last season, and so far, they’ve allowed 13. While the receiving corp. has not been especially productive this season, Ted Ginn Jr. finally showed up to play last week with 7 catches for 175 yards. Great…What a week to be without Champ Bailey!
Broncos – Now for your favorite topic and mine…defense. Who knows what this team will do. The Wildcat offense may be the only offense that they are capable of stopping. I wouldn’t put it past them. They confuse themselves with their own defense that maybe the chaos will confuse the Dolphins as well. Look for the Broncos to go back to the 4-3 instead of throwing in the 3-4 in with it. Boss Bailey is out for the season so using four defensive linemen instead of four linebackers will help offset his absence. Losing Champ Bailey is tough considering the safeties are having such a difficult time. Karl Paymah will replace Bailey. Another problem for the Broncos comes in the form of stopping the run. They just can’t do it, which makes me nervous for Brown and Williams to take the field. Ultimately, the Broncos offense really needs to keep the defense off the field since the Phins’ offense is clicking, and they have a short week to prepare for a game in Cleveland on Thursday night.
Dolphins – As I said before, Joey Porter is the real deal. He’s got 10.5 sacks on the season and looks like that same young lad that played for Pittsburgh. The Phins’ switched to the 4-3 alignment this season, and they hope to put pressure on Cutler in a way that he’s never seen before. The Broncos have allowed just five sacks on the season and the Dolphins are looking to raise that total considerably. The Dolphins defense is ranked 12th overall and they are fairly successful at stopping the run. However, they have trouble stopping the pass. Marshall and Royal could have a big day or at least allow Stokley to take advantage of the Dolphins weak secondary. Yeremiah Bell and Channing Crowder are among the top tacklers in the league so look for Michael Pittman et al. to have a bruising day on the ground. The Phins’ defense was very successful against the Bills, and if momentum carries over, then the Broncos high turnover rate could become an issue.
Broncos – The only consistency the Broncos have comes from the legs of their kickers. Matt Prater is 13 for 14 on field goals and 4 for 4 from kicks 50 yards or longer. Brett Kern has done a great job punting the ball landing the ball inside the 20 yard line 5 times on 23 punts. Kickoff coverage has been a different story as the Broncos are second worst in the league for yards allowed. Eddie Royal continues to do a fine job returning punts as he is 3rd in the league in returns. Field position could play a major role in this game, so special teams will need to be especially focused.
Dolphins– Dan Carpenter is 8 for 10 on the year in field goals and he nailed three important ones to help the Phins’ comeback and beat the Bills. As far as kick returns, Davone Bess is nothing to write home about. Miami is last in the league in returns, but any athlete at this level is capable of making big plays.
Broncos – Mike Shanahan’s head is never on the chopping block in Pat Bowlen’s eyes, but some fans have expressed a different viewpoint of the coach. Shanahan needs this win to show that his team can start strong and finish strong unlike the past few seasons where a strong start led to a disastrous finish. The team has the pieces in place to score 30 plus points, and now Shanahan needs to find and stick to a defensive scheme that works. If the game is close, Shanahan has the experience and knowledge to out coach Miami’s rookie head coach.
Dolphins – To bring this team from a 1-15 record last year to 3-4 this year is unbelievable. Maybe Tony Sparano should run for President and clean up the mess that George W. created. He brought back the Wildcat and has made Chad Pennington look like Dan Marino (almost). Players believe in him and his intentions for this team. Should the Dolphins make the playoffs, he’s a shoe in for coach of the year.