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Miami Dolphins @ Denver Broncos -- The Edge

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2008 OFFENSE

Category Broncos Dolphins
Points Scored 24.7 (12th) 20.7 (22nd)
Passing 263.6 (3rd) 246.9 (6th)
Rushing 118.3 (12th) 103.3 (21st)
Total Offense (yards) 381.9 (2nd) 350.1 (9th)

2008 DEFENSE

Category Broncos Dolphins
Points Allowed 27.9 (26th) 20.9 (12th)
Passing 240.0 (28th) 233.3 (25th)
Rushing 154.6 (30th) 100.4 (15th)
Total Defense (yards) 394.6 (30th) 333.7 (20th)

The Broncos come off the BYE bruised, battered, and written off by most fans and media across the country. They are missing their best defensive player, and injuries have taken most of Jay Cutler's weapons from him. All this, just in time for a visit from the Miami Dolphins, a team exceeding most expectations this season, a team that believes it is still in the playoff race in the AFC. Sounds like the visiting team might have the advantage, right?? Let's find out.

It's Broncos/Dolphins. Who has "The Edge"?

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Chad Pennington is having a great year, something I said early in the year, and is the main reason the Dolphins have been as competitive as they have been this season. Credit the Dolphins, they know what Chad does well and they are installing game plans to take advantage of those strengths. If they get the feeling that a team knows Pennington, or the offense, too well, they get the defense off balance with the 'Wildcat' formation(i.e. the Patriots game). Pennington the most accurate passer in the NFL history of those QBs with at least 2000 attempts. He can carve up a defense.

I still went with Cutler, mainly because if given the choice I would take Cutler over Chad any day, any time. I also like Cutler's weapons better, when they are all healthy and that remains to be seen this week. Today's injury report will go along way towards telling the story. If Cutler has all of his weapons, he could easily get back on track against a defense that isn't that much better than the Broncos. If not, he could find it hard to move the ball consistently, and scoring in the red zone could prove difficult.

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Running Back

The Dolphins just have more talent at running back than the Broncos do right now, especially since Selvin Young is dinged and Ryan Torain hasn't played a game in 13 months. Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams provide the Dolphins a solid 1-2 punch, and the Broncos defense is likely to see alot of both given the struggles the team has had stopping the run. that said, I think the Broncos will go back to their traditional 4-3 look that should eliminate some of the gap assignment breakdowns they have suffered the past couple of weeks.

As a team, the Dolphins have struggled a bit running the ball, but that hasn't stopped teams from going back to it over and over against the Broncos. Obviously, Ronnie Brown's versatility in running the the 'Wildcat', but when you think about it the only team that really struggled against it was the Patriots, the first game the Dolphins used it. I don't think it will be much of a factor this week.

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Receiver

Ted Ginn finally had his breakout game last week against the Bills, and the Dolphins are likely to try and take advantage of the momentum. As a fan of the Buckeyes, I saw plenty of Ginn, both at OSU and at Glenville High School in Cleveland. He has world-class speed and solid hands. What Ginn isn't, at this point, is a solid route runner. Again, credit the Dolphins for utilizing his skills the best way possible. The Broncos are going to have to give safety help on Ginn's side, or at least use Jack Williams against him to take away some of that speed. The best way to deal with Ginn is to be physical, another strong attribute of Williams.

The Broncos have they better depth of the two teams outside and while it depends on injury status the Broncos could be full strength for the first time in a long time.

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Offensive Line

This is going to be a fun match up to watch all day. The Dolphins selected Jake Long with the #1 pick in the draft and he has had a great rookie campaign. The Broncos drafted Ryan Clady with the #12 pick in the draft and Clady has been awesome. Both of these guys appear to be the real deal and should be stalwarts for their team for the next decade.

That said, I gave the edge to the Broncos based on several factors, but it is close. The Broncos have thrown for more yards, run for more yards and have scored more points, all while giving up only 4 sacks. The Dolphins have allowed 11 sacks, or nearly 3 times more than the Broncos. While the one-on-one match ups are tougher for the Broncos, I also think Denver's line is better and should be able to maintain their high level of play.

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Defensive Line

The Dolphins have been stout up front, and with Joey Porter lining up as the 4th rusher on most downs, the Dolphins have been creating headaches for opponents up front. Miami has done a good job against the run and that gives them the edge.

For the Broncos, the defensive line actually hasn't played that poorly. Remember what the job of the d-line is, especially in this hybrid 3-4 the Broncos have been running. Keep the o0line off the linebackers to allow them to make plays. Unfortunately, the linebackers have played poorly, missing gaps and whiffing on tackles. This week I expect the Broncos to get back to more traditional defense, allowing the athletes on the line to make some plays.

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Linebacker

The Dolphins have a significant advantage at linebacker, unless the Broncos backers play they way they are capable of. For the 'Phins, it is a solid group(Akin Ayodele, Channing Crowder, Quentin Moses/Matt Roth), headlined by Joey Porter who has been re-energized this season, his 2nd in Miami. Porter already has 10.5 sacks, tying his career high, and when he is motivated and rolling is still very hard to stop. The Broncos got enough of Porter in the '05 AFC Championship Game, and Ryan Clady and Ryan Harris will have their hands full. Expect Daniel Graham to provide Clady with help on Porter at key times during the game.

It's all about discipline with the Broncos unit, one that will be without Boss Bailey for the rest of the season. Jamie Winborn fill sin, and while the Broncos possess alot of speed and athleticism it hasn't turned into effectiveness, and the group has been a near non-factor in the turnover game.

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Secondary

The game will be won or lost back here, in my opinion. The Broncos are without Champ Bailey, which is going to be problematic to say the least, but it does give guys like Karl Paymah and Jack Williams the opportunity to step in and make some plays. I am excited to see Williams get some extended playing time and look forward to him finding a way to get a turnover. Marlon McCree appears to be back on the first team, and it's a move I like. He has more pure skill than Calvin Lowery and the Broncos need their best 4/5/6 DBs on the field.

The Dolphins have a talented group in their own right, but the Broncos depth at receiver/tight end could give this group problems. Yeremiah Bell is the real deal at safety, leading the Dolphins in tackles. He also has a nose for the football, and causes alot of fumbles. The Broncos have struggled holding on to the football, so that will be worth watching. How the Dolphins decide to cover Brandon Marshall will be intriguing as well. Will Allen may be their best cover guy, but Jason Allen has the size(6-1, 200) to be physical with Marshall, something the Chiefs did effectively.

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Special Teams

Field Position is going to be crucial to both teams, especially on defense. The Broncos should be able to control field position, with Matt Prater's kick-off power and Brett Kern's punting ability. The Broncos are 9th in Net punting average, while the Dolphins are 27th. That means the Broncos punt it farther, and make the tackle without getting burned. That will be tough because Ted Ginn is one of the best return men in football, and in a game as evenly matched as this one mistake in the return game could prove costly.

The Broncos hold the advantage in the kicking game as well, with Matt Prater having a great year, especially from long range, something that is always in play in Denver. Dan Carpenter has been automatic for Miami inside 40 yards, but 3/5 outside 40. He has yet to attempt a FG from outside 50. For Prater, that is old hat as the 2nd year kicker has gone 6/6 outside 40 yards including an incredible 4/4 over 50 yards.

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Coaching

Mike Shanahan gets the nod over a rookie head coach, though Tony Sparano has a ton of experience and has done a great job in his first year on the job. The Broncos have faced a first-time NFL Head Coach before playing the Dolphins(Nick Saban) and that didn't go so well.

Which Broncos team will show up? That's the big question. Denver has looked great at times, on both sides of the ball, and at others has looked just as bad. Turnovers will be the key, a category that favors the Dolphins in a very big way. The Dolphins come in at +7 while the Broncos are an embarrassing -9. The 16 turnover swing usually means a W for the team with the advantage, and I'll guarantee, if the Broncos are careless with the football like they were against Jacksonville and New England they will lose the football game.

Mike Shanahan is as good as it gets after the BYE week and the Dolphins are coming off a tough win over a divisional opponent in Buffalo. Denver is 15-4 after the BYE week(11-2 at home) and has won 5 straight. I like those numbers. Besides, the Broncos have to win this game. They have to.

FINAL PREDICTION: Denver Broncos 27 - Miami Dolphins 24.

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GO BRONCOS!

GAMEDAY WEATHER --

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