The Denver Broncos will try to regroup at home when they face the Miami Dolphins this afternoon on CBS. The Broncos (7-3) have lost two of their last three games after managing just seven points in a disappointing showing in St. Louis. The Dolphins (6-4) right now are on the outside of the AFC playoff picture looking in, but have won four of their past five contests.
Miami Dolphins at Denver Broncos
Kickoff: 4:25 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS
Spread: Denver -7.5
Denver’s offense is once again among the league leaders to the surprise of no one, but the running game has been up-and-down lately. The Broncos rushed for just 28 yards last week and had 43 yards three weeks ago in the blowout loss to the Patriots. In three losses this season, Peyton Manning’s ground support has averaged a meager 35.7 yards rushing per game. Ronnie Hillman (foot sprain) and Montee Ball (groin strain) are dealing with injuries, so it’s up to C.J. Anderson and Juwan Thompson to do some damage against a Miami defense that entered this game eighth against the run (94.5 ypg).
The Broncos need to establish some sort of run game or else the Dolphins’ pass rush could cause problems for Manning. Statistically speaking, Denver’s offensive line has done a fine job in pass protection, giving up an NFL-low 11 sacks. However, as the Rams and other teams have shown already, a successful pass rush against Manning doesn’t have to result in sacks.
Manning is nowhere near as dangerous a passer if he’s consistently forced to move around in the pocket or when his timing is thrown off. Case in point, even though St. Louis only recorded two sacks of Manning last week, he completed 34 of 54 (63 percent) attempts. The only game this season in which Manning had more attempts and a lower completion rate was three weeks ago in the 43-21 loss to New England, where he went 34 of 57 (59.6 percent) with two interceptions.
Miami is second in the league in passing defense (208.0 ypg) and tied for third in sacks (30). The Dolphins figure to have their hands full against Manning and company at home, but the combination of a disruptive pass rush as well as Emmanuel Sanders’ (concussion) and Julius Thomas’ (ankle) uncertain statuses could prove troublesome for the Broncos’ offense.
Miami’s offense isn’t as explosive as Denver’s, but the Dolphins have done a better job running the ball (127.3 ypg compared to 89.9) and aren’t too far behind the Broncos in scoring (24.9 ppg to 29.3) either. Denver’s defense did give up 131 yards on the ground last week to the Rams, but still ranks second in the league in rush defense (73.4 ypg). Ryan Tannehill and his playmakers are going to have to make the most of their opportunities and can’t afford self-inflicted mistakes like penalties or turnovers.
Denver may be reeling somewhat, but the Broncos are back at home where they always seem to play well. Don’t forget that Arizona’s lone loss this season was a 41-20 dismantling at Sports Authority Field at Mile High back in Week 5. That offensive outburst by Peyton Manning and company was preceded by an overtime loss in Seattle. The Broncos may not put 40-some points on the board in this one, but I expect a similar script to play out this afternoon against the Dolphins.