By Rick Brown
While expectations were high for the Denver Broncos (3-8) and the Miami Dolphins (4-7), the 2017 season has been full of disappointment. The Broncos have not won a game since September and are now coming off a loss to the rival Oakland Raiders (5-6). The Dolphins were just handed the team’s seventh loss of the season by their AFC East rival New England Patriots (9-2). These teams have both had issues on offense, and those problems start at the quarterback position.
Miami Dolphins (4-7)
Early in the season, the Dolphins lost starting quarterback Ryan Tannenhill to a season-ending injury. It seemed this season was over before it began, but then head coach Adam Gase was able to convince semi-retired quarterback Jay Cutler to ditch the television booth for a starting QB job. Cutler has been around for 12 seasons, and there were reasons why he was not hired by the other 31 teams in the NFL. He has not started every game (9 of 11 games) this season, and has been mediocre at best. Cutler has thrown for 1602 yards and 13 touchdowns to nine interceptions, and has led the Dolphins to four wins. If that was not bad enough, the Dolphins’ front office went and traded one of their best offensive players away in the middle of the season.
During a season of questionable calls, the Dolphins front office traded running back Jay Ajayi to the Philadelphia Eagles (10-1) right before the trade deadline. For a team that is ranked 30th in yards per game, 22nd in passing yards per game, and 29th in rushing yards per game, it would make more sense to hold onto a player like Ajayi.
Now Miami’s running game consists of a running back by committee with Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams leading the way. These two players have accounted for 381 yards in three games. However Williams dislocated his shoulder in Miami’s Week 12 loss, and so the Dolphins will be forced to lean on Drake against the Broncos this Sunday.
In order for the Dolphins to win the game against the Broncos, their defense will need to create some turnovers. For a team that has only caused five turnovers, the Dolphins may get lucky when the turnover-prone Broncos come to town.
Miami’s defense is ranked 21st in yards allowed per game, 17th in passing yards allowed per game, and 25th in rushing yards allowed per game. This defensive unit is not doing enough to create scoring opportunities off of turnovers, and they’re not getting after the opponents’ quarterback enough, either. The Dolphins have registered just 18 sacks as a team, good for 30th in the league. Fortunately for Miami, the Broncos’ offensive line is awful and Denver has given up 36 sacks on the season. Look for the Dolphins to make some big plays on defense.
Players To Watch
Look for Cameron Wake to have a big game against the Broncos’ offensive line. Wake and Ndamukong Suh should be able to push the Broncos’ line all over the place. While Denver may be able to move the ball on the ground, the pass rush will be too much for the Broncos. The pressure will get to Denver’s starting quarterback, Trevor Siemian, often and will force him to make errant throws. If the Dolphins’ secondary can make some plays, expect a big day from the running backs.
The Broncos’ defensive line will be without Domata Peko Sr. this week, as he will be missing the contest due to a knee injury. The addition of Peko Sr. has helped the Broncos defense stop opposing running backs, so his absence will surely be felt on Sunday; fans should expect a bad rushing defense from Denver.
This matchup between two inept offenses should not make for an interesting game. Whichever team makes the least amount of mistakes will come out on top with a victory. Look for the Dolphins to do just enough to win against the hapless Broncos, 16-9.