Broncos vs. Dolphins: 5 Dolphins Who Must Step Up on Sunday
When was the last time a matchup between a 1-4 team and an 0-5 team garnered as much buzz as this weekend's Broncos-Dolphins tilt (Sunday 1pm, CBS)?
I can't think of one.
Usually this is the type of game that's only watched by the truest of diehards of either team, but due to some outside circumstances, this game will be watched by many an NFL fan.
On Denver's side, you have Tebow's first start of the year. With it being Gator day at Sun Life Stadium (home of the University of Miami Hurricanes as well as the Miami Dolphins), Tebow will have a crowd where even some of the Dolfans in attendance will be supportive of him.
I don't have to tell you why, but I will. Gators fans want to see Tebow succeed in the NFL. He's the most popular player to come out of the University of Florida (and likely the most popular player among his alumni base to come out of any University) and with the vast number of Gators fans expected to be in attendance on Sunday, Tebow might at times feel like he's playing in the Swamp against LSU or 'Bama.
Did I say LSU or 'Bama? Sorry, I meant Louisiana-Lafayette or Alabama-Birmingham. The Miami Dolphins have been so terrible this year that, well, this slideshow made up of videos from frustrated fans speaks for itself. As well as the ever-growing "Suck For Luck" movement amongst Dolphins fans that infuriates players such as Karlos Dansby and Jason Taylor.
This game is a must-win for Miami because even their owner, Stephen Ross, pretty much said so. According to the Miami Herald, there's a good possibility that if the Dolphins lose on Sunday, Sparano could be fired.
Sparano's biggest asset though, is the fact that the players believe in him. If they do, they're going to have to step it up against the Broncos.
Now, I could very well have made this "52 Dolphins Who Must Step Up on Sunday" but you don't have time to really read that. But there are five players that, if they show up to play, will lead the Dolphins to a victory.
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
In all of the pre-game hoopla I mentioned in the intro slide, one thing I didn't mention was that this was Brandon Marshall's first game against his former team.
So does he plan on trying to get kicked out of this game too? I hope so, I'd rather Marshall be ejected than do this again.
The Broncos are ranked 22nd against the pass, and Marshall did put up decent numbers against the likes of Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie.
Andre' Goodman and Syd'Quan Thompson are no Revis and Cromartie.
So to go along with the six receptions and 109 yards Marshall put up last week, can we please have a touchdown added to the mix?
And no drops in the red zone, and no running out of bounds, please.
Nick Laham/Getty Images
When he's healthy, Daniel Thomas has been enjoyable to watch.
Against Cleveland and Houston, Thomas was the Dolphins' lone bright spot. It helps that he's a rookie, because thus far, other than Long and Pouncey, he's the only player on offense I'd like to see back next season.
But staying healthy has been a problem for him. He's already missed two games with his bum hamstring, and the injury also limited him on Monday night against the Jets (15 carries, 47 yards).
On Sunday, Thomas will take on a Denver defense ranked 23rd against the run. The Broncos have allowed an average of 123.4 yards a game on the ground, so if there's any team to get on the right track against, it's them.
Also of note, Reggie Bush will likely be limited due to his groin and neck injuries, meaning Thomas will have to shoulder more of the load with the Dolphins' ground attack.
Marc Serota/Getty Images
Dansby has been quite vocal in his criticism of the "Suck For Luck" campaign.
But I'm pretty sure that most of the Suck for Luck-ers aren't asking for Karlos Dansby to tank.
They just want you and the defense to continue playing the way you've played all year.
Denver's offense is going to ride mostly on Tebow's legs and arm, the same arm that against San Diego two weeks ago threw for, are you ready for this, 4 of 10 for 79 yards.
Of course, Tebow will make plays, and must be contained.
Now Karlos, this is where you come in. If you don't want the fans to join the "Suck For Luck" campaign, it will be in your best interest to be a leader for this team on defense. Knock down some passes, looking at how Tebow throws, you'll not only know where the pass is going to go (his mechanics are still terrible, and even if you're a fan of his, which I somewhat am despite my Hurricane loyalties, you can't deny that), but the ball will be thrown badly enough to where you should be able to at least get a hand on it if it goes your way.
The Dolphins defense should force plenty of third-and-longs, but stopping them has been a problem all season. This starts with Dansby and his leadership. He must step up and get key stops.
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
I feel the worst for him.
Cameron Wake is one of the few Parcells/Ireland/Sparano-era success stories, and is in a contract year. He should become one of the highest paid DE/LB's during next off-season.
However, a Dolphins defense that he's been the best player on is costing him at least $2 million in guarantees.
However, while Wake has been quiet, that's been because the opposing teams key in on him, and for good reason. Wake is still a threat, but nobody else is.
However, this Sunday, he'll face a team who's greatest chance at avoiding sacks is the athleticism of their quarterback.
Wake can keep up with Tebow, and must keep up with Tebow.
If he does that, Miami will have victory number one.
Vontae Davis/Sean Smith
Jason Miller/Getty Images
I cheated and named two players here, because both are equally important to the Dolphins on Sunday.
Brandon Lloyd is no longer a Denver Bronco. He got shipped to St. Louis last week, meaning Denver's number one receiver is now Eric Decker.
Decker has been decent thus far this year, but he's not someone that puts fear into your secondary's eyes.
On top of that, who's starting at quarterback? Oh yeah, that's right, the guy with bad throwing mechanics who occasionally throws up a dying quail pass.
Some of those passes might wind up in the arms of Sean Smith and Vontae Davis.
Problem is, no matter how bad the throw or how catchable it is for either of these two guys, it slips out of their hands.
So Sean, Vontae, do the Dolphins, and your embattled coach whom you guys supposedly like, a favor and, um,
CATCH THE FREAKING BALL!
If they do that, it could lead to good things for the Dolphins.
Today (well the day this is published) is my birthday.
I'm only mentioning that because with my birthday being in October, it usually means there's a Dolphins game sometime around there.
Now the last time the Dolphins played on my birthday was in 2007 against the New England Patriots.
I don't remember the final score, only that Welker torched us, Ronnie (who, if you remember, in 2007 started off the season on fire) got hurt, and the Patriots won.
How sad is it that here we are four years later, and the Dolphins are back to where they were on October 21, 2007?
See, this is why I support "Suck For Luck." This is why I'd like to see Ireland and Sparano gone. Any team can have a bad season, it's the way that they emerge from it that tells the story.
And while Miami did have some success along the way (winning the AFC East in 2008), they're still in the same place now that they were then.
That, my friends, is pathetic with a capital P.
I've changed in those four years since, and so have most of you readers. We've changed presidents, NFL rules, the Dolphins changed coaches and even changed owners.
But in four years, no change on the field? Nothing?
I'll take the 2007 team over this current one. They did have a tougher schedule, and were legitimately bit by the injury bug. Don't get me wrong, they were terrible, but at the very least we didn't see the arrogance surrounding the team that we do today.
When you make the fans miss the former administration, one that went 1-15, you know you're doing a poor job.
I even miss Wayne Huizinga, and wish he'd buy the team back (which he probably could at a discount). Anything would be better than this current mess.
So I leave you with some positivity, a look back at what we used to be, Dan Marino's last playoff victory against the Seattle Seahawks.