For the first time this season, a Miami Dolphins home game has some actual buzz surrounding it. The source of that buzz is not the Dolphins, though, but Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, starting in the state where he won two NCAA titles with the Florida Gators.
Indeed, Dolphins fans seem more interested in debating the merits of the Dolphins' decision to honor Tebow's 2008 Florida Gators championship at halftime on Sunday.
Even so, Sunday's game could be Miami's best chance to win a game this season. It will certainly be one of the few games in which the Dolphins will be favored. But nothing is guaranteed in the NFL, and the Dolphins will have to do many things right to pull out a win on Sunday.
And win they better if Tony Sparano does not want to face yet another week of questions regarding his job security.
When the Dolphins have the ball: Miami is banged up on offense. Reggie Bush and Brandon Marshall both missed practice this week (both said they were fine on Thursday, though), and Daniel Thomas' hamstring could explode at any moment. Starting quarterback Matt Moore was not terrible on Monday against the Jets, but he was clearly out of sync with his receivers, overthrowing and throwing behind them on more than a few occasions.
Once again, the key for Miami will be finding a way to convert red-zone opportunities into touchdowns, something they have been horrible at so far this season. The Broncos have given up more points per game than all but one team this year, and their defense is an equal-opportunity weakness. The Broncos are in the bottom 10 in both rush and pass defense, and opposing quarterbacks have thrown for 10 touchdowns against only three interceptions through five games.
Denver DE Elvis Dumervil is back from a pectoral injury that kept him sidelined for all of 2010, and he is beginning to return to his 2009 All-Pro form. Two weeks ago against San Diego, Dumervil recorded 9 quarterback pressures on 36 rushes, according to Pro Football Focus. Dolphins LT Jake Long will have his hands full on Sunday.
When the Broncos have the ball: Tim Tebow gets the start at quarterback for Denver, and that is glorious news as far as the Dolphins' secondary is concerned. You see, Tim Tebow, for all his intangibles and heart, throws the football with the accuracy of a drunk geriatric. This plays right into the hands of the Dolphins defense, who have had a much better go at stopping the run than stopping the pass this year.
Tebow will be without WR Brandon Lloyd, who was traded to St. Louis this week, but Demaryius Thomas and Eddie Royal could both return to the Broncos lineup. Denver has given up 12 turnovers in five games, but 7 of those came on Kyle Orton interceptions. With Orton out of the starting lineup, the Broncos hope this trend will change.
Former Cane Willis McGahee is quietly revitalizing his career in Denver this season, averaging 4.5 yards per carry and leading the team in yards from scrimmage. Expect the Dolphins to stack the line of scrimmage and dare Tebow to beat them with his arm.
Who has the edge? This is a winnable game if Miami can manage not to shoot itself in the foot (say, by not targeting the other team's All-Pro cornerback 14 times, as they did against Darrelle Revis and the Jets). Tebow is far from an accurate passer, and if the Dolphins can prevent him from scrambling it is hard to see Denver moving the ball very well. Denver's defense may be bad enough to let even the Dolphins in the end zone.
Condescending criticism of "Suck for Luck" contingent of the week: "You know, nothing amazes me anymore. You see so many asinine things that are said and talked about nowadays. Me even acknowledging it is kind of condoning the stupidity but it is what it is." -Jason Taylor
The Pick: Miami 26-Denver 10
Details: Denver Broncos (1-4) at Miami Dolphins (0-5)
TV: CBS 1:00 p.m., Kevin Harlan, Solomon Wilcots
Line: Dolphins by 1.5
Previously: Dolphins won 26-17 at Denver in 2008