1) Continue Creating Scoring Chances
It's amazing when you really look at numbers of these two teams, both on offense and defense. They're almost identical, with the exception of the team records. On offense, both are virtually tied in league rankings when it comes to total yards per game, (Mia - 29th, Den - 27th) passing yards, (Mia - 26th, Den - 23rd). On defense, total passing yards and rushing yards against are within a few spots if each other which puts both teams in the middle of the league. But where they separate is very important, and the Dolphins need to keep it that way this Sunday. Miami has found different ways to score points this season, finding touchdowns on scoop-and-scores coming from the defense, and on special teams. Miami is averaging 28 points per game compared to 20 points per game from Denver. Against the Broncos, you just cannot count on points coming from those two phases, but what I hope continues is that those two groups continue to create scoring chances by winning positive field position. The Miami offense has been excellent in the red zone as of late, and when they have to settle for a field goal, placekicker Jason Sanders has been money! They've also been able to establish balance in the scoring zone, finding different ways to apply stress to a defense. Throwback plays, middle screens and shovel passes have all worked to perfection. If the Dolphins can continue to find creative ways that allow quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to distribute the football using multiple options, this unit will continue to finish drives and score points.
2) Pressure the Pocket
I'm not quite sure if it will be Drew Lock, Jeff Driskel or Brett Rypien starting at quarterback for Denver on Sunday. What I am certain of is whoever's behind center will need to have a firm handle on getting the ball out on time against the consistent pressure from the Dolphins front seven. Miami's defense has done an excellent job of disguising their blitzes, moving along the line of scrimmage and matching that movement with mistake-free coverage giving opposing offenses small windows for success. Identification issues for offensive lineman have led to strip sacks, hurried throws and sometimes defensive scores! Defensive coordinator Josh Boyer has done a terrific job of adding new elements to the pressure schemes every week, and most of the credit should go to the players because they've been able to handle the added workload without busting many assignments. Boyer has also figured out the skillsets of players like Emmanuel Ogbah, Andrew Van Ginkel, Raekwon Davis and Zach Sieler. This has allowed those players to attack both the run game and the pocket, shortening the amount of time the secondary stays in pass coverage. No matter who's playing quarterback for the Broncos, I'm sure he'll have his hands full trying to set the pass protection at the line of scrimmage and protect the ball in the passing game.
3) Win Third Down
I mentioned earlier about how similar the statistics are between these two teams. It even carries over to third-down production on both sides of the ball. Offensively, the Dolphins and the Broncos are tied for 27th at 38.5 percent when trying to convert on third down. The Miami offense must do a very good job on first and second down, getting positive yards and not allowing Denver to dictate the momentum of the game on third and long situations. If rookie running back Salvon Ahmed can continue to use his quickness and vision running the ball early, it will take some of the burden away from Tagovailoa and the passing game. Third down will also be important to watch in this game, especially for the Miami defense because of the altitude in Denver. No matter how much you try to prepare for fatigue, if the Miami defense can't get off of the field on third down, it's going to be a long afternoon. The Dolphins defense have been very good in this area, ranking 3rd in the NFL, allowing just a 33.9 percent conversion rate. Denver has a lot of talent defensively, and rank just behind the Dolphins at 6th in the league. The team that can create positive yards and explosive plays on first and second down will be the team that should win the game. Because if your trying to convert too many third down chances, the numbers just aren't in your favor!