ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — There’s no question the Denver Broncos are struggling mightily, as they currently ride a seven-game losing streak. Coincidentally, their next opponent is nearly in the same boat.
The 4-7 Miami Dolphins have dropped their last five games, taking them from playoff contenders to top-10, maybe even top-5 pick contenders in April’s draft, much like the Broncos.
While this Week 13 matchup will likely have little to do with this year, it could have a major impact in where the two teams end up fighting for draft position next year. Here’s how the Broncos could win, or lose, the game on Sunday.
There’s no doubt that Jarvis Landry is the Dolphins No. 1 receiver no matter what quarterback is in the game—although this week it will be Broncos’ former quarterback, Jay Cutler—as he leads the team in targets (117), receptions (75) and receiving yards (637).
His success directly correlates with the success of the Dolphins, too. In fact, he only needs to have minimal success for his team to win. When Landry has 44 or more receiving yards, the Dolphins are 4-3. However, when he doesn’t, they are 0-4.
On the season, he averages over 57.9 receiving yards per game, but he’s had two 90-plus yard receiving games to skew that number.
Based off this and this alone, Chris Harris Jr. and the rest of the depleted “No Fly Zone”—as Aqib Talib will miss the game due to suspension—will go a long way in determining the outcome of Sunday’s matchup.
The book on beating the Dolphins is simple: score at least 20 points.
When Miami has allowed opposing teams to score 20 points or more, they are a dreadful 1-7. However, when they hold teams to under 20 points, they are 3-0.
Fortunately for Denver, Miami has the third-worst scoring defense, giving up an average of 26.3 points per game. Unfortunately for Denver, the Broncos have only scored 20 points three times this season—in Week 1, Week 2 and Week 9.
Between Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh, the Dolphins are spending over $27 million this season alone on two of their defensive lineman. In their four wins, it has paid off as the two have combined for 6.5 sacks, an average of over 1.5 per game.
However, in their seven losses they’ve only combined for five sacks, an average of only .7 per game—less than half of what they average in their wins. When the big fells up front get going, Miami finds success. When they don’t, the team doesn’t either.
Through the first 11 games of the season, Denver has allowed 36 sacks, an average of 3.3 per game, which is the fourth-most in the NFL.
Only two teams are worse than the Dolphins in taking the ball away from opposing offenses: the Oakland Raiders and the Broncos. However, when the Dolphins do get a rare turnover, they’re more likely to win.
In the six games Miami has forced at least one turnover, they have gone 3-3. In the other four games in which they fail to force a turnover, they’re 1-4.
In Miami’s four wins, they have forced a total of five turnovers, an average of 1.25 per game. However, in their seven losses, they’ve only forced five turnovers, an average of only .7 per game.
Unfortunately for Denver, they aren’t immune to turning the ball over as they have the second-most turnovers in the entire NFL, only falling short of the Cleveland Browns, averaging 2.2 per game. To win, a turnover-free game would greatly help the Broncos—something they’ve done only once.