Miami Dolphins (6-4 SU, 6-4 ATS) vs. Denver Broncos (7-3 SU, 5-5 ATS)
NFL Week 12
Date and Time: Thursday, November 23, 2014 at 4:25 p.m. EST
Where: Sports Authority Field at Mile High
TV: CBS, DTV 716
by Vesper Abadon, Pro Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Mia +7 / Den -7
Over/Under Total: 48.5
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Not long ago everyone expected the Denver Broncos to easily roll over the Miami Dolphins, but the events of Week 11 have changed some minds. That is when the Dolphins put in a good showing to defeat the Buffalo Bills 22-9 on Thursday Night Football and the Broncos suffered their third loss of the season by losing 7-22 to the St. Louis Rams.
Lets start with the Broncos. The Rams defense effectively pressured Peyton Manning, who went 34 of 54 for 389 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. That ended Mannings 15-game streak of throwing at least two touchdowns. The Rams also shutdown the Broncos lackluster run game, holding them to 28 rushing yards.
Another reason the Broncos struggled were injuries to both wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and tight end Julius Thomas. The former suffered a concussion against the Rams and is questionable for Week 12, while the latter is day-to-day after injuring his ankle. Both could very well sit out against the Dolphins.
That said, the Broncos enter Week 12 with the third-ranked offense averaging 412.9 yard per game (YPG). That includes 323 passing YPG (2nd) and 89.9 rushing YPG (27th). Defensively the Broncos are ranked fifth holding opponents to an average of 316.4 total YPG (243 Passing YPG; 73.4 rushing YPG).
As for the Dolphins, they have the 16th-ranked offense averaging 348.4 total YPG, which includes 221.1 passing YPG (22nd) and 127.3 rushing YPG (6th). Defensively the Dolphins hold opponents to an average of 302.5 total YPG (2nd), which includes 208 passing YPG and 94.5 YPG.
Now, if the Rams defense was able to pressure Manning, the Dolphins should be able to do the same. Their front seven, led by Cameron Wake, have terrorized opposing quarterbacks all season, which in turn has allowed Brent Grimes and the rest of the secondary to thrive; in fact, the Dolphins are second best against the pass behind the Kansas City Chiefs.
That secondary could be a huge factor in the game especially if Sanders and Thomas arent ready to go. If thats the case, the Dolphins will be able to focus their efforts on keeping Demaryius Thomas in check. As the Rams proved, Manning struggles a bit without his usual cast of characters, and rest assured the Broncos will be relying solely on his arm as they have one of the worst run games in the league. Id be shocked if they get it going against Miamis staunch defense.
However, even if Miamis defense is able to contain Manning, theyll need their offense to step up. Thatll be easier said than done though as the Broncos are no slouches in the defense department; in fact, they have the leagues best run defense, which will make it difficult for Lamar Miller to get things going.
Like the Broncos, the Dolphins will lean on their quarterback. Ryan Tannehill has steadily improved over the season and is currently the 14th-ranked QB in the league having gone 231 of 353 for 2,354 yards, 17 touchdowns, and seven interceptions, good for a rating of 92.2.
Tannehill has been most effective when he spreads out the ball, which hes been doing effectively to receivers like Mike Wallace (44 receptions for 557 yards and six touchdowns), rookie Jarvis Landry (42 receptions for 400 yards and three touchdowns), and tight end Charles Clay (39 receptions for 346 yards and two touchdowns).
Denvers secondary is ranked 17th in the NFL, so there is potential for Tannehill and company to have a big day.
Vespers Pick to Cover the Point Spread:Like most everyone else, I initially called this game in favor of the Broncos. However, after what happened in Week 11, Im not so sure. In fact, if neither Sanders nor Thomas are ready to go, Id side the Dolphins. Removing two of the Broncos biggest threats only makes the Dolphins defense that much stronger.
Not knowing whether or not theyll play makes this a hard one to call. Im going out on a limb and predicting an upset in Denver. Having played the Thursday night game, the Dolphins have had some extra time to both rest and prepare, plus theyve been spotted a +7 cushion. I look for the Dolphins to cover the spread, but given both teams defenses I dont like them to cover the over. Bet the under on 48.5.