No Marino. No Elway.<P>It's almost strange to think of the Dolphins facing the Denver Broncos without either of these future Hall of Famers involved, but that's just what will happen Sunday afternoon at Pro Player Stadium.<P>But even without Marino and Elway, the focus nonetheless will be on the quarterbacks.

The Denver quarterback is no stranger to Miami, as Brian Griese returns to the city where his father put together a Hall of Fame career.

And even though Jay Fiedler played well last week against the Bills, the Dolphins quarterback has faced criticism this year for his mistakes. Similarly, the Broncos have struggled this year because of injuries to Ed McCaffrey (broke his leg in the first game of the year) and the running back position (Terrell Davis and Olandis Gary).

Even so, these two teams come into the game with records that have them thinking playoffs.

WHO: Miami Dolphins (7-3) vs. Denver Broncos (6-5)

WHERE: Pro Player Stadium; Miami, Fla.


TELEVISION: CBS (Greg Gumbel, play-by-play; Phil Simms, color; Armen Keteyian, sidelines)

LINE: Miami by 3

COACHES: Denver — Mike Shanahan (7th year with Denver); Miami, Dave Wannstedt (2nd year with Miami)

SERIES RECORD: The Dolphins lead 7-3-1

LAST MEETING: 1999 at Denver; Dolphins 38, Broncos 21

INJURIES: Dolphins — Mark Dixon (ankle), Daryl Gardener (back) are out; Rob Konrad (shoulder), Sam Madison (shoulder), Brian Walker (thumb) are questionable; Lorenzo Bromell (ankle), Spencer Folau (back), Oronde Gadsden (shoulder), Ernest Grant (shoulder), Jermaine Haley (thumb), J.J. Johnson (quad), Todd Perry (knee), Tim Ruddy (knee), Twan Russell (hand), Lamar Smith (shoulder) are probable.

Broncos — Keith Poole (ribs) is doubtful; Rod Smith (ankles), Bert Berry (shoulder) are questionable; Terrell Davis (knee), Matt Lepsis (knee), Deltha O'Neal (knee), Scott Montgomery (knee), Kevin Kasper (ankle), Dan Neil (ankle) are probable.


Dolphins G Heath Irwin vs Broncos DL Trevor Pryce— Irwin, starting in place of injured Mark Dixon, will have his job cut out for him when he matches up against the Broncos' best defensive lineman.

Dolphins' pass defense vs Rod Smith — If Smith plays (injured ankles), look out. He is leading the league in receptions with 82 and already has over 1,000 yards. He is a fast, strong and smart player who knows how to get open and give QB Brian Griese a receiver to throw to. The Dolphins should be bolstered by the return of Sam Madison from injury, but if he cannot play, look for the Broncos to match Smith up on rookie DB Jamar Fletcher often.

Dolphins QB Jay Fiedler vs Jay Fiedler— Fiedler can be a very good quarterback if he plays smart and eliminates the turnovers, as we saw last week against Buffalo. The Broncos have an opportunistic CB in Deltha O'Neal (7 INTs) who will sit back and wait for Fiedler to slip up and make a mistake. The Dolphins cannot beat themselves in this game and it has to start with Fiedler.

WHEN THE DOLPHINS HAVE THE BALL: The Broncos have a solid defense, but the Dolphins should be able to exploit some of the weaknesses in the Broncos' secondary this week. Look for the Fins to go deep to their talented corps of receivers several times. If they have success through the air, look for them to try to bring a struggling ground game along also. It seems like we say it every week, but the Dolphins still want to try to get Lamar Smith and the offensive line back on track. The loss of Mark Dixon hurts that effort tremendously, but the coaching staff has confidence that Heath Irwin can step in and play well.

WHEN THE BRONCOS HAVE THE BALL: The offensive game plan for Denver all depends on whether Rod Smith can go. He figures to be a game-time decision. Denver has a talented group of athletes on offense with QB Brian Griese and RBs Mike Anderson and Terrell Davis, who should be making his return to the starting lineup from an injured knee. Look for the Broncos to spread the ball around to all of these weapons and try to confuse the Miami defense.

BOTTOM LINE: The Dolphins are returning home from Buffalo feeling good about their chances in this game. Although the running game continues to struggle, the passing game is coming along nicely, and if the offense can reduce the number of turnovers, they will put up points against this Denver defense. If Denver's Rod Smith cannot play, look for the Dolphins to stack the line of scrimmage and take away the Broncos' running attack. If that happens, watch out. The Dolphins' D will have a big day because Griese will have no one to throw to and the defense will be swarming at the Pro.

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