THE CRYSTAL BALL

The Dolphins could make a major statement with a victory at Denver Sunday night, perhaps even bigger than the one they made with their 26-13 victory over New England last weekend. Can they do it? Here's how we think the game will unfold.

The Dolphins went into Denver three years ago and beat the Broncos in a Monday night game, so there is a good precedent here.

But this Denver team is different, simply because it looks much better defensively.

The Broncos totally shut down San Diego running back LaDainian Tomlinson last Sunday, so there's reason for concern about Ricky Williams' ability to get a lot of yards. But the point must be made that Williams is a different type of running back than Tomlinson, who is quicker but not nearly as powerful.

Look for Williams to compile numbers similar to what he had against New England — about 30 carries for around 100 yards.

There is little doubt that Jay Fiedler will have to make some plays in the passing game, and the Dolphins would be smart to go deep a couple of times because they should be able to exploit the Denver secondary.

The Dolphins offense has scored 21 points or more in every game this season, and although Denver might have the best defense they've faced so far, Miami should be able to put up around 20 points in this one.

On the other side of the ball, the Dolphins have shut down the run since being burned by Edgerrin James and the pass defense has been fine except for the disaster at Kansas City.

The tight end killed the Dolphins in that game, which becomes a concern because Shannon Sharpe is a terrific pass catcher.

But the Dolphins pass defense simply isn't the same without Patrick Surtain.

Coach Dave Wannstedt has made the point that these teams are almost identical, so it would only make sense that this will be a very close game.

He also has said that he's already told Olindo Mare a couple of times after missed field goals that the game would come down to a field goal and Mare would make it.

Don't be surprised if that time comes Sunday night. It's that close a matchup.

The call: Dolphins 20, Broncos 17.


Dolphins Report Top Stories