Sunday we find out if the Miami Dolphins are a playoff contender, or pretender at Denver.

By Jesse Kage

This is technically not an elimination game for Miami at Denver, yet the importance of a win here can’t be understated, as it could mean the world to the team as the season plays out in relation to the Wild Card race.

The Fins, they currently hold multiple tie breakers over the Bengals on virtue of a better conference record, the Chargers due to the 37-0 ass kicking on Nov. 2, the Steelers, Browns AND Texans based on conference record and the Buffalo Bills by virtue of their divisional record! That is all warm and fuzzy, but the playoffs are still a ways off and the Fins must, MUST continue to win to stay in position. If they finished the final 6 games with victories, they would be guaranteed a pass into post season play. That’s a neat thought, but with the Ravens, Pats, and Broncos on the slate, that won’t be easy. They also have the lowly Jets twice and the Vikings hit Miami Dec. 21st., although those are far less frightening, you never know with these Dolphins.

But the road starts this Sunday in Denver at 4:25pm est., and the Fins are getting no love from Vegas, despite having the Number 2 ranked D in the entire NFL, only second to Detroit. Vegas sees The Horsey’s as a 7 1/2 point favorite. Justified? Well let’s take a look…

Denver played their worst game of the year last week against the Rams losing 7-22. Is that just a quick mishap for the Broncos, or a sign of things to come? History would say Peyton and his Ponies will rebound as Manning is 7-1 after a loss since joining the Broncos, and those wins have been impressive coming by 29, 11, 24, 7, 24, 21 and 24. But, this Broncos team is beat up as Ball (RB), Sanders (WR) and Thomas (TE) are ALL questionable and Hillman (RB) is OUT for Sunday. But, Mile High is always an advantage.

Various match-ups will determine the outcome. Denver’s pass rush Vs. the Fins pass protection sticks out as a big one as Miami’s front has been shuffled again due to big Brandon Albert going down a few weeks ago. Can the line continue to gel and keep DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller, who have a combined 19 sacks this season at bay?! Look for Miami to get Miller, who says his shoulder was not a factor last week, and Wiliams active early to keep them on their heels and unable to pin their ears back.

BUT, this is a two way street as the Denver O line is “Horrendous” according to former Broncos lineman and current ESPN analyst Mark Schereth. And we know, as previously mentioned Miami’s D is the strength of this Fin squad. Wake and Vernon should have a field day on the outside as Starks and Peter King’s “best defensive lineman nobody talks about” Jared Odrick, should be able to handle their business and get pressure from the interior. Even without Finnegan suiting up in the defensive back field this weekend, you have to be confident in the way Jamar Taylor played last week and well on the other side it’s Brent “Optimus” Grimes. If the front end can get the pressure and get in Manning’s face, could we see Peyton force a few more balls for possible picks?

Look, Denver will score. Peyton, even if he throws a few picks, will score more than he did last week. Can Ryan Tannehill continue his growth and match the future Hall Of Famer? He will be the key. If he plays up to his potential much like he did in the Chargers and second Bills game the Fins will have a chance in Denver, if he falters and is unable to guide his team to finish drives like he did against the Lions or Packers, it could be a long day.

Now I put on my “Orange colored glasses” and see how this plays out. Miami needs this win just as bad as Denver does. Miami has won 7 of the last 10 against the Broncos, although that is without Manning at the helm so that does indeed make a massive difference for this match-up. I think ultimately Tannehill does just enough and the Fins defense will be the difference here as the FINS steal an upset 24-23!

Enjoy the game and #FinsUp!

Follow Jesse Kage on Twitter @JesseKage