MINNEAPOLIS -- A victory today?
More than making the Dolphins 2-0 and keeping them in first place in the AFC East no matter what happens elsewhere in the NFL, it would catapult this team we know so much and yet so little about into a state of legitimacy.
Miami beats the team that went to the NFC title game a year ago and you have to believe that is a pretty good team.
Some keys to the game:
Inactives: Chad Pennington is the No. 3 QB. Why is that interesting? He was the No. 2 QB last week. All this means is the Dolphins are allowing themselves the option of using Tyler Thigpen as a spread option QB today. The other Miami inactives are Roberto Wallace, Nolan Carroll, Channing Crowder, Jared Odrick, Ikaika Alama-Francis, Lydon Murtha and Jermey Parnell.
Jake Long versus Jared Allen: I do not expect a shutout by Long. It's hard to expect that when the guy opposing him is a classic 4-3 DE of the highest order. Allen is stud. He's strong, he's quick, he's experienced and he's always seemingly motivated, meaning he doesn't take plays off. Long is similarly a stud. Today will measure exactly how healthy Long is following that knee injury in the preseason finale.
Brandon Marshall's day: I am sitting here two hours before the game and not many playes are on the field yet. Marshall is on the field. He's warming up his hips. He's practicing catching all sorts of passes -- over his head, too low, one-handed, Scene interesting perhaps only to me: Marshall is not catching those passes from Chad Henne. He's catching them from a trainer type. Henne is on the field about 20 yards away and he's throwing passes and working with Davone Bess. Fact is Henne has spoken more with former Dolphins WR Greg Camarillo on the field the past 30 minutes than he has with Marshall. Interesting.
[Update: Marshall eventually finished his regimen and came over to where Henne and Bess were working out routes and started working with them, too.]
Henne versus Brett Favre: It cannot be a blowout here, folks. We cannot have Favre throwing three TDs and 1 INT and have Henne deliver a stat line like he did last week -- zero TDs, zero INTs -- and expect the Dolphins to win. If you have not read it yet, I wrote my Sunday column on Henne and the message the Dolphins give him over, and over and over. It can be something of a confusing message, if you ask me because the Dolphins want Henne to do two things that aren't necessarily opposites -- throw TDs and not throw INTS. To throw TDs, you see, you almost always have to live with some interceptions. The Dolphins have drilled Hennes so much on not throwing INTs, it makes me wonder if he can be a big TD passer anytime in the future.
Alrightie, that's quite a bit to digest before the live blog begins at kickoff. Come back here for all the pregame updates. And let's meet in the comments section for the live blog.