DAVIE, FL. — After their feel-good win over the Buffalo Bills last Thursday, the Miami Dolphins have taken advantage of the extra time to prepare for the challenges they now face on the road against the Denver Broncos.
In addition to the normal routine of scouting their opponent and fine-tuning their schemes, the Dolphins must also adjust to a big drop in temperature and an even bigger rise in altitude Sunday.
To start the acclimation process, head coach Joe Philbin had the temperature inside the team’s practice bubble at their training facility in Davie reduced at Tuesday’s practice in an attempt to simulate the weather in Denver. The Dolphins have not dealt with anything close to Sunday’s game-time forecasted temperature (mid-30s) this season.
The coldest game they played this year was in Chicago on Oct. 29 when it was in the mid-50s. Since 2009, the Dolphins have compiled a 11-10 record on the road in outdoor games played in temperatures colder than 56 degrees, according to data from NFLweather.com.
Philbin said the cold could be a factor but that his players can only manage what happens out on the field.
"I talked to the team," he said. "I looked up something on the computer last night and the altitude is anywhere from 5,690 to 5,300 feet based on maybe where you are in the city. It may be a factor. The temperature is projected to be 34 degrees, I mentioned that to the team. I also mentioned that those are things we really don’t control. They’re not moving earth to lower the altitude and the weather will be what the weather is. My point to the team was let’s control what we control and that’s how well we prepare for this game and what effort we bring to the game and the attitude we bring to the game."
After practice concluded, some players such as safety Reshad Jones downplayed the idea that a drastic change in the weather would have an adverse affect on the team.
"I don’t think so," he said. "At the end of the day, it’s football. You can’t worry about the weather. I know the coaches (don’t) want to hear about the altitude or if it’s cold. We’re still going to have to go out and play football."
With South Florida’s high temperatures and humidity an issue for visiting opponents, the Dolphins can’t afford to dismiss the change in conditions as not an important factor. Still, the team won’t be traveling early to Denver to help cope with the altitude and will fly there Saturday as is customary for road games. Philbin said Tuesday that the information he has gathered on this issue indicated it wouldn’t help much because the body needs more time to truly acclimate.
Nevertheless, defensive tackle Jared Odrick — who is from Pennsylvania and went to Penn State — understands it isn’t something to treat lightly, though he’s looking forward to the challenge. In fact, Odrick claimed to have spent time in Utah the prior weekend in part to help prepare for Sunday’s clash against the Broncos.
"Any time we can simulate the conditions that we’re going to be in or things we’re going to face … it’s definitely to our benefit," he said. "I’m always excited to play in cold weather games — it’s where I’m from in terms of just the weather. When you’re in the cold, you feel that much more alive because your body alerts and starts shivering. It’s definitely an atmosphere I’m looking forward to. It’s going to be cold. We’ve played in cold weather games before, and we’ve fared well. So we’re going to have to do that again and we’re going to have to be at the top of our game to do it in Denver."
Against an opponent eager to bounce back from a bitter 22-7 road loss to the St. Louis Rams last Sunday, Odrick is more concerned with his team matching the Broncos’ intensity than where they play.
"The thing is, both teams have to play in the cold, both teams have to execute and both teams have to play in the conditions," he said. "So no matter what happens, it’s still a matter of team-on-team executing and players executing to win ball games."
With the Dolphins on the playoff bubble at 6-4 and currently in seventh place in the AFC, every player understands the significance of building on their solid performance against the Bills and getting a victory to stay in the race.
"It’s a game we’ve got to win," said cornerback Brent Grimes. "We’re going into a tough place against a tough team. We’ve got to play a great game to beat them. That’s what the message is — nothing more and nothing else. It’s a great team we’re about to play."