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Dolphins brace for Denver

The Dolphins celebrated Saturday's 24-17 AFC wild-card win against Buffalo for about 24 hours.

Then they received chilling news _ they are headed to Denverto play the defending Super Bowl champion Broncos Saturday at 4:05 p.m.

The Dolphins historically struggle in cold weather, especially in the playoffs. They lost last season at New England and lost to Buffalo in '95, both times in freezing conditions.

The temperature never reached double digits in Denver on Sunday.

"We're not accustomed to the cold weather," coach Jimmy Johnson said. "We don't like it, and we don't practice in it. We don't live in it and we don't want to live in it."

The Dolphins might not like the cold weather, but they probably are going to have to deal with it if they're to win a road playoff game for the first time since 1972. Since beating Pittsburgh 21-17 for the AFC title, they're 0-6, excluding Super Bowls.

And in addition to the cold and the hostile fans, Miami must beat a team bent on revenge.

The Dolphins were one of two teams to beat the Broncos this season, winning 31-21 on Dec. 21.

But because the Broncos had clinched home-field advantage _ and had no chance of a perfect season thanks to a loss a week earlier _ the Dolphins aren't convinced Denver played with much fire.

The Broncos have plenty of motivation now.

"We'll see the defending Super Bowl champions at their best," Dolphins defensive end Trace Armstrong said. "We'll see a different team than the one we saw a few weeks ago."

Added Johnson: "Denver has a great football team, and obviously playing at Mile High Stadium will be a lot different than what we faced at Pro Player Stadium.

"They're outstanding at home, and as defending Super Bowl champions, they know what it takes to win in the playoffs."

The Dolphins won't go to Denver healthy.

Defensive tackle Tim Bowens tore a tendon in his right biceps and is out for the rest of the playoffs. The team's best run defender falls out of the lineup as his team prepares to face the NFL's only 2,000-yard rusher this season, Terrell Davis.

Leading receiver O.J. McDuffie (sprained foot), tight end Troy Drayton (sprained ankle) and long snapper Frank Wainright (sprained shoulder) could miss the Denver game. Tackle Richmond Webb (torn arm tendon) and guard Kevin Donnalley (sore knee) played Saturday, but might miss practice time this week.

"We're banged up, but then again, everybody's banged up at this point of the season," Johnson said. "If you come up short now, your season's over with."

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