It says everything about Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow's stature that Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins, featuring teams with a combined 1-9 record, is so anticipated simply because it is his first since being handed the starting job.

The former Heisman Trophy-winning leader of a great University of Florida team was named the new starting quarterback for the Broncos after replacing Kyle Orton against San Diego last week.

Coming into that game after the half, Tebow threw for 79 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 37 yards and another touchdown, providing instant energy that almost created a comeback win.

He is clean-cut, athletic and a practicing Christian -- all of which help his appeal -- but his popularity is also as much to do with his evident passion for the game, an approach that seems to be rooted in another era of American football.

Tebow started three games at the end of last season when the campaign was already well over for Denver and in various appearances in 12 NFL games he has passed for six touchdowns and run for seven.

Skeptics doubted whether Tebow had the ability to make the switch from the free-style, running and improvising approach he took, with spectacular results for the Florida Gators, to the more rigid, pocket-passing demands of the professional game.

However, it has been hard to judge when he has been restricted to cameo appearances.

I believe that I've improved, Tebow told reporters this week. Every day is a learning opportunity for me and I'm trying to get a little better every day.

(I'm) constantly working on things, improving my decision making, my accuracy, my footwork and overall just leadership. Those are the main things I've been focusing on.


Now he has been named as a starter, with all that entails in terms of preparation, and is up against a winless Dolphins team, there is a chance to assess more accurately whether the clean-cut, all-American boy has the right stuff for the NFL.

Such was Tebow's popularity at Gainesville, the Northern Florida campus town where he played, that thousands of Gator fans are expected to take the five-hour drive south to Miami for the game.

Many of those fans have already been encouraged by the Dolphins, who had already deemed Sunday's game an appreciation day for the 2008 national-championship winning Florida team that Tebow led.

It will be a strange atmosphere in the Miami stadium with so many fans rooting for the opposition quarterback -- as well as the inevitable mass media attention that follows Tebow.

Not that Tebow is likely to be fazed by the occasion.

Something I learned in my freshman year at Florida is to only worry about what I can control because if you worry about the rest of it it's honestly going to give you a lot of anxiety and it won't help you at all, he said.

That's kind of been my philosophy and kind of stuck to it.

Elsewhere the league's only unbeaten team, Super Bowl champions the Green Bay Packers, are at the Minnesota Vikings in one of the league's sharpest rivalries.

The New Orleans Saints hope to bounce back from last week's loss at Tampa when they host the winless Indianapolis Colts, who are suffering a nightmare season without their starting quarterback Peyton Manning.