INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts (5-5) have yet another critical matchup staring them in the face this Sunday when they play host to the Miami Dolphins (5-5).
Both teams sit at 5-5, fighting for a playoff spot. The current placeholders in the No. 6-10 spots in the AFC playoff standings are all 5-5 — the Colts at No. 9 and the Dolphins at No. 8.
The top five teams all hold a 7-3 record or better, so the Colts need to continue stacking wins in order to catch up.
Here is a quick look at the visitors from South Beach.
The Dolphins spent Week 11 on a bye, which benefits them since they now get starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill back in the lineup after he missed the last five games with a right shoulder injury.
In Miami's last game before the bye in Week 10, they lost a lopsided affair to the Green Bay Packers, 31-12.
The passing game, led by Tannehill's replacement Brock Osweiler, struggled as he was brought down for six sacks and turned the ball over twice. Osweiler threw for 213 yards and a 5.8 yards per attempt average for a 66.6 passer rating and 8.7 ESPN QBR. Both ratings were second to last among starting quarterbacks.
Running backs Frank Gore and Kenyan Drake both performanced respectfully, accumulating 140 yards of offense on 25 touches (5.6 avg).
The Dolphins defense kept Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers relatively in check, sacking him twice and hitting him four times, but it was Aaron Jones who ran wild. The second-year back had a breakout game, touching the ball 18 times for 172 yards (9.6 avg) and two touchdowns.
The Colts are hot as can be after winning four straight games and averaging 36 points per game over the last five.
The Dolphins' defense ranks near the bottom of the league in several run-based categories. The Colts have had some recent success in the run game, rushing for an average of 189.7 yards per game between Weeks 6-8.
If the Colts are able to establish the run like the numbers would indicate then it could also open up the play-action passing game for the Colts, resulting in deep shots downfield.
The Dolphins' defense also ranks poorly in some big-pass-play categories. They are tied for the third-most pass plays of 40-plus yards given up (nine) as well as 35 pass plays of 20-plus yards. Overall, they rank 27th in passing yards per attempt allowed (8.1).
With the Colts having multiple offensive weapons who can make plays in any zone of the field, they could definitely find success in this area.
Defensively, the Colts get a quarterback who may be rusty in Tannehill. In the fives games he has played, he has only exceeded 200 passing yards in two of them. He has, however, thrown for eight touchdowns compared to five interceptions.
Tannehill will have to try and succeed without the services of receivers Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant, both of whom saw their seasons end prematurely recently due to injuries. DeVante Parker's status for Sunday is also up in the air.
The Colts know all about what Gore can do on the ground, as the 35-year-old running back returns to play in Indianapolis for the first time since spending the 2015-17 seasons here. Gore also has an electric partner in Miami's backfield, with Drake touching the ball 279 times for 1,493 yards (5.4 avg) and scoring nine touchdowns since the beginning of last season.
Miami's offense should definitely keep Colts linebackers Darius Leonard and Anthony Walker busy on Sunday.
2018 KEY STATS
- 10th in turnover differential (+4)
- 26th in scoring (19.9 PPG)
- 28th in total offense (313.6 YPG)
- 28th in third-down offense (33%)
- 28th in time of possession (28:48)
- 32nd in red-zone scoring (40%)
- 32nd in rushing touchdowns (3)
- 2nd in interceptions (15)
- 3rd in fourth-down defense (30%)
- Tied for 5th in takeaways (19)
- 27th in total defense (392.3 YPG)
- Tied for 27th in passing yards per attempt (8.1)
- 29th in sacks (17)
- Tied for 29th in 40-yard pass plays allowed (9)
- 30th in run defense (142.0 YPG), tied for 30th in 20-yard run plays allowed (12), tied for 28th in 40-yard run plays allowed (3), tied for 25th in yards per carry allowed (4.8) and 29th in average carries against (29.3)