Two 4-3 teams vying for an AFC wild-card berth (in Week 9!) face off in Indianapolis. Last season, the Miami Dolphins and Indianapolis Colts were fighting for the No. 1 draft spot. Now they’re back in the playoff hunt courtesy of their rookie quarterbacks.
SI's Peter King details how these two quarterbacks have turned these teams around:
Andrew Luck has been as good as advertised, dragging the Colts offense out of the doldrums and back in the league’s Top 10. On the other side, Miami’s Ryan Tannehill has justified his high draft selection in a mere seven games. Tannehill, if he plays, will have a chip on his shoulder facing Luck and company, but the defenses will likely be a large part of the story.
The Dolphins defense has catapulted itself into the “league’s best” conversation, mainly due to its No. 1-ranked run defense. Cameron Wake and Randy Starks lead the charge that will attempt to make Luck’s day a living nightmare.
Luck hopes that his pass-rushing teammates can make a similar impact to help him out; the Colts will have both Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis back healthy for this AFC showdown.
Scroll down for spread info, fantasy plays and game predictions.
When: Sunday, November 4 at 1:00 p.m. ET
Where: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN
Watch: CBS (Check Local Listings)
Live Streaming: NFL Game Pass
Spread: Miami +2.5 (per Vegas Insider)
The Dolphins are getting a ton of love on the road, which has the Colts getting points in their own building.
Vegas wants bettors to decide this game by feel. While the Colts are home dogs, the Dolphins are likely the more complete team and have played better on the road (3-1 record ATS). On the other hand, the Colts have shown they will come to play with their backs against the wall (talk to the Green Bay Packers).
As a (friendly) bettor, you can feel comfortable taking either team with the line in this game.
Over/Under: 43 (per Vegas Insider)
This is one of the lower totals of the week, likely due to the Dolphins and Colts playing grind-it-out styles to win football games.
Both teams don[‘t have inept offensive attacks, but they like to run the clock and play ball control, which should run the clock down and prevent running up the score. Indianapolis’ woes in run defense are well-known, so the Dolphins will push behind their rejuvenated offensive line to control the game.
On the other hand, though, a 24-20 finish would go over the stated total, and that scenario is certainly in play. These offenses do like to go no-huddle to keep their opponents off-guard at times, so there will be a ton of opportunities for points.
For the record, I’m sticking with the under here.
#Dolphins Injury Report: Ryan Tannehill (knee), Brian Hartline (groin), Tony McDaniel (knee) all Questionable to play Sunday— Ben Volin (@BenVolinPBP) November 2, 2012
#Colts injury report: FULL: DE Moala (knee), LB Angerer (foot), CB Butler (shoulder), LB Freeman (foot), LB Freeney (ankle), QB Luck (knee)— George Bremer (@gmbremer) November 1, 2012
Fantasy Player for Miami: Reggie Bush
I’ve already covered the Colts’ 27th-ranked run defense, which makes Reggie Bush a must-start for all fantasy owners.
The Dolphins’ lead back will have a 20-plus-carry day, along with some receptions in the passing game that could go for long gains. With a hobbled Ryan Tannehill or Matt Moore calling signals, Bush will be asked to take on a bigger load to alleviate that uncertainty.
Bush has not had a banner fantasy day for several weeks now, with 48 yards and a touchdown being his best game in four weeks. We all know what that means: the Dolphins star is due to break out.
Fantasy Player for Indianapolis: Reggie Wayne
Wayne is a must-start against any opponent he plays and has a flair for big games on his home field. At Lucas Oil Stadium, the Colts’ star wideout compiled his 200-yard receiving day versus Green Bay.
The Dolphins defense has been greatly improved this season, but it does have trouble with the league’s top wideouts. Santonio Holmes had over 100 yards and a touchdown in Miami earlier this season, while Larry Fitzgerald still managed 64 yards and a score with Kevin Kolb throwing passes. Wayne will continue the trend against his hometown team.
Key to the Game for Miami: Finding Rhythm in the Passing Game
Ryan Tannehill has been splitting snaps with Matt Moore this week in wake of the former’s leg injury. That lack of continuity in practice will hinder the Dolphins’ passing game. Whoever ends up starting will have the tall order of keeping the offense afloat early on.
Miami center Mike Pouncey would think the Dolphins’ chances are better with Tannehill, who he gave effusive praise to in preparation for his showdown with Luck:
Mike Pouncey says Tannehill is league's best rookie QB: on.nfl.com/TannehillNo1— NFL (@nfl) November 1, 2012
Regardless, Moore was able to come into last week’s game against the Jets and be his efficient self in relief. In that game, though, the Dolphins were already up double-digit points.
The Colts don’t go away easy, so Miami will need to construct a game plan that the quarterback can get comfortable with as the game goes on. If it can put some points up on the board early, the defense can keep the Colts in check until the signal-caller gets his bearings.
Key to the Game for Indianapolis: Stop Miami’s Running Game
If the Colts can make the Dolphins one-dimensional, their passing attack doesn’t look so fierce. The ‘Fins like to set up the pass with the run, so taking them out of their element will make their offense an inefficient bunch.
If the Dolphins are forced to pass, that opens the game up for the Colts’ pass rush. Freeney and Mathis could go to work and possibly get a turnover or two from the Dolphins’ QB.
The Colts offense doesn’t always come through with points, but it can score with the best of them as the game goes on. As a result, keeping the Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas at bay becomes a priority.
Miami has the more complete group on both sides of the ball, which will ultimately win out in Indianapolis. The Colts do not have enough talent in the trenches to keep Miami down; the Dolphins are stronger on both lines, which will provide the difference.
It doesn’t matter who plays quarterback for Miami. Its game plan will not change much, as it will use its quick-strike offense with a handful of Reggie Bush to control the game.
Dolphins 23 Colts 20