The Colts come into the game at 6-8, just one game behind the Houston Texans for the AFC South lead. A loss to the Dolphins, along with a Texans victory, would eliminate Indianapolis from the playoffs.
The Dolphins are already eliminated at 5-9 and are playing for nothing but pride. If you're among the many Dolphins fans who would like to see them tank for a better draft pick, this is not the article for you, as we're going to discuss the game plan for Miami that will allow it to defeat Indianapolis.
Offensive Game Plan
It would be in Miami's best interest to run the ball. Doing that should win the game.
The Colts are ranked 25th in the league in rushing defense, allowing an average of 123.8 yards per game on the ground. Lamar Miller, who is 219 yards away from his second consecutive 1,000-yard season, should get at least 20 carries against the Colts; however, I'm not sure how much Miami plans on using him.
Miller is listed on the injury report with a quad injury. Considering that the Dolphins use him for only 10-15 carries per game, using the quad injury as an excuse could be tempting for them. It's worth noting that as of Friday, he was listed as probable.
If Miller doesn't get at least 20 carries, then Jay Ajayi should see more snaps. He looked good against San Diego in the second half, but like Miller, he had limited carries. The Dolphins should have committed to giving the pair 30 carries at least 10 games ago, but that approach on Sunday could help convince Miller to stay in Miami when he hits free agency this offseason.
Of course, a better run game would help the pass game, giving more time to Ryan Tannehill in the pocket off play action. If Miami runs the ball in good rhythm, it should win the game.
Defensive Game Plan
The Indianapolis Colts can't seem to do anything right on any side of the ball.
When you look at their stats (even their advanced stats at Pro Football Focus), you have to wonder how they are only one game back in their division (until you realize they are in the AFC South). Truly, this team is a lot worse than its record indicates, and you can't even give Andrew Luck all of the credit because the Colts were 2-5 in his starts.
So what's the Miami game plan on defense? Pressure.
Getting to the quarterback (most likely Matt Hasselbeck) is the key for beating the Colts. He has a variety of injuries, and the fact that he's actually going to give it a go and play speaks to his toughness, as well as the Colts' desperation.
Zeroing in on that and making Hasselbeck skittish in the pocket would allow the Dolphins to create turnovers and dictate the game. Doing that should give Miami the win.
Key Matchups and X-Factors
Dolphins fans should be worried about the matchup between T.Y. Hilton and Brice McCain.
Yes, the main wide receiver matchup will be between Brent Grimes and Andre Johnson, but Hilton vs. McCain is where the Dolphins are more likely to get hurt. Hilton has had an excellent season despite the quarterback under center, bringing in 61 catches for 1,016 yards and five touchdowns. If the Colts need a quick jolt, it will come from Hilton, and if he's lining up on the boundary instead of in the slot, he will eat McCain alive.
The other big weapon in Indianapolis' favor is Coby Fleener. The big tight end is typical of what Miami's linebackers have struggled with. With Koa Misi out for the rest of the season, there is a lot less depth at the position. Expect Hasselbeck to target Fleener plenty Sunday.
On the Dolphins' side of the offense, it's simple: run the ball with Miller and Ajayi.
The Dolphins aren't better than many teams.
The Colts are one of those teams, and thanks to the NFL's divisional placement (and with some help ironically from the Dolphins), they are only one game out of the AFC South race.
So this means Indianapolis has plenty to play for while the Dolphins don't, but it's not that simple.
Miami, which is still playing for pride in front of a home crowd (a small one considering the way the season has gone), should be fired up.
The Colts, who are banged up and facing as much uncertainty about the future as the Dolphins regardless of what happens, may only be one game behind Houston but could also find themselves eliminated this weekend.
If you want the Dolphins to get a top-three or even top-five draft pick, you won't like the results of this game, at least the way I'm predicting it.
Prediction: Dolphins 13, Colts 10