The Miami Dolphins are sitting squarely in the middle of the AFC playoff hunt at 5-5. The team is currently enjoying a week off on it’s yearly bye, something that couldn’t come at a better time for an injured roster that’s fallen off the rails in recent weeks. Going into Week 12, the Dolphins will need to put together a rejuvenated effort to beat an underrated Indianapolis Colts unit that’s also looking to make a postseason push. Today, we take a look at three key factors that will decide Miami’s fate in the team’s upcoming contest.
Ryan Tannehill’s Shoulder
Ryan Tannehill has been battling a shoulder capsule injury that has kept him out over Miami’s past five games. With Tannehill on the sideline, the Dolphins have been relying on Brock Osweiler under center, a development that’s been a great detriment to the offense as a whole. Despite his familiarity with head coach Adam Gase’s playbook, Osweiler has often looked uncomfortable on the field, especially when under pressure. The former disciple of Peyton Manning has missed on too many easy throws, taken a whole bunch sacks, and has failed to make plays downfield.
Tannehill was hardly perfect in his own right over the team’s first five games of the season, but he’s certainly an upgrade over Osweiler. Tannehill is far more willing to make plays with his legs and his deep ball is dangerous when he uncorks it downfield to the likes of Kenny Stills. Having Gase’s main man back and healthy will be key to dicing up Indianapolis’ revamped defense.
Shoring up the run defense
The Dolphins have been gashed on the ground time and time again this season. Miami’s defense currently sits dead last in the league defending the run, giving up 142.0 yards per game. Last week, the Dolphins had a chance to stay competitive with the Green Bay Packers, but no team can pick up wins when an opposing running back like Aaron Jones is accumulating 145 yards on 15 carries (9.6 ypc) and picking up first downs at will.
Against the Colts, the Dolphins will be going up against sophomore stud Marlon Mack who has 437 yards and four touchdowns on the ground over his past five games. Indy’s offense as a whole has rolled over teams left and right in recent weeks, and Miami’s ability to bottle up the ground game will go a long way towards stopping the surging Colts.
Getting pressure on Luck
After years of getting beaten up by opposing defenders, Andrew Luck finally has capable protection up front. In fact, Indianapolis’ offensive line is among the best in the league this season, as the unit has yet to give up a sack over the past five games. With Luck staying upright in a clean pocket, the MVP candidate has thrown for three or more touchdowns in seven straight contests.
In order to stymie Indy’s high-powered attack, the Dolphins will need to bring Luck to the ground a few times, and at the very least, pressure the 29-year old passer with regularity. If not, Luck will tear up Miami’s secondary in all corners of the field.