Who has the edge?

Even with the re­turn of Tan­nehill, Dol­phins face tough chal­lenge with Colts on a roll

South Florida Sun-Sentinel Palm Beach (Sunday) - - SPORTS -

When the Dol­phins pass: Starter Ryan Tan­nehill will make his re­turn af­ter miss­ing the past five games to nurse a cap­sule in­jury in his right throw­ing shoul­der. Tan­nehill has made sig­nif­i­cant progress to make throws needed to play in an NFL game, but may still deal with pain for the du­ra­tion of the sea­son. How close Tan­nehill is to 100 per­cent will be a sto­ry­line for the rest of the sea­son as the Dol­phins aim to clinch a play­off berth. Backup Brock Osweiler started strong in an over­time win over the Chicago Bears, but the Dol­phins have failed to score an of­fen­sive touch­down in two con­sec­u­tive games with Osweiler fail­ing to throw a touch­down in three straight games. The Dol­phins of­fense man­ages 207.7 pass­ing yards per game (26th in the

NFL), while the Colts al­low 259.3 pass­ing yards (ranked 23rd). Due to in­juries at re­ceiver and on the of­fen­sive line, the Dol­phins of­fense will be lim­ited.

When the Colts pass: An­drew Luck has re­turned to form af­ter a shoul­der in­jury side­lined him for all of the 2017 sea­son. Luck is sec­ond in the NFL, be­hind Pa­trick Ma­homes, with 29 touch­down passes thrown this sea­son. The Dol­phins de­fense is sec­ond in the NFL with 15 in­ter­cep­tions this sea­son, and may need to make big plays to slow Luck, who has thrown at least three touch­downs in each of his past seven games, with three games of four touch­downs in the mix. He has been an in­stru­men­tal fac­tor in the Colts re­bound­ing from a 1-5 start to win four straight games and en­ter this con­test as one of five teams tied at 5-5 with the Dol­phins in the AFC play­off race.

Edge: Colts When the Dol­phins run: The Dol­phins largely de­pend on their run game to kick-start the of­fense, but have come to aban­don the run in re­cent games be­cause of early deficits. If the Dol­phins fall be­hind to the Colts early, this trend could con­tinue in In­di­anapo­lis. Frank Gore, who spent three sea­sons with the Colts be­fore sign­ing with the Dol­phins, con­tin­ues to lead Mi­ami’s rush­ing at­tack with 117 car­ries and 528 yards. Between Gore and Kenyan Drake, the Dol­phins rush­ing at­tack av­er­ages 4.4 yards per rush, which ranks 13th in the NFL. But the Dol­phins also rank last in the NFL with just three rush­ing touch­downs this sea­son af­ter 10 games.

When the Colts run: Colts run­ning back Mar­lon Mack re­turned from a ham­string in­jury to play in the last five games, de­spite also deal­ing with foot and an­kle in­juries in the last few weeks. Mack is the Colts’ lead­ing rusher with 471 yards rush­ing and five to­tal touch­downs. He had two stel­lar games rush­ing for more than 100 yards and with three touch­downs in Week 7 and 8, be­fore rush­ing for just 90 yards and a touch­down in his last two games. Still, Mack should be a threat the Dol­phins ac­count for af­ter Mi­ami al­lowed op­pos­ing run­ning backs to rush for more than 100 yards in three of their past four games. The Dol­phins own the third-worst rush­ing de­fense in the NFL, giv­ing up 142 yards per game to op­po­nents.

Edge: Colts Spe­cial teams: The Dol­phins have lost their ul­ti­mate X-fac­tor in re­turn spe­cial­ist Ja­keem Grant, who is done for the sea­son af­ter suf­fer­ing a lower leg in­jury against Green Bay. Grant was the only player in the league to re­turn a punt and kick­off for a touch­down this sea­son. Still, the Dol­phins spe­cial teams unit is com­ing off its best game of the sea­son at Green Bay, where Mi­ami forced a fum­ble, blocked a punt and ex­e­cuted a fake punt for a first down. Dol­phins rookie kicker Ja­son San­ders has made 93.8 per­cent of his field goals (15 of 16), while fu­ture Hall of Famer Adam Vi­natieri has made 83.3 per­cent (15 of 18). Dol­phins punter Matt Haack is third in the NFL with 26 punts placed in­side the 20-yard line this sea­son, while Colts punter Rige­berto Sanchez is sec­ond with a 43.7 net punt av­er­age this sea­son, as both pun­ters have al­lowed their de­fenses to have ideal field po­si­tion to be­gin drives. Edge: Dol­phins

In­tan­gi­bles: Colts re­ceiver T.Y. Hil­ton, a for­mer stand­out Flor­ida In­ter­na­tional Uni­ver­sity, has six touch­downs and leads the team with 585 yards re­ceiv­ing, while tight end Eric Ebron has been Luck’s fa­vorite tar­get with 10 to­tal touch­downs this sea­son. The Dol­phins, on the other hand, have slot re­ceiver Danny Amen­dola lead­ing the team with 47 catches for 456 yards this sea­son. Kenny Stills, who has 19 catches, leads Mi­ami with four touch­downs. … Colts line­backer Dar­ius Leonard leads the NFL with 104 tack­les, and is sec­ond with four forced fum­bles this sea­son, while Mi­ami’s Kiko

Alonso is third with 89 tack­les, and has ac­counted for three in­ter­cep­tions and three forced fum­bles. … Af­ter los­ing their first two home games, the Colts have won their last three in the midst of a four-game win streak. The Dol­phins have dropped their last four road games af­ter beat­ing the Jets in New York in their first road game of the sea­son in Week 2.

Edge: Colts

Pre­dic­tion: Colts 34, Dol­phins 17

ANDY LYONS/GETTY

An­drew Luck has re­turned to form af­ter he missed the 2017 sea­son with an in­jury. He has thrown at least three TDs in each of his last seven games.

Safid Deen

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