Who has the edge?
Even with the return of Tannehill, Dolphins face tough challenge with Colts on a roll
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.
Prediction: Colts 34, Dolphins 17
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.