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2012 NFL Week Nine Preview: Indianapolis Colts Vs. Miami Dolphins

Two teams nobody pegged as Playoff teams now meet up in a game with huge playoff implications. Can the Colts take their winning streak to three games?

Thomas J. Russo-US PRESSWIRE

The first time I saw the Colts play in person was in 1999, when Dan Marino came into the RCA Dome and dropped 25 points in the 4th quarter, leading to a 34-31 win, one of the three losses the Colts would suffer on the season. From then on, beating the Dolphins always added a little extra "oomph", as I couldn't believe the Colts blew that game. This weekend means just a little bit more to me when old AFC East rival Miami invades Lucas Oil Stadium.

If the season were to end today, the Colts and Dolphins would be the two Wild Card teams in the AFC, something you'd have won a boatload of money on if they stay in those current positions through the end of the season. The Dolphins share the same 4-3 record, as well as a rookie QB under center, Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill's playing status for Sunday is still up in the air, however, as he suffered a knee injury and a deep thigh bruise in their win last week against the Jets. He was limited in practice yesterday, so there's a chance we may see Matt Moore Sunday afternoon. As you'll see with the stats in a bit, it isn't the Offense that got them to 4-3.

The Colts are just 24-46 all time against the Dolphins, which included a stretch where they lost 19 of 20 against them from 1977-87. Yikes. The Colts have won the last three meetings between the two teams, which includes their last meeting in 2009, on Monday Night Football, where the "blueprint" was put into full use, limiting the Colts to just 15 minutes Time of Possession, and they still won 27-23. You think giving up over four minutes per possession was bad last week against the Titans? That Dolphins team had it for 5:38 per Drive. Wow. They also clinched the 3 seed in the 2006 playoffs the last time Miami came to Indianapolis, which ended up being important, right?

What do the stats say for this weekend's suddenly very important match-up? Let's take a look.

Statistical Comparison between the Colts and Dolphins:

Statistic Colts Dolphins
Offense Rank Defense Rank Offense Rank Defense Rank
DSR 71.0% 13 76.2% 30 65.2% 27 67.2% 10
ANPY/A 5.500 20 7.624 30 5.850 17 5.207 15
Turnovers 1.85 20 0.53 32 1.94 22 1.70 14
Yds/Drive 31.23 11 33.86 29 25.23 27 30.01 19
ToP/Drive 2:45.0 11 2:53.0 27 2:25.0 30 2:30.0 7
Yds/Play 5.149 22 5.956 30 4.897 25 5.231 18
Orange Zone Eff 48.6% 26 68.1% 31 49.6% 24 47.4% 9
First Downs/Drive 1.92 7 1.92 28 1.33 30 1.63 13
3rd/4th Down 39.9% 15 43.0% 29 38.9% 20 31.5% 3
Avg Start Pos 27.1 32 29.5 12 30.2 15 29.9 14
3 and Outs 2.70 4 3.53 21 4.07 20 3.28 26
RZ Eff 60.7% 22 80.7% 31 67.3% 13 60.6% 13
Plays/Drive 6.114 6 5.754 21 5.232 26 5.665 18
Penalty Yds / Play 0.776 13 1.241 1 0.613 3 0.850 17
RB Success 42.5% 21 49.0% 27 44.3% 17 38.5% 4
Yds/Carry 3.89 19 4.82 29 3.35 29 3.73 6
Overall 14 30 26 10

Keys to the game:

  • Let's start with the relative strengths of the two teams, when the Colts have the ball. The Colts main strength this year has been their ability to move the ball down the field, converting first downs, which just happens to be where Miami is quite good as well. The Colts will have to put together some drives against a pretty good defense is they want to win Sunday.
  • The Colts have only played one game this season without turning it over, and that was against the Vikings in Week 2. The Dolphins are right around league average at forcing them, so the Colts will need to play turnover-free.
  • The Dolphins are ranked 3rd in the NFL on 3rd and 4th down, something the Colts need to avoid. Lots of 3rd downs will spell bad news for the Colts.
  • This doesn't look like the week they'll be improving their Orange and Red Zone Efficiencies, as the Dolphins are good there as well. Could make for another low scoring game.
  • Don't expect the Colts to run the ball much. Those defensive numbers for the Dolphins are also very good.
  • The Dolphins offense has struggled this season moving the ball, ranking in the bottom six spots in most of the Drive stats. The Colts have really struggled getting opposing offenses off the field, however, so something has to give here. If the Dolphins can move the ball, it's going to be a long day for the Colts.
  • While the Dolphins aren't that good in the Orange Zone, they have been pretty good once they get inside the 20 punching the ball in for touchdowns, something the Colts have been more than willing to give up as of late. Again, bad news if the Dolphins get close to the goal line.
  • The Colts are dead last in the NFL, only getting three takeaways in their first 7 games, all of them coming with Robert Mathis on the field. Mathis is "full speed" this week. Colts need turnovers this week.
  • Colts opponents have had the most penalties called on them in the league, but the Dolphins are the third least penalized team in the league. Can't count on penalties helping this week.

I'm expecting Lucas Oil Stadium to have a playoff feel to it, and wish I could be there (family obligations), so all you fans in attendance make sure you yell a little more for me. It's great to get this young team experiences in these types of atmospheres, as hopefully they'll have many more, with a little more importance, in the coming years. Never too early to begin that preparation. Hell, it took Manning's Colts how many years before they busted open?

While the records of these two teams are identical, there is a distinct advantage for the Dolphins, as they are better at what they do than the Colts are, and those things just happen to line up. The Colts have played better at home than they have on the road, but until the Defense can show any sign of life, I just can't see the Colts winning on Sunday, as much as it pains me. They'll have to do something well they haven't done well all year, which is possible, but unlikely. I hope I'm wrong, but the numbers are hard to argue with.

Dolphins 20, Colts 10