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2013 NFL Week Two Preview: Indianapolis Colts Vs. Miami Dolphins

The Colts look to go 2-0 against the Dolphins, a team at a very similar talent level. Can they win yet another close game decided in the 4th quarter?

Gregory Shamus

The Colts enter Week 2 of the NFL season 1-0 for the first time since 2009 (yes, it's been four years), and they'll be facing a 1-0 opponent for the first time since 2007 when the Miami Dolphins come to Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday afternoon. While their records from a year ago were quite different (7-9 vs. 11-5), they actually played at a very similar level last season.

Last week the Dolphins had their way, on the road, with the Browns 23-10. Their defense completely shut down the Browns Offense, intercepting three passes and sacking Brandon Weeden six times. The game was never really in doubt, even after they trailed 7-6 midway through the 2nd quarter. We'll get to more stats later, but they played really well last week, even if it was against the Browns.

The Colts survived against the Raiders last week, but didn't cover the ridiculous 10.5 point spread, just as I tried to tell you all last week. I had little doubt the Colts would win, but as I said last week, this team just isn't ready to confidently win a game by double digits, even against what most people consider a bottom-of-the-league team. If we see another large spread like that again, I'll jump on it just as I did last week.

Last year the Colts beat the Dolphins 23-20 in one of Andrew Luck's best games of the season. He had 433 yards passing, a rookie record, but more impressively he was almost unstoppable on 3rd and long, converting them like they were 3rd and 1. The Dolphins were top 10 in the NFL last season on 3rd/4th down, so it wasn't like this was done against a bad team. He just continuously kept the Offense on the field at almost an historic clip. The Colts and Dolphins have met in Week 2 recently as well, back in 2009, in a game that obliterated the myth that if you keep the ball away from Peyton Manning you beat him. That game was so awesome. Overall the Colts are just 25-46 against the Dolphins, most of those losses coming when both teams were in the AFC East. They have won the last four games in the series, as Week 2 of 2002 was the last time Miami won (also done in Indianapolis). Clearly it makes sense for these two teams to play the second game of the year.

Let's see how the two teams stack up against each other:

Statistical Comparison between the Colts and Dolphins:

Statistic Colts Dolphins
Offense Rank Defense Rank Offense Rank Defense Rank
DSR 84.0% 1 78.6% 30 69.0% 22 65.6% 6
ANPY/A 6.926 14 4.367 7 5.476 21 2.186 2
Turnovers 0.00 1 2.00 7 1.00 5 3.00 3
Yds/Drive 39.14 4 46.50 32 25.00 24 24.25 8
ToP/Drive 3:53.0 2 4:06.0 32 2:59.0 9 2:16.0 12
Yds/Play 5.170 18 5.905 21 4.231 27 4.042 4
Orange Zone Eff 100.0% 1 57.1% 12 65.7% 14 35.7% 3
First Downs/Drive 2.57 1 2.50 31 1.64 19 1.67 15
3rd/4th Down 54.5% 3 57.1% 31 50.0% 9 16.7% 1
Avg Start Pos 18.8 30 28.5 19 28.8 13 25.5 14
3 and Outs 2.00 5 1.00 29 5.00 18 6.00 2
RZ Eff 100.0% 1 66.7% 13 71.4% 14 50.0% 4
Plays/Drive 7.571 3 7.875 32 5.909 14 6.000 22
Penalty Yds / Play 0.585 6 0.810 22 1.185 28 0.792 23
RB Success 31.8% 23 61.5% 32 13.6% 32 46.2% 22
Yds/Carry 4.88 5 5.18 30 0.87 32 3.62 19
Overall 1 29 21 3

Keys to the game:

  • Just a note on the numbers: these are stats from last week, thus obviously unadjusted. I thought those would be better than anything from last year, even if they aren't the greatest for comparison.
  • The two best units are clearly the Colts Offense and the Dolphins Defense, which I don't think you really need the stats to know. There aren't many things the Colts did poorly last week, and there weren't many things the Dolphins struggled with either.
  • The Colts actually did have a bit of trouble throwing the ball last week, ranking just 14th in the NFL. Like I talked about on Tuesday, I think that's a consequence of not completing many long passes and getting sacked, rather than turning the ball over or throwing incompletions. The Dolphins really had their way with Weeden last week, ranking 2nd in the NFL in Adjusted Net Passing Yards per Attempt thanks to the 3 INTs and 6 sacks I mentioned above. Luck needs to be able to throw the ball efficiently, and stay upright, for the Colts to win. With the struggles the Colts Offensive Line had last week, I expect we'll see Luck outside the pocket, on purpose, to give him a bit more time to throw. Thankfully he's awesome throwing on the run.
  • Much like last year, the game could be won or lost on 3rd down. You can see the numbers there: the Dolphins were excellent last week, and the Colts were pretty good too. We already talked about how good the Colts were last year on 3rd down, and more than likely they'll need a repeat performance to win on Sunday. Early returns (other games) say they're up for the challenge.
  • The Browns had a bit of success running the ball last week, but they were down for the entire second half, so they really only ran the ball in the first half. We saw the Colts knock off a few long runs, but overall they weren't that successful last week. The Dolphins strength is their Front 7, so I think this is the week the Colts need to attack a secondary that had 3 CBs on the injury report today, two of which didn't practice at all.
  • The only thing the Colts defense did well last week was stop the pass, and they'll need to do that again Sunday. Tannehill didn't light the world on fire last week, and much has been made of the disappointing opener for his new #1 WR Mike Wallace. I expect them to look for Wallace multiple times Sunday, and the Colts CBs will have to be up to the task. After one week though, I'm a big fan of the new-look Colts secondary.
  • The Dolphins were right around league-average at Drive Success Rate, but were top 10 in Time of Possession and 3rd/4th down. The Colts couldn't get the mobile Terrelle Pryor and the Raiders off the field last week, so hopefully a more tradition passer in Tannehill will be easier to contain. The flip-side is he can throw the ball much better than Pryor, so they're be more pressure in that regard. The Offense can't be expected to score every time they touch the ball, no matter how used we got to that over the course of a decade.
  • Miami couldn't run the ball at all last week, but some of you Lamar Miller fantasy owners already knew that. If the Colts really want to stop the run, which they've talked about for months on end, this looks to be an opportunity to do so. Whether it leads to winning isn't as important as stopping the pass, but stuffing them on 3rd/4th and short would really be nice.

The Colts are almost completely healthy (knocks on wood, crosses fingers, etc), and could be getting Pat Angerer back this week, while the Dolphins secondary looks like it could be quite thin on the outside. As an Internet blogger, it makes sense to me that the Colts should try to exploit that by throwing the football. The problem was they did it really well last week, yet they only did it 23 times. I see this as the single biggest key to the game. The Colts need to throw the ball to win, even if they jump out to an early lead. Don't let off the gas.

Sadly, I fear we'll see another game like last week, and like we saw all of last year. Colts will jump out early but not pull away, while the Dolphins slowly chip away, make a comeback, only to see the Colts find a way to pull it out at the end. It's been the script in every other game played by this team where the talent levels are similar / below the Colts level, so why expect anything different? I think the Dolphins are a team the Colts could very well be fighting with the a Playoff spot later in the season, so this is almost as important as a division game. I think it comes right down to the wire, with the Colts hitting a last second FG to win.

Colts 24, Dolphins 23