The Colts are mired in yet another three game losing streak, tallen to a 6-8 record, and have come extremely close to missing out on the Playoffs for just the second time since 2002. This week brings a pretty good opportunity to get off the schneid, a trip to Miami to take on the 5-9 Dolphins, who just like the Colts had very high expectations before the season but have been extremely disappointing.
We all know the myriad of reasons why the Colts season has gone down the tubes, with a good majority of that centered around the play of Andrew Luck, or lack thereof. But another is a lack of coaching acumen, something they share with the Dolphins. First was the ouster of Head Coach Joe Philbin and Defensive Coordinator Kevin Coyle after their trip to London, and new Head Coach Dan Campbell saw immediate success, winning their first two games. The catch? It was against the Titans and Texans, and we all know how strong the AFC South is this year. Since then they're 2-6, winning the two games by a combined three points, and fired their Offensive Coordinator as well. I'm going to assume that Campbell will not be kept on permanently, and they'll be looking for a new Head Coach next year. Call it a hunch, but I'm guessing that Chuck Pagano, once he's not re-signed, will be a high candidate to run the circus on South Beach.
I think there are two storylines that should come out of the fact that Matt Hasselbeck appears primed to start this week despite lingering rib injuries that seem to be re-aggravated every single week along with a jaw injury that's causing him to go on a liquid diet. First, nobody should ever question the toughness or willingness of Hasselbeck to get on a football field. Kerry Collins bailed in 2011, and nobody really said much about it, and even this week Pagano gave Hasselbeck an out, and I don't think anyone would have thought any less of him if he decided to sit this week out. But he wants to be out there for his teammates, so it looks like he'll be starting. But the second story here is that the Colts have absolutely no willingness to put Charlie Whitehurst on the field. I mean what must you be thinking to yourself if the coaching staff feels a completely broken 40-year old is the preferred option. It's been glaring for a few weeks, but man that's gotta be tough to swallow.
Seeing as these two teams used to be division rivals they've played 70 games against each other over the years, with the Dolphins holding a 45-25 advantage. The Colts have won four of the last five games between the two teams, with their last meeting being the one Miami win, 24-20 back in Week 2 of 2013. Add in that in those last five meetings have all been one score games, and all but one of the 10 final scores being in the 20s. Take it to the bank for this year then, right?
How do these two teams match-up against each other? Let's jump in and find out.
Statistical Comparison between the Colts and Dolphins (Adjusted):
|Orange Zone Eff||54.7%||16||56.2%||23||56.4%||13||54.4%||15|
|Avg Start Pos||29.0||19||29.5||13||27.6||27||31.3||27|
|3 and Outs||4.43||27||3.21||24||4.44||28||3.26||22|
|Penalty Yds / Play||0.794||13||1.044||2||1.032||30||0.904||9|
Keys to the Game:
- According to the Winning Stats, the Dolphins are the worst team in the NFL. It's also amazing to think there are teams playing worse than the Colts, but both of their final opponents fall into that category.
- It's hard to say which side has an advantage when both sides are ranked 31st, but the Colts Passing Offense should be able to find some success passing the ball Sunday, even though they've stunk for over a month doing just that.
- We heard T.Y. Hilton complaining about the play-calling and lack of down-the-field throwing lately, and while he's mostly right, the problem is they have no time to get the receivers down the field, and the QB just can't get it that far. They have a good chance (again) this week to get down the field, as the Dolphins rank just 27th in Yards per Play.
- Average Starting Position looks to be a clear advantage for the Colts, who have been quite good here recently, but have virtually nothing to show for it. It looks like they could get some short fields again.
- Like Jacksonville, the Dolphins have stiffened a bit between the 35 and 20 yard lines, forcing field goals by their opponents, making their Orange Zone Efficiency right around league-average. But if the Colts can get to the 20, odds are much better of scoring a TD, as they rank just 25th in the Red Zone.
- The Dolphins Offense is slightly above average in not turning the ball over, which has been an area of improvement for the Colts over the last six weeks. The Dolphins just like to punt the ball a lot from not moving the ball.
- Almost all of their drive stats are 30th or worse (28th in Three and Outs), which means the Colts have no excuse for not getting the Dolphins off the field in a timely manner. Under 30% on 3rd/4th Down, just 25 Yards per Drive (again, worse than the Colts!), and less than five Plays per Drive. If the Dolphins can move the ball, the Colts are in big trouble.
- The Running game on both sides is a mixed bag. Both of these teams abandon the run frequently because they're losing, so it's hard to gauge how good they are. We'll call all four units "middling".
- Expect the Dolphins to commit lots of penalties.
For the franchise, I think it would be better for the Colts to just pack it in, lose their final two games, and take advantage of a lost season in the 2016 draft. Because of the schedule, however, I have a feeling the Colts, even with as bad as they been, will win their final two games to finish at 8-8, probably the worst way to finish a season. The Dolphins are even more of a mess than the Colts (if you can believe it), and they'll be even less motivated than the Colts with a worse team, a deadly combination. The Colts will let them hang around, but I think the Colts find a way to win Sunday. Then we can argue afterwards whether winning was actually the best thing to do.
Colts 25, Dolphins 23