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The Miami Dolphins, fresh off their first victory of the season are hoping to make it two straight. Standing in their way is the Indianapolis Colts, who are eager to bounce back following a 26-24 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.
This game is vital to both teams for different reasons. For the Dolphins, they're coming off a 26-18 win over the New York Jets. That win was the confidence builder Miami sorely needed. Meanwhile, for the Colts, they must have this victory if they want to keep pace with the Houston Texans in the AFC South race.
The game kicks off at 4:05 p.m. EST and takes place at Lucas Oil Stadium. The game airs on CBS.
Dolphins hoping to establish running game with depleted rosterFor the Dolphins to win on Sunday, they'll have to do so without running back Mark Walton. The NFL suspended Walton for four games due to violating the league's substance-abuse policy. In his absence, the Dolphins will rely on Kalen Ballage, the last Dolphins running back on staff who has played a snap this season.
Ballage could have a big game on Sunday against a Colts' defense that surrenders 108 rushing yards per game. And if Ballage can have some big plays early, it can open up lanes in the passing game, where quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick could make plays.
Unfortunately for Fitzpatrick, he won't have his favorite target for the rest of the season. The Dolphins announced they placed rookie wide receiver sensation Preston Williams on the injured reserve list due to a torn ACL. Replacing his presence on the field will be a tough obstacle for the Dolphins as they face a stingy Colts' secondary who allows 231 passing yards per game, good for 15th in the league.
All told, if the Dolphins cannot establish some momentum in the run game, then they'll have to rely on Fitzpatrick's arm again to keep them in it.
And defensively, Miami faces a Colts team who's struggling to stay healthy.
The Colts are banged up heading into this weekColts quarterback Jacoby Brissett suffered an MCL sprain on his left knee and remains questionable for Sunday's game. ESPN reporter Mike Wells noted that Brissett will be a limited participant in Wednesday's practice.
If Brissett is unable to go then Brian Hoyer will fill in. He's seen limited action this season, playing against the Pittsburgh Steelers where he threw for 168 yards and three touchdowns. Regardless of who plays quarterback, they might miss the Colts' main producer in wide receiver T.Y. Hilton. Coach Frank Reich told reporters it's unlikely Hilton plays in Sunday's game.
Indianapolis might have to be creative, but there are plenty of plays to be made against the Dolphins' defense that allows 251 passing yards per game. Another offensive catalyst could be running back Marlon Mack who averages over four yards per rush. He should have plenty of gaping holes when he goes against a Miami defense that's next to last in the NFL by allowing 150 yards per game. With those yards available, it could allow Indianapolis to keep the tempo to their liking.
Defensively, the main onus is on pressuring Fitzpatrick and disrupting his rhythm. This could take some of the pressure off a Colts' secondary that gives up big plays.
Update: (11/9): Brissett is out for this game. Chad Kelly will move from the practice squad to the 53-man roster according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.
Trends found on Covers.com Indianapolis is:
- 39-18 ATS following a loss
- 7-1 ATS in last 8 meetings against the Dolphins
- 1-5 ATS in their last 6 games following a win
- 4-12 in last 16 road games
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
Even with the Colts being somewhat banged up, they still possess more talent from top to bottom than the Dolphins. Look for the Colts to wear Miami's defense down through long, sustained drives predicated on the running game. This should open up big gains in the passing attack regardless of who's playing quarterback. The Dolphins will hang around, but as the game wears on, their defense wears down and this creates the big play opportunities Indy will take advantage of to win.
Prediction: Indianapolis -10
Full-Game Total Pick
Neither team features high-scoring attacks--between the two of them they average 34 points per game. And if the Colts can have success on the ground early, they could control the tempo to limit Miami's possessions. There's no doubt both teams score as each defense is less than stellar, but it's the Colts' ability to develop sustained, clock-chewing drives that prevent this from becoming a shootout.
Prediction: Under 43