Despite being separated by just one game, the Indianapolis Colts and Miami Dolphins are in very different positions. The Colts are in the thick of the AFC South race and are one game back of the Houston Texans for the top spot in the division, while the Dolphins have already been eliminated from playoff contention.
With questions at quarterback, the Colts will likely need to lean on the run game to get a win in this one. That's something the Dolphins haven't done all year, but rookie Jay Ajayi has emerged and taken carries from Lamar Miller. Miami has nothing to lose, while the Colts can't afford another loss.
Here are three keys to the game for both the Colts and the Dolphins.
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1. Attack the middle of the field
Miami's linebackers are especially weak providing an opportunity for short passes to the tight ends and wide receivers that have the potential for big gains. Dolphins middle linebacker Kelvin Sheppard has struggled all season, including last week against San Diego's Danny Woodhead. Going after Sheppard and the soft underbelly of the Miami defense is liable to yield positive results for the Indianapolis offense.
2. Force Tannehill to beat you
Tannehill has struggled this season playing behind a porous offensive line and without the aid of a consistent running game. Some of the issues he's faced are beyond his control, but he's also demonstrated a tendency to make poor decisions at times, creating the potential for turnovers. Indianapolis should crowd the line of scrimmage in an effort to take away the run and force Tannehill to make plays with his arm.
3. Run. A lot.
With the Colts' quarterback situation once again shaky and the Dolphins possessing a decidedly sub-par run defense, Sunday offers a convenient opportunity to focus on running the football. Miami is 29th in the league against the run, yielding an average of 132.1 yards per game on the ground. Frank Gore, playing in front of a hometown crowd in South Florida, is poised to have a big game against this Miami defense.
1. Give Lamar Miller more touches
Rookie Jay Ajayi out-snapped Lamar Miller on Sunday, 31 to 18. Miller carried it just two times in the second half, giving him 11 total touches in the loss to the San Diego Chargers. Ajayi only had seven touches, but his number of snaps compared to Miller's is surprising. The Dolphins will have a decision to make on Miller in free agency, so determining whether he's worth re-signing will be important in the coming weeks.
2. Get DeVante Parker involved with quick passes
DeVante Parker hasn't caught many passes as a rookie (17), but he's averaging 17.4 yards per catch. He's mainly caught passes deep downfield and hasn't run many short routes or screens. He's one of Miami's most talented wide receivers and has a ton of potential. It's been a disappointing season to say the least, but ending it on a high note could be big for his confidence.
3. Take away T.Y. Hilton with Brent Grimes
T.Y. Hilton is the Colts' top wideout and has big-play ability. Brent Grimes is far-and-away Miami's best corner and matches up well with Hilton's skill set. Aside from Hilton, the Colts don't have many receivers, so eliminating him will help the defense greatly.