Armando Salguero

Keys to the game: Miami Dolphins vs. Indianapolis Colts

If the Dolphins stick to their established strategy of feeding Jarvis Landry 10 to 15 passes on Sunday, they would leave the Colts’ ordinary pass defense in a situation where it must limit the dangerous wide receiver’s yards after the catch.
If the Dolphins stick to their established strategy of feeding Jarvis Landry 10 to 15 passes on Sunday, they would leave the Colts’ ordinary pass defense in a situation where it must limit the dangerous wide receiver’s yards after the catch. adiaz@miamiherald.com

When the Dolphins pass the football

Receiver Rishard Matthews is questionable, so there’s a chance he plays. But the offensive line is troubled because center Mike Pouncey probably cannot play — he wants to but his ankle and foot injuries might have a different vote. And right tackle Ja’Wuan James still is not 100 percent ready to play regardless of whether he will be active. If the Dolphins are true to their established format, they will feed Jarvis Landry 10 to 15 targets. It is up to the Colts’ pedestrian pass defense to limit Landry’s yards-after-catch because that’s where he does most of his damage. The Colts, by the way, have one exceptional cornerback in Vontae Davis and the rest of the pass defense — including the pass rush — is weak. The Colts are 29th in the NFL in sacks per pass play. Hey, maybe Ryan Tannehill can walk out of the stadium after this game without his usual entourage of bruises, aches and pains.

ADVANTAGE: Miami

When the Dolphins run the football

It is unclear whether the Dolphins were foreshadowing a switch at the running back spot last week when Lamar Miller went to the sideline and pretty much stayed there in the second half while Jay Ajayi got the work against San Diego. Obviously, Miller had an unproductive first half and did sustain a minor quadriceps injury, but he said afterward he was able to play. Miller similarly was limited in practice last week while Ajayi had gotten as many if not more first-team reps. The Colts have an unremarkable run defense, with former Dolphin Kendall Langford doing solid work at the five technique and Jerrell Freeman and D’Qwell Jackson doing good work at inside linebacker spots. Freeman has actually been pretty good. And yet, Indy is 25th against the run.

ADVANTAGE: Even

When the Colts pass the football

Last week, veteran quarterback Philip Rivers diced up the Miami secondary as if with a knife. The Colts come to town with an even more experienced quarterback in Matt Hasselbeck. But make no mistake, without Andrew Luck driving the football (sometimes forcing the football) downfield, the Indianapolis passing game is not nearly as dynamic under Hasselbeck. T.Y. Hilton, one of the most dangerous deep threats in the NFL the past few seasons, has been diminished (for him). Yes, he still leads the team with a 16.7 yards-per-catch average among players regularly active, but Hasselbeck doesn’t look for him nearly as much as Luck used to. That’s one reason Hilton complained about not getting the ball enough last week. The Dolphins secondary would ordinarily match Brent Grimes on Hilton every play. But that hasn’t proved to be as fruitful a strategy this season as it has in the past. If the Dolphins go with a different approach, it would speak volumes about what they think of Grimes.

ADVANTAGE: Indianapolis

When the Colts run the football

Frank Gore needs 121 yards to reach 12,000 for his career, but this isn’t the same player who carried the ball for San Francisco five years ago. Gore is averaging a pedestrian 3.6 yards per carry and hasn’t eclipsed 100 yards in a game all season. Indeed, Gore hasn’t eclipsed 50 rushing yards in three of the past four games. Yes, the Indy offensive line has something to do with this. This group seems much better suited to pass blocking than run blocking. Ndamukong Suh should have a great day. If he doesn’t, something is wrong. The problem for the Dolphins is linebacker Koa Misi is done for the season and Jelani Jenkins missed last week’s game and remains slowed because of an ankle injury. We might see a lot of backups to a unit where the starters aren’t exactly stellar.

ADVANTAGE: Miami

Special teams

Adam Vinatieri was kicking when the dinosaurs roamed the Earth, but no one has informed him age typically causes players to lose their gifts. Vinatieri is 7 of 7 on field goals of 40 to 49 yards and is 3 of 4 on kicks of 50 yards or more. It will be interesting to see whether the Colts let Hilton return punts during this game so he has a chance to make a big play in his hometown while also trying to improve on the league's 28th-ranked punt-return unit. The Dolphins continue to look for a kick returner. Reshad Jones did some of that work early in the Dolphins’ last game against the Chargers. The fact is Landry has been nursing a knee injury and probably shouldn’t be back there, and Damien Williams is not dynamic and probably shouldn’t be on the team.

ADVANTAGE: Even

Coaching

What we have here is two men who might be looking for work after the season. Both good men. Both solid football coaches. But neither has milked more out of his team than the talent suggests is possible. Wrote the same thing last week. Still applies.

ADVANTAGE: Even

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