Battered Colts welcome one-win Fins to Indy
Two old AFC East rivals, the Miami Dolphins and Indianapolis Colts, are meeting up on Sunday afternoon for old times' sake — and to play a little football. Last Sunday, when it rained, it poured for the Colts (5-3). Not only did they lose in Pittsburgh, 26-24, but they also lost their division lead, their starting quarterback and another receiver, and their Hall of Fame kicker missed another potential game-winner late in the fourth quarter. Frank Reich’s team couldn’t be more excited to welcome the woeful Dolphins to Indy this weekend.
The Dolphins (1-7) finally ended their 10-game losing streak and picked up their first W of the season with a 26-18 waxing of the just-as-hopeless Jets in Miami last Sunday. The win was extra sweet for Miami as former Dolphins head coach Adam Gase was patrolling the sidelines as the new man in charge of the Jets. Although the playoffs aren’t anywhere close to the Dolphins’ radar, Miami has an opportunity to string together back-to-back wins with a victory against a banged-up Colts team limping into this game.
Miami at Indianapolis
Kickoff: Sunday, Nov. 10 at 4:05 p.m. ET
Spread: Indianapolis -10.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Indy injuries piling up
The Colts already know that they will be without their best offensive weapon, receiver T.Y. Hilton, for the next month with a calf injury, but the most troublesome injury question is the one surrounding starting quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who left last week’s contest against Pittsburgh in the second quarter with a sprained MCL in his left knee. Brissett’s status is still uncertain for Sunday against the Dolphins, but Reich is feeling optimistic that his starting QB might be able to give it a go. Whether Brissett should give it a try is a whole other question. With the one-win Dolphins coming to town and the capable Brian Hoyer (17-of-26, 3 TDs, INT vs. Pittsburgh) ready to go under center, should Reich rush back Brissett with a huge matchup looming next week against Jacksonville?
To make matters worse for the Indy offense, rookie receiver Parris Campbell has been ruled out with a broken hand, leaving tight end Jack Doyle (24 rec., 2 TDs) and running back Nyheim Hines (23 rec.) as the Colts' healthiest pass catchers, although second-year wideout Zach Pascal (16.9 ypr, 4 TDs) has emerged as a big-play target.
2. Is FitzMagic back?!
Journeyman quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, 36, is now on his eighth team in 15 NFL seasons. Everywhere he’s played, he’s been noticeably good at times but also noticeably less than stellar at others, and his tenure in Miami has been no different. Fitzpatrick began the season as the Dolphins starter, but after completing only 50 percent of his passes, throwing four interceptions and leading the Dolphins offense to 10 points in two games, Fitzpatrick was benched for youngster Josh Rosen. Rosen made it less than two games before getting benched in favor of Fitzpatrick — again.
Fitzpatrick has responded to his second chance by throwing seven touchdowns and posting a 95.3 rating, leading the Dolphins to 74 points in the last three-and-a-quarter games — nearly double the offensive output from their first three games. The Harvard grad had his best outing of the season (by far) last week against the Jets, throwing for 288 yards, three touchdowns and a 118.7 rating in the Fins' first win of the year.
This week, Fitzpatrick takes on a Colts passing defense that is decidedly middle of the road, ranking 15th in passing yards allowed per game, 16th in yards per attempt and 21st in QB rating allowed.
3. The GOAT is suddenly a goat
It’s rare that we mention kickers in Three Things to Watch, if ever, but this seems necessary. Adam Vinatieri is the greatest field-goal kicker that the game of football has ever seen, but his falloff in his 24th season has been noticeable. The 46-year-old Vinatieri has connected on only 12 of his 17 field-goal attempts this season, a career-low 70.6-percent success rate, and has missed five point-after attempts (14-of-19).
Two of the Colts’ three losses are directly tied to Vinatieri’s struggles. In Week 1 against the Chargers, he missed three kicks (two FGs, one PAT) and the Colts lost by six. Last week, Vinatieri missed what would have been a game-winning 46-yarder, hitting the laces and pulling the kick wide left. No chance.
After his Week 1 meltdown, Reich and the Colts stuck with their aging kicker, and they’re doing the same again after last week’s shank, calling the miss a "fluke" due to a bad hold. Whatever the excuse is, the Colts can ill afford too many more misses from the oldest player in the league, not with the AFC South on the line.
No matter who starts for the Colts at quarterback on Sunday, a win against Miami should be all but certain — if the offensive line can regain its form. The last two weeks, Indy has allowed nine sacks after surrendering just seven in the first six games of the season. I’d expect a heavy, heavy dosage of running back Marlon Mack, especially if the hobbled Brissett gets the nod from Reich and the Colts’ training staff.
Prediction: Colts 24, Dolphins 17
— Written by Jake Rose, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @JakeRose24.