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NFL Preview - Miami (4-3) at Indianapolis (4-3)
By John McMullen, NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - Indianapolis and Miami share quite a few common traits.
Both teams have rookie first round quarterbacks, both have freshman head coaches and both enter Week 9 of the NFL season at 4-3.
Something has to give on Sunday, however, when the Colts play host to the Dolphins.
Each club is coming off an unlikely road win that helped both climb over the .500 mark on the season. Andrew Luck, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft, put together an impressive 80-yard touchdown drive in overtime to lift the Colts to a 19-13 win at Tennessee last Sunday, while Matt Moore came on in relief for Miami as the Fish stunned the New York Jets 30-9.
Indianapolis has already doubled-up its win total from the 2011 season, and Luck has the highest winning percentage (.571) through Week 8 by a rookie QB selected with the No. 1 overall pick in NFL history.
The Stanford product has been averaging 281.6 passing yards per game, the most among the rookie signal-callers and has led the Colts to a 3-1 mark since offensive coordinator Bruce Arians took over for the ailing Chuck Pagano, who is undergoing treatment for leukemia.
"I think a big thing for us is realizing you are a rookie, that doesn't mean you have to play as a rookie," Luck said. "You don't have that excuse. This team needs us to perform well and perform well now."
Ryan Tannehill, the eighth overall pick in April's draft, has led the Dolphins in a similar fashion to Luck but was knocked out in the first quarter of last Sunday's win over the Jets with a bruised left knee and injured quadriceps muscle.
Moore picked up the slack, coming off the bench to throw for 131 yards and a touchdown, as Miami finished the convincing win. Moore completed 11-of-19 passes without a turnover. He received plenty of support from a defense that sacked Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez four times and came up with two takeaways as Miami registered its third straight win following a 1-3 start.
"It was a team victory in every regard," said Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin. "All three phases contributed to the win and I thought our guys came out ready to play after the bye week. We got off to a fast start and there were a lot of positives out there."
Tannehill has turned the corner recently, completing 40- of-60 passes for 426 yards with two TDs and no picks over his last three games. An MRI on Monday revealed no structural damage to his leg and Tannehill was able to practice in a limited fashion on Wednesday, splitting time with Moore.
"I'm just taking it one day at a time. I want to play obviously," Tannehill said. "I want to be out there. I'm just going to do everything I can to be ready and hopefully that's the case."
Arians is preparing for both players.
"The quarterback (Tannehill) is a young player and they're asking him to do things he did in college so he fit right into their system," Arians said. "The other quarterback (Moore) is a veteran who has always won whenever he's gotten the chance to play."
The Dolphins lead the all-time series with a hefty 44-24 advantage although the Colts have won the last three, albeit with Peyton Manning under center.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Miami has been doing it with mirrors recently and must get its offense back on track. Re-establishing the running game and Reggie Bush should be paramount since the quarterback spot is in question this week.
While the Dolphins rank 11th in the league in rushing at 115.9 yards per game. they've managed just 71.8 over their last four contests and Bush hasn't topped the 60-yard mark since September.
"It's got to get better, no question about it," Philbin said of his running game. "The first three weeks we might have been averaging, again I'm going to throw out a stat, 170 yards, 160 or something pretty good. The last four weeks, not so much. So, that disparity, we've got to find a resting spot somewhere in between there."
Arians, however, seems concerned with Miami's offensive line, especially center Mike Pouncey and Pro Bowl left tackle Jake Long.
"They've got a heck of an offensive line. You've got number one picks at center and left tackle," Arians said. "They've got a powerful offensive line and Reggie Bush is just like Chris Johnson. He can take it to the house at any point in time."
For the Colts, it's all about upping their efficiency on their offense. Indy typically moves the ball and is ranked No. 8 in total offense but is just 24th in scoring thanks in large part to 13 turnovers and struggles in the red zone. Improving that will not come easy against a very tough Miami defense.
"Defensively, they're number one on third downs, number two in the red zone, number five in scoring defense. Those are great situational football statistics," Arians said when talking about the Dolphins defense. "I don't care about their overall rankings. The yards gone between the twenties don't matter. They're top notch [on] third down, red zone and scoring defense in this league. And they're very good against the run."
Miami's defense hasn't allowed more than two touchdowns in a game since September but Luck's name has been apropos thus far for Indy, which figures to do just enough to put another "Luck-y" win under its belt.
"We realize we have so much more to improve on in every game," Luck said. "We're not overlooking any opponent by any means. We haven't earned that right. I don't think we'll ever earn that right."
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Colts 21, Dolphins 20
11/01 14:06:15 ET