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INDIANAPOLIS – Well, flexing the Colts into a 4:25 PM timeslot looks to have worked out pretty well for the NFL.
The streaking Colts (5-5), winners of 4 straight games, will take on the Miami Dolphins (5-5) this Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium in a very important AFC tilt.
Here are 7 things to watch as the Colts take on the Dolphins in Week 12.
1. Boehm’s Time
-For the first time since 2015, Andrew Luck will be working with a new starting center. Evan Boehm will be the first center to start with Luck since Jonotthan Harrison in November 2015. Boehm has never started at center in the NFL and has only been with the Colts for around a month and a half. Good news for Boehm? The Dolphins rank 28th in the NFL in sacks per pass attempt and lack a strong interior defensive line presence.
2. Is More Blitzing The Answer?
-We did see an uptick in blitzing from the Colts last week. It worked, with the Colts producing 5 sacks and keeping the Titans out of the red zone for the first 58 minutes of the game. Now, just because the Colts upped their blitzing last week doesn’t mean this is going to become the defensive norm. We will see if Matt Eberflus decides to use more of it again this week.
3. Maintain The Turnovers
-The Colts are one of just three NFL teams with forced turnovers in all 10 of their games this season. The Browns and Washington Football Team are the other two teams. Consistent playmaking has been a huge reason why the Colts have had more success on defense this season than anyone could have realistically expected. Recently, this offense is taking full advantage of the extra possessions/short fields the defense is creating this season.
4. Return Of Hooker
-Malik Hooker returned to practice this week and should play in Week 12 against the Dolphins. Without Hooker last week, the Colts actually received some quality play from undrafted rookie George Odum, who started ahead of a limited Mike Mitchell against the Titans. This secondary looks to be very healthy this week, a good sign as the Colts enter the final stretch of the season.
5. Tannehill’s Return?
-After 5 games of starting Brock Osweiler, the Dolphins are getting Ryan Tannehill back under center this week. Miami’s offense has been non-existent in recent games. They haven’t scored an offensive touchdown in 9 quarters and Osweiler didn’t throw a touchdown pass in the past 3 games. Tannehill’s throwing shoulder injury appears to be good enough for him to face off against his fellow 2012 draft mate in Andrew Luck.
6. Winning With Expectations
-Not only are we talking about the Colts now in the playoff race, there’s chatter this week if Frank Reich’s team is the favorite for the final Wild Card spot. The Colts are playing the best of any 5-5 team currently in the thick of a battle for the final AFC playoff berth. Now the question becomes how will the Colts handle more success and rising expectations?
7. Luck, Leonard Make Cases
-Priority No. 1 for the Colts is obviously trying to make the playoffs here in 2018. But the Colts are also in-line for some end of the year hardware courtesy of the NFL. Andrew Luck is a shoe-in for Comeback Player of the Year. And the same should be for Darius Leonard and Rookie of the Year. Some fans are asking about Luck for MVP or even Leonard for Defensive Player of the Year. For either of those two to actually be at the top of those honors, both will need to end the season with some huge games, and for the Colts to continue this win streak.
Bowen’s Prediction: Colts, 31-20. On paper, it’s really hard to see how the Dolphins have even obtained a .500 record. It doesn’t matter which side of the ball, you won’t find the Dolphins even near the middle of the pack in many important league rankings. Injuries have also hurt a roster that isn’t filled with playoff caliber talent to begin with. There’s a reason why those in Vegas have the Colts favored by 9 points against a fellow 5-5 team. Before the season started, this was one of the games I had as a somewhat convincing win for the Colts. I see that happening on Sunday. The Colts move to 6-5 with Andrew Luck and the offense continuing their tremendous run.
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