Monday Night Football Preview - Colts at Dolphins
by Matt Severance - 9/21/2009
The defending AFC East champion Miami Dolphins were one of the surprise teams of 2008, but a loss tonight means the Fins are probably going to be watching the playoffs on TV this year.
Since the NFL went to a 12-team playoff format back in 1990, only 22 teams (13.7 percent) have reached the postseason after starting 0-2. Only 10 (6.3 percent) have won their division. But an 0-2 hole sure seems likely for Miami if it doesn't play better than last week's 19-7 road loss to Atlanta. Miami, which set an NFL record (matched by the Giants) with just 13 giveaways last year, turned the ball over four times last week, which lead to 10 Falcons points. Atlanta also sacked Chad Pennington four times.
Frankly, it might be time to worry about Pennington if you are a Dolphins backer. Sure, he was the NFL MVP runner-up last year, but he was awful in the playoff loss to Baltimore in throwing four interceptions. Last Sunday, Pennington threw another pick and lost a fumble. His completion percentage was a very good 72.4 percent, but that's because he was dinking and dunking the ball all over, with an average yards per attempt of just more than six yards. As a team, the Fins had just 259 yards of offense.
As for the Colts, who are 3.5-point favorites on Bodog, they looked OK in beating Jacksonville, 14-12, last week. But perhaps that win doesn't look as good after seeing what the Cardinals did to the Jaguars yesterday. Plus, Indianapolis lost No. 2 receiver Anthony Gonzalez for at least a few weeks when he was hurt in that game, and receiver was arguably the team's weakest spot in terms of depth. Indy signed Hank Baskett this week, but he was just cut by the Eagles, so that should tell you something. The Colts will rely on Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon, who have a combined nine career receptions. Look for tight end Dallas Clark and No. 1 WR Reggie Wayne to be constantly double-teamed tonight; Wayne had 10 catches for 162 yards and a TD last week.
However, the Dolphins should get a huge break tonight in that Colts safety Bob Sanders won't be playing. The former NFL Defensive Player of the Year is out until at least October because of offseason knee surgery. The Indy run defense simply isn't the same without Sanders, as it ranked in the bottom third of the league last year when he played in just six games. Last week the Jags outrushed Indy, 114-71. The Colts do get DT Ed Johnson back after a one-game suspension for a marijuana arrest, and he will help against the ground game. Miami had a disappointing 96 yards on the ground against Atlanta, which was a very poor run defense last year.
Miami has won four of the past six meetings, although the teams haven't played since 2006. Colts QB Peyton Manning struggles against the Dolphins historically, as he has a 4-7 record against them with 18 interceptions and just 16 touchdown passes. Only the Patriots have saddled Manning with more losses in his career.
Indy does well on "Monday Night Football," going 9-3 in the past decade. The Colts have won seven of their past eight MNF games, averaging 33.1 points.
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