« Merry Christmas 2015: Gifts all around!!!! | Main | Dion Jordan the face of 2013 failure »

Keys to the game: Indianapolis Colts at Miami Dolphins

This is a stunning fact: The four lowest graded players on the Miami Dolphins offense all play on the offensive line, according to metrics site ProFootballFocus.com.

Billy Turner, Jamil Douglas and Jason Fox all have negative grades in the minus-20s, per the site. Dallas Thomas has a negative grade in the minus-40s. And whatever you think of the site's grading system or expertise, this is not in doubt: We have seen evidence these players have not been good enough this season.

So you can trust the grades or trust your eyes. Either way the answer is mostly the same.

(Yes, there have been moments when all have shined also. But mostly ... not good enough).

And this surprises whom?

Maybe only the Dolphins because they picked these guys. They chose to stick with these guys. They had faith in these guys to the point the team turned away from Evan Mathis (not great, by the way, but still an upgrade on a one-year rental) as a possible replacement at guard to soothe the struggle.

But no.

This is not groundbreaking news. This is written, if anything, for the record. So that it becomes clear that the Miami offensive line is a problem. It  is, however, a problem that I have written may not be aggressively addressed in the offseason due to all the other problems the Dolphins have to address first.

Anyway, on the bright side, the Indianapolis Colts defense the Dolphins face on Sunday is not a dominant unit.

This is how the matchups shape up:

When the Dolphins pass the football: Receiver Rishard Matthews is questionable so there's a chance he plays, which would be good. But the offensive line is troubled because center Mike Pouncey probably cannot play -- he wants to but his ankle and foot injuries may have a different vote. And right tackle Ja'Wuan James still is not 100 percent ready to play regardless of whether he'll be active or not. If the Dolphins are true to their established format, they will feed Jarvis Landry 10-15 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 if the Dolphins were foreshadowing a switch at the running back spot last week when Lamar Miller went to he sideline and pretty much stayed their the second half while Jay Ajayi got the work against San Diego. Obviously, Miller had an unproductive first half and did suffer a minor quadriceps injury, but he said afterward he was able to play. Miller has similarly been limited in practice this week while Ajayi has gotten as many if not more first-team reps. The Colts have an unremarkable run defense, with former Dolphins 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 Phillip Rivers diced up the Miami secondary as if with a Ginsu 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 years, 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 proven as fruitful a strategy this year as it has in the past. If the Dolphins go with a different approach, it will 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 that 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 and remains slowed bgcause 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 40-49 yards and is three of four for kicks of 50 yards or more. It'll be interesting to see if the Colts let Hilton return punts during this one so he has a chance to make a big play in his home town while also trying to improve on the league's 28th ranked punt return unit. The Dolphins continue to look for a kick returner. Last week Reshad Jones did some of that work early in the game. 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 may be looking for work after the season. Both good men. Both solid football coaches. But neither has milked more out of their team than the talent suggests is possible. Wrote the same thing last week. Still applies. ADVANTAGE: Even.

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