Both the Miami Dolphins and the Indianapolis Colts are riding winning streaks and gaining respect around the National Football League for the manner in which they have developed into contenders.
Among the similarities between the two teams are the obvious as far as first-year head coaches and rookie quarterbacks occupying key roles. Their rosters are young and they are trying to keep pace with veteran teams on top of their respective divisions, so tomorrow’s game is about as big as can be in the grand scheme of things.
Colts rookie quarterback Andrew Luck has shouldered the combined pressure of being the first overall pick of the NFL Draft and being the man asked to fill the shoes of a future Hall-of-Famer in Peyton Manning. He has had his ups and downs, but for the most part has risen above the fray to prove he can be a reliable leader on the field and deliver wins when the game is on the line.
Through six games and a little less than one quarter, Dolphins rookie quarterback
Beyond these two main characters, there are plenty of other figures on both sides of the ball that will end up playing a significant role in the outcome at Lucas Oil Stadium. The winning team will improve to 5-3 at the midway point of the season and position itself to be a serious player in the second half of.
Five Things To Watch:
1. Which team’s quarterback will put together that signature drive that will decide the outcome – Regardless of who starts at quarterback for Miami – Tannehill or veteran backup
2. How will Miami’s offensive line and other pass protectors handle the Colts’ dual pass rushing threat of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis – There was a bit of a concern earlier in the week over the health of both veterans, but Freeney (ankle) and Mathis (knee) are listed as probable and will try to pin their ears back and get after Moore or Tannehill. Other than the one miscue that led to a sack of Tannehill in the first quarter and the injury that sent him to the sidelines, the Dolphins’ front five, tight ends and running backs managed to slow down the Jets’ pass rush on the road. Rookie right tackle
3. Indianapolis veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne versus Dolphins cornerback
4. What will the Colts’ offensive line do to slow down Miami’s front seven, specifically defensive end
5. How will Dolphins Head Coach Joe Philbin prepare his team for the noise in Lucas Oil Stadium and the magnitude of this game – Playing meaningful games in the month of November and December was one of the major goals Philbin hoped to attain in his first year on the job and he has Miami in that exact position. He has watched his players find a balance between having fun and staying loose and maintaining focus on the task at hand. “There is a fine line. We talked about that,” Philbin said. “I thought that against St. Louis we kind of teetered on being a little bit over the top for me. But I thought that the last week we were good. There is a fine line, there’s that balance like you said. I don’t envision myself as a real uptight guy, but I like to think that I am serious about what I do and I want our guys to take their job seriously and be ready to play.” As for the noise level inside of a packed indoor stadium, the Dolphins experienced it at Houston and at Arizona so Philbin shouldn’t be too concerned about that.