The Patriots take a trip to South Beach for a week 14 matchup with the division rival Miami Dolphins. Adam Gase’s team currently sits at second in the AFC East and is the first team out of the playoff picture. A win at home against New England would keep Miami’s playoff hopes alive, with some winnable games down the stretch.
Like many predicted, Miami has struggled significantly this season. Their lack of depth and talent, as well as their nasty injury bug, has left them unable to find a rhythm at all. Over the last six games, their only two wins have come against AFC opponents Buffalo and New York.
Out of the Dolphins six wins this season, their week six victory over the NFC North-leading Bears was the only one that was impressive in the slightest. Their other wins came against the Titans, the Raiders, the Bills, and the Jets (twice). The best team in that group is Tennessee, and they are a streaky 6-6.
Miami is near the bottom of the league in nearly every category on both sides of the ball. Their offense is scoring barely over 20 points per game and only 302 yards per game. They are averaging less than 200 passing yards, and barely over 100 rushing yards per game. Their defense is no better, giving up 25 points and just under 400 yards per game. Their rush defense has been particularly horrendous, giving up nearly 144 yards on the ground.
The Dolphins haven’t been helped out in the injury department either. Starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill has missed five games this season. Davante Parker has similarly missed half the season. Miami was thin to begin with on offense. Not having two of their most talented players for long stretches has made it hard for their offense to develop.
The offensive game plan for the Patriots is going to be extremely straightforward against Miami. Despite having a talented front seven, the Dolphins haven’t been able to find any success against the run. New England on the other hand, has been dominant in the run game over the past two weeks, posting 215 yards against the Jets and another 160 against an impressive Minnesota defense. Winning a war of attrition on the ground will be their best strategy.
Sony Michel will likely get his fair share of carries on Sunday. Despite Rex Burkhead’s return, Michel saw the most carries on the team last week. He is clearly the team’s lead back and will lead the Patriots offense against the Dolphins. Burkhead and James White will also see some carries, with the Patriots running back depth affording them a solid rotation.
Pro Bowl fullback James Develin will also be important. His blocking has been phenomenal this season, and he has played a critical role in the success of the Patriots running game. He is athletic enough to take on linebackers and safeties at the second level, yet strong enough to compete with defensive linemen. Develin will help New England run all over Miami.
With Dolphins star cornerback Xavian Howard sidelined with a knee injury, the Patriots pass game should have no serious obstacles. Minkah Fitzpatrick has been a brilliant draft selection for Miami, but the Patriots and Tom Brady are not going to be beaten by one highly talented player. The Patriots should be able to spread the ball out to a variety of receivers like they have over the previous few weeks.
New England’s defense is coming off of it’s best performance of the season against an extremely talented Vikings offense. Logically this means that they should be able to completely shut down the Dolphins offense. However, despite last week’s success, the Patriots defense hasn’t erased all doubts just yet. This is a favorable matchup that they could fumble with as they did against Tennessee and Jacksonville earlier this season.
The Patriots pass rush has the most to prove. They have been streaky all season, yet managed to put together a fantastic showing against Minnesota. If they can create the same level of pressure against Miami’s front five, they will hold the Dolphins offense in check. Trey Flowers was a revelation against the Vikings and will be a player to watch this week as well.
Dont’a Hightower is another player to keep an eye on. After some weeks of lethargic and unproductive play, Hightower looked like his old self against the Vikings. With a much weaker opponent this week, Hightower could be prone to take the week off and revert back to the player we have seen much of this season. The hope is that the Patriots linebacker puts in top effort for the second week in a row.
New England’s secondary should not overlook this game after a great performance against the Vikings. The Dolphins still have some serious talent, between Davante Parker, Kenny Stills, and Danny Amendola. If they come into the game healthy, they could present challenges for the Patriots. Stephon Gilmore and Jason McCourty were brilliant against Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. If they can recreate those performances, they will be able to severely limit the Dolphins pass game. The key matchup, however, may be Danny Amendola against Jonathan Jones. Amendola is a crafty receiver who has experience against Jones after practicing with him for years. Their familiarity may help Amendola get the better of the Patriots cornerback. The Dolphins could take advantage of this matchup, particularly on third downs.
This situation has the potential to give the Patriots defense a hiccup. However, Miami’s offense does not have enough talent and has not been playing at a high enough level to present a serious challenge to a New England unit that has been playing well as of late.
The Patriots struggles in Miami over the last decade have been talked about in depth this week and for good reason. New England has struggled when playing their division rival in southern Florida while having almost no problem dispatching them at home. However, that is not the most sustainable of trends as teams and situations change from year to year. The Dolphins just aren’t talented enough or healthy enough to beat the Patriots right now. New England has already suffered multiple losses this season to teams that aren’t nearly on the same level. They won’t do that again this week.
New England 30 Miami 13