After a statement win on Sunday night in Arizona, the New England Patriots head back to Gillette Stadium to start a three game home stand on Sunday versus the Miami Dolphins. The Patriots are 9-3 over their last twelve games against their AFC East foe, with their most recent matchup coming in Week 17 of last season. The Dolphins won that game 20-10, against a New England team that was without Julian Edelman, Dion Lewis, Chandler Jones, and Dont’a Hightower. The Patriots also used a very minimal game plan, and showed a dismissive attitude to the importance of the game as a whole.
This Miami team is coming off of a disappointing 6-10 finish. They had a questionable offseason, as they made significant acquisitions such as Mario Williams, Byron Maxwell, Arian Foster, and Laremy Tunsil, but lost a lot of talent with the departures of Olivier Vernon, Lamar Miller, Brent Grimes, and Rishard Matthews. They opened up the season with a 12-10 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
That defeat most likely did not come as a surprise to many people as Seattle is projected to be one of the top teams in the league behind their stellar defense. What is surprising is the Seahawks offense being held to only 12 points. Their red hot run late last season was expected to run over into this year.
It’s hard to put together what Miami is missing, because it certainly isn’t talent. While I have serious doubts about Ryan Tannehill’s fortitude and potential, he is a solid quarterback who has shown the ability to at least manage games. Arian Foster is coming off of a string of injuries, but is an impressive running back nonetheless. Jarvis Landry is an extremely underappreciated talent at receiver. Ndamukong Suh has been one of the most dominant defensive lineman in the league since he was drafted.
I don’t have any answers, so for now the mystery remains, as to what unseen ailment affects the Miami Dolphins. Moving on to the game Sunday…
Offensively, the Patriots will most likely have a decent balance of run and pass. The Dolphins gave up 112 rushing yards and 258 passing yards to a Seattle offense that drastically under performed. The Patriots will try to exploit both facets during the game. LeGarrette Blount looked good on Sunday, rushing for 70 yards on 22 carries. I expect the Patriots to pound the rock, particularly if Nate Solder and Jonathan Cooper return.
The passing game worked well under Jimmy Garoppolo, who threw for 264 yards against the Cardinals. The Dolphins secondary is significantly weaker than than Arizona’s, so expect Josh McDaniels to attack them all game. Malcolm Mitchell and Chris Hogan should receive even more attention than they did in Week 1, as the Dolphins will most likely be game planning against Julian Edelman.
The Patriots should have a great day on defense. Against the Cardinals, they stuck to a zone defense, forcing Arizona to throw intermediate routes rather than their usual long balls. That will change this week, as they will most likely play more man-to-man coverage. While Jarvis Landry is a great receiver who routinely has big games against the Patriots, the rest of he receiving corps is significantly less talented. Matt Patricia will man up Malcolm Butler or Logan Ryan on Landry, and try to minimize his catches. The main focus will be on getting to Ryan Tannehill. The Dolphins offensive line gave up five sacks to Seattle. The Patriots will attempt to replicate that, and will most likely send Dont’a Hightower and Jaime Collins on a high number of blitzes all game long to keep Tannehill off balance, and more prone to make ill advised throws. The play of the Patriots front seven will be key to stopping Miami’s offense. I would also hope to see a turnover or two. They had a number of interceptions and fumble recoveries in the preseason, but did not manage any in Arizona. Defensive turnovers could be a key factor in Jimmy Garoppolo’s final three games.
The Patriots should be able to walk away with this one in their first home game of the season.
New England 31 Miami 17
Until next time- B$