A heated AFC East division rivalry heads to Northeast as the Miami Dolphins limp into Foxboro Massachusetts to take on the New England Patriots. Surprisingly, Miami holds the all-time lead in the series 53-50 but they have lost 11 of the last 14 games including losing there last 8 games in Foxboro.
While the Patriots seem to have put behind their early season woes, the Dolphins seem to be in a tailspin losing their last 4 games in an unbelievably embarrassing fashion.
Playoff implications are on the line….well…..At least for the Patriots so in yet another futile attempt to be non-bias and analytical, both teams were broken down in key areas to see how they will match up against each other and which one may have the key to a victory.
Quarterback – Patriots: Regardless if it’s Jay Cutler or Matt Moore, neither Dolphins quarterback individually or collectively can compare to Tom Brady who is leading the NFL in yards and Passer Rating.
Running Backs – Patriots: While the Dolphins felt the need to blow up their backfield by trading away their most productive running back, the Patriots have assembled a full and diverse complement of running backs that have been overwhelming defenses for the last several weeks.
Wide Receivers – Patriots: The Dolphins wide receivers may wow people on paper….However it’s tough to stop doubting them with the train wreck they have at the quarterback position.
Tight Ends – Patriots: At one time, Dolphins’ Julius Thomas was an important part of Gase’s offense….Of course that was four seasons ago…in Denver…with Peyton Manning at QB. As of today, there is no one individually or collectively on the Dolphins roster that can compare to the Patriots Tight End group.
Offensive Line – Patriots: There may not be very many high round picks on the Patriots offensive line, but New England has not ignored this part of their roster like the Dolphins have.
Defensive Front Seven – Push: Regardless of how much money Miami is burning on their front seven, they are even statistically with New England who is dealing with many key injuries across their defensive front.
Secondary – Push: While New England’s secondary is still yielding the most pass yards per game in the NFL, the Dolphins are one of three teams whose secondary is allowing over a 100 passer rating to opposing quarterbacks.
Special Teams – Patriots: Even though the Dolphins’ punter and place kicker have gotten a fair amount of work due to the Dolphins anemic offense, the Patriots special teams unit has been solid, even game changing, over the course of the last several weeks.
Coaching – Patriots: While Bill Belichick moved into 3rd on the all-time Head Coach wins list, the Dolphins’ Adam Gase has come back to reality after an improbable and quite fortunate playoff run last season built off of a 4th place schedule. This year it is pretty apparent that Gase is way over his head and the reality of having a tougher schedule this year has shown that the Dolphins are not ready to step out of the AFC East cellar yet.
If we assign 2 points for every category (1 point per team for draws) this is how it lines up:
Key’s to Victory:
1) Watch the Cheap-Shot Artists: With the inevitable end to their season coming on December 31st, the Dolphins’ Goon Squad, led by the underachieving Ndamukong Suh and meat-head Kiko Alonzo, will certainly be out there trying to take their dirty play to new levels. The Patriots must mindful will these characters are on each play and, if needed, preemptively neutralize them where possible.
2) Play with Confidence and not Over Confidence: It’s easy to overlook a dreadful team that is floundering away their season as they sink to the bottom of the division. However the Patriots need to stay focused to ensure that division games are not overlooked no matter how inept the opponent may look.
3) Expect the Unexpected: While this may be a mismatch on paper, it is a division game where anything can happen so the Patriots should go into Sunday’s matchup being prepared to expect the unexpected from a Dolphins team desperately trying to avoid finishing in the division basement.
With yet another disappointing season coming to an end, the Dolphins certainly have nothing to play for except pride. There is no doubt that Miami’s cheap shot crew, led by lowlife Ndamukong Suh, will be out to intentionally hurt anyone he can. The Patriots need to stay focused, stay aware of where the cheap shot artists are, and do what they need to do to move past this bottom tier team.
Expect a surprising closer game than expected only because of the familiarity between the two teams.
The Knuckles Prediction: Patriots 23 – Miami 16