As we enter the final quarter of the NFL season, the New England Patriots take their league leading eight game winning streak to south Florida to take on the Miami Dolphins. These teams met in Foxboro two weeks ago where the Patriots, in an uncharacteristically sloppy game, beat down the Dolphins to the tune of 35-17. While this has been a rather one-sided rivalry this decade, the Dolphins have had some success against the Patriots winning 3 of the last 4 meetings in Miami.
The Patriots (10-2) enter this game looking to keep pace with the Pittsburgh Steelers for the top playoff seed in the AFC while the Dolphins (5-7) look to get out of the Division cellar that they have been sharing for a good part of the season. With a win on Monday Night, the Patriots would clinch the AFC East Division Crown for the 14th time in 15 years.
As was the case a few weeks ago, 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: The return of Jay Cutler to the starting lineup, versus Matt Moore in the Week 12 match up, is not enough to even out this comparison with the Patriots’ Tom Brady.
Running Backs – Patriots: Even though Miami’s Kenyan Drake may be trying to build on his 120 yard performance from last week’s, the emergence of the Patriots running backs, led by Dion Lewis, gives the Patriots the edge in this match up.
Wide Receivers – Even: Miami’s WR trio of Stills, Landry, and Parker certainly is a formidable group, the Patriots’ group of wide outs group have been much more efficient within their offense. The Dolphins receivers should have a better outing than they did a few weeks ago in Foxboro.
Tight Ends – Dolphins: Even though the Dolphins’ TE group is mediocre at best, they do get the edge in this area, for once, with the Patriots missing Rob Gronkowski this week due to suspension.
Offensive Line – Patriots: While the Patriots did allow Brady to get hit a season high 8 times in their last meeting, New England’s Offensive Line has been more consistent with run blocking and pass protection than Miami’s group.
Defensive Front Seven – Push: If the comparison between the two front seven groups hinged solely on salary and name recognition, the Dolphins would have an insurmountable edge…However, based on production, it is a relatively even matchup between the two teams.
Secondary – Patriots: While New England’s secondary has yielded slightly more yards per game this season compared to Miami, they are now in the top 10 in interceptions and have been allowing a significantly lower passer rating to opposing quarterbacks than their Dolphins counterparts.
Special Teams – Patriots: Miami’s Special Teams stats, particularly in regards to punting, are much greater than New England’s solely based on the Dolphins’ horribly anemic offense. Overall special teams play, however, has been much more consistent for the Patriots this season.
Coaching – Patriots: There is very little to nothing on Adam Gase’s resume that could stack up to the accomplishments or coaching ability of Bill Belichick.
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 Part II: About the only thing the Dolphins have to play for, besides their bloated paychecks, is to cause as many injuries as they can on their way to the end of their season on December 31st. As was the case a few weeks ago, the Patriots must mindful will these characters are on each play and not be drawn in by their bush league tactics.
2) Forget the Game from Two Weeks Ago: The victory over the Dolphins in Week 12 certainly exposed how big the gap is between New England and Miami. Even while playing a sub-par game by Patriots standards, the Dolphins were overwhelmed and subsequently steamrolled. Having said that, certainly that game has left a bad taste in the Dolphins’ mouth and undoubtedly this will be their Super Bowl. The Patriots should expect a much more challenging game this time around.
3) Be Aware of the Desperation: While New England may be prepared for the typical mess that the Dolphins roll out on Game Days, they need to be mindful that desperate times call for desperate measures and the Dolphins could resort to trickery to generate offense or to keep offensive possessions alive.
Monday Night’s game has the classic makings of a trap game. With next week’s game against the Steelers looming, it can be easy for the Patriots to look past this bottom tier Dolphins squad that they crushed a few weeks ago. Hopefully the Patriots can stay focused and not be over confident.
Expect the surprising close game that we thought was going to happen a couple of weeks ago but didn’t.
The Knuckles Prediction: Patriots 20 – Miami 17