How will the Patriots contain Reggie Bush and the Dolphins running game?
Last week against the Broncos, the Patriots struggled, particularly early on, to stop the Denver rushing attack. In particular, the team struggled to set the edge. The Miami Dolphins have been excellent running the football as of late, with Reggie Bush being the primary reason why. Bush has run the ball for 100 yards or more in the past three games for the Phins, and while a good portion of his yardage did come up the middle against the Bills on Sunday, setting the edge against him will be key. With Andre Carter out and Mark Anderson expected to step in at either RDE or ROLB, it will be interesting to see if the Dolphins attack the Patriots in this area.
What base defense will the Patriots deploy?
When Andre Carter went down with a quadriceps injury against the Broncos on Sunday, the Patriots turned to a 3-4 base defense to contain Tim Tebow and the physical Denver rushing attack. Of course, there's no saying what defense the Patriots will go to tomorrow, as coach Bill Belichick always likes to mix things up. Against the Dolphins in week one, the Patriots used significantly more sub-package than base defense (although I expect that to change as the Dolphins will likely attempt to challenge the Patriots' ability to stop the run). One of the main things to watch against Miami will be whether the Patriots stick with the 4-3, or continue the transition to the 3-4. The release of defensive end / outside linebacker could hint towards the 4-3, but I would still put my money on the 3-4.
How will the Patriots receivers fare against a physical Miami secondary?
The Miami Dolphins' pass defense has been stellar as of late, and a lot of that has to do with the physical nature of Vontae Davis and the Miami cornerbacks group. The Patriots have historically struggled against tight-man coverage, and playing a hot defense like the Dolphins' should be a nice test for New England, just two weeks away from the playoffs.
Two more "things to watch" after the jump!
How will Pat Chung and the Patriots' safeties perform?
Patriots safety Patrick Chung has missed the last six games due to a foot injury, and the Patriots secondary has really suffered. However, indications are that Chung will finally return to action tomorrow against the Dolphins. That being said, the Patriots will likely deploy their healthiest secondary rotation in quite some time. Chung starting alongside James Idedigbo / Sergio Brown / Sterling Moore is not a terrible safety rotation. In fact, the return of Chung could even allow the Patriots to give Devin McCourty some safety help over the top. Of course, it could take the group some time to get into a groove, but tomorrow's game against Miami should help give us some type of idea of where this secondary really stands.
Will the Patriots finally capitalize on red zone opportunities?
Each and every week, it seems like the Patriots run into a couple of frustrating moments in the red zone and leave points on the board at a critical moment. The issue was highlighted when Tom Brady "lashed out" at offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien two weeks ago against the Redskins after a fourth quarter red zone interception, but it also came to light when the Patriots only managed a field goal following a turnover and a drive that started deep in Denver territory in the second quarter on Sunday. In the playoffs, teams cannot afford to leave points on the board. And while the Patriots' offense has been stellar this year, there have been points in time where they have left points on the board and it's come back to bite them in the behind. Against a hot defense like the Dolphins', the Patriots will have a chance to prove themselves in this area tomorrow.