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Week 14 Patriots vs Dolphins advanced stats: Mediocrity, thy name is Miami Dolphins

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A look at the stats ahead of Sunday’s meeting between the Patriots and Dolphins.

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Miami Dolphins Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots are back on the road, playing their first of two straight away games on Sunday. Their opponent are the Miami Dolphins, a team that has had its struggles this season but at 6-6 is still very much in contention for a playoff spot. The game therefore projects to be an interesting one — not just because the Patriots do historically not play their best football in South Florida.

Let’s analyze the matchup by taking a look at some of the advanced stats heading into the game (courtesy of SB Nation’s Bill Connelly; for his methodology please click here).

Patriots offense vs Dolphins defense

Normal down and distance in the open field

Patriots offense (l.) vs Dolphins defense (r.)

Thanks to their solid performance against the Minnesota Vikings last week, the Patriots offense improved its standard down success rate — gaining 50% of necessary yardage on first down, 70% on second down, and 100% on third and fourth down — in the open field. Against the Dolphins, it will have a chance to duplicate this success: Miami’s defense is only slightly better in this particular category than the Vikings while simultaneously being noticeably worse when it comes to stopping big plays.

Backed Up Situations Near the Goal Line

Patriots offense (l.) vs Dolphins defense (r.)

New England’s offensive performance with its back against the wall does not stand out in either category, as the turnover percentage is still hurting from a tipped interception in week one. Miami’s defense, meanwhile, is not much better or worse. For better or for worse, everything seems possible inside the Patriots’ 10-yard line!

Red Zone

Patriots offense (l.) vs Dolphins defense (r.)

Last week, the Patriots played arguably the NFL’s best red zone defense and they were still able to score two touchdowns and a field goal on their three trips inside Minnesota’s 20-yard line. This week, New England’s offense will face a comparatively mediocre but still somewhat productive Miami defense: when it comes to defending the red area it does not rank in the top-10 in any of the categories but also not outside the top-17. As middle-of-the-road as it can get.

Third Downs

Patriots offense (l.) vs Dolphins defense (r.)

The Patriots offense did not only play one of the league’s best red zone units last week, it also faced off against arguably the NFL’s best third down defense. The Dolphins do not present that big of a challenge as they rank in the bottom half in all statistical categories but one (third-and-longs, where it ranks 16th). While New England is far from perfect when it comes to keeping drives alive — look no further than the 32nd ranking in third-and-medium situations — the team still should be able to win this battle against Miami.

Blitz Situations

Patriots offense (l.) vs Dolphins defense (r.)

New England’s offense is rather pedestrian when finding itself in so-called blitz situations (1st and 18 or more, 2nd and 14 or more, and 3rd and 3 or more) — but so is Miami’s defense. The Dolphins are average across the board, which could create some opportunities for the Patriots to improve their numbers this week and find success when forced to play from behind the sticks.

Patriots defense vs Dolphins offense

Normal down and distance in the open field

Patriots defense (l.) vs Dolphins offense (r.)

With the exception of third down, the Patriots defense is solid but unspectacular when it comes to open field performance. That being said, the unit should still have the edge over a Miami defense that has struggled with consistency so far this year and ranks below the average in every single offensive category between its own 10-yard line and the opponents’ 30. If New England plays like last week against the Vikings, Brian Flores’ group should find success.

Backed Up Situations Near the Goal Line

Patriots defense (l.) vs Dolphins offense (r.)

New England’s defense and Miami’s offense are statistical equals when it comes to backed-up situations. The Dolphins are relatively successful when it comes to moving the football inside their own 10-yard line, but so is the Patriots defense when it comes to limiting plays in this part of the field.

Red Zone

Patriots defense (l.) vs Dolphins offense (r.)

As well as the Patriots defense played against the Vikings in week 13, the unit had some issues inside the 20-yard line and allowed its opponent to score a touchdown on its lone drive into the red area (hence the slight fall down the rankings). This week, however, presents a very good opportunity to bounce back: Miami’s offense is at best mediocre in the red zone and at worst straight up terrible.

Third Downs

Patriots defense (l.) vs Dolphins offense (r.)

Talk about weakness versus weakness: both the Patriots defense and the Dolphins offense are among the league’s worst on third down. While New England holds the edge in third-and-long situations, Miami is slightly better when it comes to third-and-medium (a low bar to clear, though). Both teams are equally bad in third-and-short situations. This should make for a fun battle to watch on Sunday — with the outcome potentially a deciding factor in the game.

Blitz Situations

Patriots defense (l.) vs Dolphins offense (r.)

As is the case on third down, the Patriots offense and Dolphins defense are also both “meh” in blitz situations. While New England has a better success rate, Miami holds the edge in big-play rate and sack rate. All in all, though, neither unit is convincing when finding itself in obvious passing downs.


Overall, the Patriots have the statistical edge over the Dolphins. With Miami’s defense being mediocre across the board and missing its best defensive back on top of it, New England should be able to move the football fairly well and put points on the board. Likewise, the Patriots defense should be able to keep the Dolphins’ offense (a unit that cannot be described as anything other than “average”) in check — at least when it performs as well as it did the last two weeks.