Even though the AFC East title is already under wraps for the 11th season in a row, there is a lot on the line for the New England Patriots later today against the Miami Dolphins. After all, a victory would lock up a first-round playoff bye for the team no matter if the Kansas City Chiefs win against the Los Angeles Chargers or not — and at least the bookmakers see this as the likely outcome, given that the Patriots were installed as 16.5-point favorites.
Nevertheless, the Dolphins are certainly capable of playing spoilers today considering that they went a comparatively formidable 4-4 — including wins against the Philadelphia Eagles and Indianapolis Colts — over their last eight games after losing their first seven of the year. However, as The Phinsider’s Kevin Nogle pointed out earlier this week, New England should still have the upper hand if the following three developments take place in the team’s favor:
- “Lack of pass rush against [Tom] Brady, because he is Tom Brady.”
- “Lack of consistency on the offensive line, because they just have not had it all year.”
- “Lack of a run game. There are reasons [Ryan] Fitzpatrick is the leading rusher this year, but that does not mean the lack of a run game is something Miami can easily overcome.”
Based on these observations it appears that New England’s defense, which held Miami scoreless during the team’s first meeting of the season, should again get plenty of chances to have a major impact on the game’s outcome: if the Dolphins fail to slow the pass rush down or establish at least some semblance of a ground game versus the Patriots, they should be able to make life hard for Fitzpatrick and company from start to finish.
However, Kevin still thinks that the veteran quarterback could be the key to beating New England at Gillette Stadium: “If Miami is going to hang in this game at all, it has to be on Fitzpatrick’s arm — and Bill Belichick knows that. Being one dimensional against the Patriots does not seem like a good game plan, though.”