This game has serious implications for both teams involved. The New England Patriots are trying to clinch home field advantage in the AFC, while the Miami Dolphins try to figure out what to do now that Matt Barkley is going back to school.
After starting the season 0-7, and then somehow saving head coach Tony Sparano’s job for a few week by rattling off three straight wins, Miami now finds themselves between a rock and a hard place. They badly need a franchise pivot to lead their somewhat talented offence, but they might have actually won too many games this season to draft a high end talent.
Then there are the Pats. They are who we thought they were, as they continue to dominate when they need to. But after a hugely hyped game and convincing victory over the Tebows last week, this game could be set up for a let down. Brady was clearly more emotionally invested in the game last week than he generally is for a regular season contest, and he might be overlooking this week’s game with the lowly Fins.
We have all heard the stories about how terrible the Pats defense is. All those stories are true. While their corners are respectable, their linebacking corps is rag tag and their safeties are anonymous. Losing defensive end Andre Carter, he of 10 sacks this year, is a huge loss for an already banged up pass rush.
So the stage is set for Miami.
Reggie Bush is having a career year and should have some success running off the left side with Jake Long and Mike Pouncey clearing the ragged Pats defenders out of the way. Brandon Marshall has not been catching a huge number of balls lately, but he has been good for one big play down the field per game, and Matt Moore is doing just enough to get a few wins.
But will Tom Brady, with home field advantage tempting him, be able to go out and crush Miami on a short week? Well that does not seem likely at this point. The Pats continue to have nothing resembling a rushing attack, and Brady can only continue to do so much on his own. The two-headed attack of Gronk and Hernandez will have their share of catches, but the game could be close.
The Pats offensive line is one of the best in the league, and this is often overlooked when discussing their success. Rookie Nate Solder has been holding down the right tackle spot, and he will have his hands full with Cameron Wake coming off the edge this week. It will be one of the biggest matchups of the week.
Whoever gets the honor of trying to shut down Gronk-Hernandez will also be pivotal. Jason Taylor will likely drop back a few times and try to keep up with the youngsters, and his veteran work ethic needs to be in top form if he is going to come close to keeping them quiet. Safety Yeremiah Bell will also be asked to step into the box to try to take away the pass, and the pressure will be on him in Foxboro this week.
Despite the vastly different records that these two teams have straight up, they are both 8-6 against the spread, as the Pats defense has not allowed them to blow many teams out this year. Expect that trend to continue this week, with Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas running all over Massachusetts. New England allows 4.7 yards per carry, and expect that to continue this week.
New England could win, but not by two scores. Take the Fins.