Last week the Phins played an important game against the Oakland Raiders. The game was important because it set the stage for this Sunday’s match-up with the New England Patriots. This is not the same Patriots team that the Phins took down in week 3 and at the same token, this is not the same Dolphins team either. Can the Dolphins win this game? Yes, but they will need to play flawless football and these 5 keys will go a long way to insuring a victory.
Key 5: Benjamin Watson. The Patriots did not have Watson in the first meeting and he is becoming a go to target for Matt Cassell. Watson can pull some of the coverage off of Welker in 3rd down situations and the Dolphins must find the coverage match that will keep him from getting open consistently. Watson is not a check-down receiver though and there are TE packages in the Patriots offense that are designed to get him the ball. The Phins have struggled with some of the bigger TE’s this season so stopping Watson is a must.
Key 4: The Wild Cat. The Dolphins used the WC formation to torch the Patriots in week 3. The Pats will be far better prepared to defend against it this time around. The Phins will have to find a way to trip up the NE defense by finding new wrinkles to throw at them. While they can’t run it as much as they did in week 3, they still need to use it to keep the Patriots off balance. The Patriots have used a version of the WC themselves so don’t be surprised if Bill Belichick doesn’t roll the formation out with some of his own wrinkles.
Key 3: Joey P and the Randy Moss. One can dictate the success of the other. For the Phins, stopping Randy Moss is as simple as Joey Porter and Co. putting immense pressure on Matt Cassel. Forcing Cassel to throw too early will not allow Moss to get into his routes. Cassel can be rattled if he faces pressure and he will too often check down early to get rid of the ball. A solid pass rush will make him throw passes he shouldn’t try and make. While Cassel has matured greatly over the last 8 weeks and is far from the scared deer he was, he still has not faced a game of this magnitude so his demeanor on the field should be tested often.
Key 2: Ronnie Brown. Ronnie Brown has to find a way to get rolling early and often. Whether it is out of the WC or the base, a strong ground game by the Phins will keep the still dangerous offense of the Pats off the field. The Patriots spotted the Jets a large lead last week before storming back so a ball control offense can keep that from happening again.
Key 1: Ted Ginn. In week 3 the Dolphins didn’t use Ginn all that much. While he caught 5 passes, his play was nothing compared to what it has been over the last few weeks and the Patriots now have to account for his ability to get down-field. Chad Pennington will once again try and play a simple and safe game while he lets his playmakers make plays. With Greg Camarillo blossoming as a legitimate threat as a possession receiver, the Phins have the offensive cast to methodically drive the field. A good game by Ginn can keep the New England Patriots defense from stacking the LOS.
The Patriots are looking at this game as a revenge match for the embarrassment of week 3. A few of the players have mentioned that they had this game earmarked on their calendars so look for them to come out fast and furious in an attempt to Miami on ice early.
For the Dolphins, this is an opportunity to prove once and for all that they are a legit contender for the division and the playoffs. It’s an opportunity to show their fans that this team has in fact turned the corner from the 1-15 team they were a year ago.
The loser of this game will find themselves one or two games back of the NY Jets depending on the outcome of their game against the Titans. A win by the Jets would almost certainly put the loser too far behind the 8 ball to recover this season. Should the Jets lose, the winner would not only hold a share of first place, but the loser would still have some hopes of taking the division.
The last time the Dolphins played this important of a game was in 2000 the last year that they made the playoffs.