This Sunday the Miami Dolphins(5-6) welcome the New England Patriots(8-3), who are currently at the top of the AFC East, to Sun Life Stadium. Both teams are coming off big wins, and both were important wins for the Dolphins to keep them in the hunt for the playoffs. The Dolphins were able to snap a 3 game losing streak last Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks, while the Patriots had a division rival blow-out against the New York Jets.
This is a pivotal game for the Dolphins if they hope to keep there playoff hopes alive. I tried the ESPN Playoff Machine and was able to figure multiple scenario’s where Miami can make the playoffs. With every scenario it figured that the Dolphins must win 4 of there remaining 5 games, and the only game that they could afford to lose is the only remaining NFC game, against the San Fransisco 49ers. However, unless the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals can lose a few games, they won’t be able to make it even if they win 4 of there 5 remaining games.
Last Sunday the Dolphins win was in no way perfect. There were still many problems, and if it wouldn’t have been for QB Ryan Tannehill taking a shot to the head at the end of the game, when he threw an interception, the Dolphins wouldn’t have won. On the other hand, Miami had some very good plays, and both RB’s, Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas, played well. Tannehill also was able to put together some good drives with the help of WR Davone Bess. This Dolphins team looked much better then the Dolphins team we had seen the 3 weeks prior. Can they keep improving?
This week there are finally some things that we can look forward to again. Several players that were struggling recently looked much improved against the Seahawks. This should be an interesting game to see how the secondary reacts to Patriots Tom Brady.
Here is my top 5 individual expectations list for this weeks game against the New England Patriots in Sun Life Stadium:
1. Dolphins Secondary Defense- Tom Brady is one of the best QB’s in the NFL. Even the most experienced secondary defenses struggle against Brady. I will be looking to see how CB Sean Smith and the rest of the secondary defense react.
2. Dolphins Run Defense- Patriots RB Steven Ridley has played very well this season. The Dolphins Run Defense struggled during there 3 game losing streak, but were able to shut down Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch by holding him to only 46 yards and no TD’s. Will the Dolphins be able to shut down Ridley this week.
3. Reggie Bush(Running Back)- Reggie Bush finally had a good game last week. He has struggled every game since his injury, but was finally able to make an impact against a good Seattle Run Defense. The Patriots have the 10th ranked run defense in the NFL allowing 100.8 yards per game. Will Reggie run like he did last week or the 3 weeks prior?
4. Ryan Tannehill(Quarterback)- Tannehill was able to break his second Dan Marino rookie record last Sunday. Overall he performed well and limited his mistakes. In all reality though, if Tannehill wouldn’t have received the “defensive contact to the head” call on Seattle, the interception he threw on that play would have been game over and the Seahawks would have won.
Depending on how you want to look at it, Tannehill out performed Seahawks Russell Wilson. Tannehill had 253 yards on 18 catches with 1 TD and 1 INT, while Russell Wilson had 224 on 21 completions with 2 TD’s and no INT’s. We saw some heads up plays by Tannehill in crunch time, and he finally was able to get his first 4th quarter comeback win against a team that should still make it to the playoffs. He placed the ball where it needed to be on his final couple drives and threw a perfect touchdown pass to TE Charles Clay. Again Brian Hartline didn’t have a big day, but 3rd down specialist WR Davone Bess did.
This week’s challenge will be big for Tannehill. I’m not even going to try to say this is a QB battle because it’s not. Tom Brady is hands down the better QB as of now, but that’s not saying in the future Tannehill can’t surpass Brady’s skill level. I will be watching to see how Tannehill handles the pressure of the Patriots pass rush and see if he can continue from where he ended last week.
5. Cameron Wake(Defensive End)- DE Cameron Wake has almost disappeared lately. He’s not getting the numbers he has in previous seasons. He only had 1 tackle and no sacks, while DE Jared Odrick had 4 tackles including 1 sack against Seattle. Anytime Wake is pressuring the QB it looks like the offensive line is having it’s way with him. He may get a hand on the QB, but he isn’t able to bring them down as well as previous seasons. Will he be able to put some pressure on Tom Brady and get him to make a mistake in the passing game?
Those are my top 5 individual player expectations for this week. Do you have a top 5 individual expectations list?