The Miami Dolphins will be looking to climb out of a 3-game hole they have dug after starting the season with a surprising 3-0 record. Miami, now 3-3, will do their best to get back on track as they travel up north to face their AFC East rival, the New England Patriots (5-2).
Both Miami and New England lost heart-breaking games to AFC East foes last week. Miami fell to the Buffalo Bills in a 23-21 upset. And New England lost to the New York Jets in an even bigger 30-27 upset. Both teams will enter this game with must win implications. Miami is in dire need of a confidence booster and a huge win over the AFC East leading Patriots would surely do just that. New England, on the other hand, needs a win here to not only distance themselves from the Jets and Miami in the AFC East standings, but to also get back on track in Patriot fashion.
Here are some keys to the game if Miami wants to steal one from New England this Sunday:
—1. It seems like I start every article with this “must do” key, but Miami’s second-year quarterback, Ryan Tannehill, must play mistake free football and make good decisions. The second-year QB has played quite questionable in recent weeks leading many fans to question whether or not Tannehill is “the chosen one”. Tannehill needs to silence his critics here with a big, mistake free game against one of the league’s better pass defenses allowing 225.6 yards per game through the air. If Tannehill adds to his 7 interception and 7 fumble mess of inefficient behavior, this one could get ugly in a hurry.
—2. Attention Mike Sherman, the run game was working quite effectively last week. Time to attack New England’s 31st ranked rush defense allowing 127.1 yards per game. RB Daniel Thomas received the bulk of the carries last week against Buffalo (12 carries 60 yards) and I would expect that trend to continue until he fumbles away his opportunity —> see what I did there? RB Lamar Miller (9 carries 43 yards) looks to be the change of pace back. While it definitely is not what many of us expected, Miami’s run game worked spectacular last week with this line-up and you know what they say, don’t fix it if it ain’t broken. I am expecting Miami to do their best to establish a running game early in the game to help their young and struggling QB. Thomas and Miller could be in a for a big day without DT Vince Wilfork clogging up the middle of that defense and LB Jerod Mayo in the middle of that defense.
—3. Take away TE Rob Gronkowski and force QB Tom Brady to utilize his young targets to beat you through the air. TE Rob Gronkowski had quite the return last week against NY grabbing 8 balls for 114 yards. Miami has struggled covering athletic tight ends in recent years, therefore these young linebackers that Miami signed this offseason – Philip Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe – best bring their A game if Miami wishes to limit Gronkowski’s presence in the outcome of this game. If Miami can take Gronkowski completely out of the game plan for New England offensively, that forces their young receivers in Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce, Julian Endelman and the oft-hurt Danny Amendola to impact the game. Honestly, Endelman and Amendola are the only two that scare me a bit. Thompkins is a great young talent but has questionable hands. Dobson is quite similar but does not have the mental aspect of the game down quite yet. Same with Boyce. If Miami’s secondary can compete with these guys while the ball is in the air, I actually like Miami’s chances.
—4. Time to finally get after the quarterback, dammit. Miami’s defensive line has struggled to really put together a solid game of 5+ sacks, which they are fully capable of doing. Guys like DT Randy Starks, DT Jared Odrick, DE Cameron Wake, DE Olivier Vernon, DE Derrick Shelby, and DE Dion Jordan have to show up to play against an offensive line that has allowed 20 sacks on their beloved QB. The pressure has been there for Miami in recent weeks, but I want to see some more sacks. Finish the play. Get to the QB and hit him. Speaking of Jordan, can we please see some more of this guy? He has been an absolute terror defensively when rushing the passer. He definitely warrant some more playing time. Cut the 20-25 snap BS. This guy should easily be seeing more playing time than Shelby. Easily.
—5. It’s time to grow up and play like the team we all know you can be. There is no denying the abundant talent this team has across the depth chart from QB Ryan Tannehill to C Mike Pouncey to a guy like S Reshad Jones to even a guy like WR Brandon Gibson, this team has an abundance of talent. The issue with this team is the youth. Miami is very, very young and this leads to an abundance of mental mistakes and stupid penalties. For instance, last week against Buffalo QB Ryan Tannehill threw two idiotic passes which resulted in interceptions, one of which was returned for an easy touchdown. Tannehill also was stripped during the tail-end of the fourth quarter which led to the go-ahead field goal for Buffalo. Miami also committed 4 penalties last week, one of which resulted in about 40 yards of field position for Buffalo offensively which led to a 6-play, 44-yard touchdown drive capped off by a 2-yard Fred Jackson run. It’s time for Miami to grow up and become the team we all know and have faith that they can become. A huge step in the maturation process would be defeating the team which has owned the AFC East crown for 10 of the last 12 years.
This is a huge game for both teams, but I would have to say it’s an even bigger game for Miami. Not only is this a must win for the Dolphins, but it is a season defining game for the team. If Miami wants to have any chance at making the playoffs, a win here would be a huge step in the right direction. That being said, walking out of New England with a win is a very tough task, especially for a team as young as Miami.
Prediction: New England – 27 Miami – 23
Analysis: While I would love to take Miami here, I just can’t see the team being able to walk out of New England with a win especially when the team struggled to beat a Buffalo Bills squad which had QB Thad Lewis manning the offense. New England has been playing down to the level of their opponent this season, therefore this game could be a lot closer than people may think. But in the end, I can’t see Miami pulling off a huge upset on the road. And I especially cannot see New England dropping two in a row to AFC East foes.