The Miami Dolphins travel to Foxboro in Week 15 with their season hanging in the balance. After losing control of their destiny by getting beat up by the Baltimore Ravens on their home field, the Dolphins are left having to win their last three games of the year to even have a chance at sniffing the playoffs.
The Miami Dolphins have won the past two meetings with the Patriots, but those two wins came with the comfort of playing at home, this week the Dolphins will have to overcome adversity on the road to prove they still deserve to be in the playoff discussion. In order for that to happen, the Miami Dolphins need to win the following match ups to even have a chance.
Match Up 1: Samson Satele vs. Vince Wilfork
In Week 1, the Miami Dolphins managed to win this match up and control the tempo of the game spearheaded by the two headed rotation of Knowshon Moreno and Lamar Miller. This week the Dolphins will not have the benefit of the tough running by Moreno and will have to work a little harder to open holes for the finesse running style of Lamar Miller.
Wilfork was the reason the Miami Dolphins felt the need to replace Satele all those years ago after making him a second round pick. The Dolphins can ill afford for Wilfork to make Satele look like that player once again, with the struggles on his left at guard and Mike Pouncey’s inconsistency at right guard, the Fins will need Satele to hold down the fort. This will be a challenge for Satele who has been nursing injuries for the past couple of weeks. Look for the Dolphins to employ plenty of double teams with Pouncey and Satele tandem blocking on Wilfork, especially in running game.
Match Up 2: Dallas Thomas vs. Rob Ninkovich
Dallas Thomas has been just god awful at right tackle since taking over for Ja’Wuan James after his move to left tackle to fill in for the injured Branden Albert. Look for Jason Fox to be active this week and ready to play at the first sign of struggle from Thomas. Thomas has been abused by the Mario Willaims and Elvis Dumervils of the league and this week it gets no easier.
While Ninkovich isn’t going to jump out at you with his measurables and timed speed, he is “Johnny on the spot”. A magnet for the football, the Dolphins and particularly Thomas need to find a way to keep him away for from the football before laws of attraction help the football end up in his hands. Ninkovich is a catalyst for the Patriots defense and if the Dolphins can keep him at bay, they have a good chance of controlling the line of scrimmage.
Match Up 3: Kelvin Sheppard vs. LeGarrette Blount
Blount has returned to the Patriots after his abysmal start to the year with the Steelers to give the Patriots the power back they were missing against the Dolphins in Week 1. The Dolphins are likely to be without two of their starting linebackers this Sunday and will be starting Kelvin Sheppard in the middle.
Sheppard will need to play one of the best games of his career, the Dolphins need him to be on top of his assignments getting players lined up and filling the right gaps in the run game. The Patriots are likely to try and get him out in space in mismatches but when the Pats do look to establish ther running game, Sheppard will need to fill the gaps created by the penetration of the Fins’ D- Line.
Match Up 4: Cameron Wake & Olivier Vernon vs. Nate Solder & Sebastian Vollmer
Plain and simple, the only way to shut down the the Patriots offense is to consistently harass Tom Brady. The only way to do that, is to have consistent pressure in his face from a team’s defensive line. Wake and Vernon will need to have monster games to give the Dolphins a chance to stop the Patriots arial attacks that is hitting on all cylinders right now.
Match Up 5: Dion Jordan vs. Rob Gronkowski
Dion Jordan was suspended the first time these two teams faced off this year and Gronkowski was still regaining pre injury form. This week, this should be a major match up as the Dolphins plan to deploy Jordan in a shadow role on Gronk. Jordan has the size and speed to neutralize the physical advantage that Gronk usually holds over defenders, the real question though is does Jordan have the necessary experience and coverage skills to consistently neutralize Gronkowski’s impact in the passing game? I’m sure if deployed in spurts, the scheme can be effective, but with all the injuries the Dolphins are dealing with in the back seven, the need for Jordan to have a big game and play more reps in coverage is as imperative as its ever been.
This could be Jordan’s coming out party and audition to convert to more of a linebacker role next year or it could be the beginning of the Bust chants for a player who has done little in his first tow seasons as a pro.
Match Up 6: Ryan Tannehill vs. Patriots Secondary
This match up mainly concerns Derrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, Devin McCourty and Belichick’s Coordinator’s schemes. These are the 3 best players in Belichick’s secondary and you know he is going to try to scheme as much as possible to take the Dolphins primary big play threats Mike Wallace, Jarvis Landry, and Charles Clay out of the game plan. They could set up a couple of different ways in attempts to do that but it’s going to be on the young Ryan Tannehill to take control of his Offense and get them into the right plays to attack the Defense.
Tannehill has definitely made significant strides this year but he is still lacking in the deep passing game. In a game that means so much to the year and at a point where the offense has become stagnant, Tannehill needs to hit some critical passes down the field and open up the box for the running game if the Dolphins are going to pull off the upset in Foxboro.
Today could be Dolphins fans’ Christmas Miracle! Fins Up!