The season, as always, is flying by. The Patriots aren’t quite halfway through their schedule, but they have already played half their divisional games in the AFC East. Their divisional record stands at 2-1, with all three games decided by three points or less, including last week’s 30-27 overtime loss to the New York Jets.
In Week 8 the Miami Dolphins roll into town for the first of two games against the Pats. As the preseason favorites to challenge the Patriots in the AFC East, we should expect another tight divisional battle, right?
I’m here to tell you that the Patriots are going to set the tone early this week, and put the Dolphins away by halftime. The die is cast. Mark it down.
First things first: the Dolphins aren’t that good. I never understood the preseason hype. A sub-.500 team signs Mike Wallace and they’re suddenly Super Bowl contenders? I don’t think so.
The Dolphins now sit at 3-3 and are looking like the bottom feeders of the AFC East after losing to the Buffalo Bills last week. Oh, and the Bills were starting Thad Lewis (who?) at quarterback. The Dolphins have now lost three straight and are struggling to find any sort of consistency.
They struggle moving the ball offensively – ranked 27th in the league with 312.7 yards per game. They struggle stopping opponents from moving the ball – ranked 21st giving up 372.2 yards per game. They also have no identity, and no X-factor that is going to win them close games.
The closest thing they have to a superstar is an elite pass rusher in Cameron Wake. But that doesn’t really help against the Patriots. They have an elite left tackle in Nate Solder that can neutralize any threat at defensive end.
The Dolphins struggles with consistency will not be cured this week. They have lost to the Patriots six straight times dating back to 2010, and haven’t won in Gillette since Matt Cassel was the starting quarterback in 2008. With Brady under center, the Patriots have only lost to the Dolphins once at home, in 2006.
Gillette Stadium has been good to New England this year as well. They have won all three games at home and don’t show any signs of stopping.
Plus everyone who’s anyone knows that the Patriots don’t lose two games in a row. They are due to bounce back with a strong performance after a heartbreaking loss at MetLife Stadium last week.
It is easy to get caught up in the numbers game, but as they say the game isn’t won on paper. It is the matchups on the field that will determine the outcome of the game.
On the defensive side of the ball for New England, they match up very favorably with Miami.
Chandler Jones should have a field day with Miami’s left tackle Jonathan Martin. Both second year players, these two have gone in very different directions since entering the league. Jones was expected to step up as the Patriots’ top pass rusher in his second season – he has done just that. Martin was expected to transition smoothly to starting left tackle after Jake Long left for St. Louis – it hasn’t exactly been smooth. Jones should be able to put pressure on quarterback Ryan Tannehill, which does not bode well for the Dolphins.
In addition to their lack of talent at left tackle, the Dolphins offense lacks a power running game that would otherwise worry the Patriots defense. Without Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly, opposing offenses should look to attack the Patriots right up the gut. Unfortunately for Miami, that is not a strength of theirs. Joe Vellano and Chris Jones (so long as he’s not committing obscure penalties) should be able to occupy space in the middle while Brandon Spikes cleans up the mess. Look for Spikes to have a huge day stuffing the run.
Offensively, the Patriots are due for a big day. Brady threw for 284 yards and two scores, racking up a 104.4 passer rating, in his last start against the Dolphins. Look for him to put up similar numbers this weekend. Rob Gronkowski is not only back now, but has had a week to settle in. After Brady has a look at last week’s tape he is going to realize that he needs to rely less on Gronkowski and get back to his old self. Don’t be surprised when he does just that.
The Dolphins give up over 100 yards per game on the ground, so the Patriots should be able to establish a running game early. That will set up the play-action pass, where Brady is at his best. Once that gets rolling he is going to put up some serious points. And this game will be over by halftime.
If you are a gambling man, take the Patriots at -7.