Currently riding a five game winning streak, the New England Patriots boast a 4-0 record heading into Sunday’s division rivalry against the Miami Dolphins. The Patriots have a chance at clinching the AFC East outright already with a win in south Florida, and this will be the first time the Pats will face the Dolphins this season. Maybe just as importantly, this will be the first meeting between the Patriots and Dolphins promising rookie signal-caller Ryan Tannehill. The Pats have killed the two teams in the north in the AFC East, and they should be able to do well against the Dolphins too.
It’s time to take a look at some players whose stocks are rising and falling, but it won’t all be restricted to specific players.
Tom Brady Rising
He’s the front-runner for the MVP at this point, and I can’t make a case for why he hasn’t been the best quarterback in the NFL this season. Brady has been as Brady-like as ever and continues to tear up defenses while also almost never making a mistake. The Dolphins secondary has one very good corner in Sean Smith, but they have little depth outside of him and are weak at safety. With Aaron Hernandez getting healthier, this could be another big week for Brady. Smith can shut down Brandon Lloyd when at his best, but I can’t see him or anyone else in the Dolphins secondary playing up with Wes Welker.
The Dolphins also need to worry about another possession receiver in Julian Edelman now, and he isn’t actually a true possession receiver anymore. He’s a playmaker, and he showed that with some excellent route-running against the New York Jets last week for a 56-yard TD. Edelman has four TDs over the past two games, which means more of a chance for Brady to continue to post MVP-like numbers.
Sebastian Vollmer had better not be out for a second straight game, because the Patriots will be going up against the dominant Cameron Wake on Sunday. He’s arguably the best pass rusher in the NFL, and I don’t think Marcus Cannon can hang with him if matched up against Wake. Cannon was terrific against the Jets (nearly flawless), but there is a clear gap in quality between the Dolphins and Jets pass rush. I mean, the ‘Fins have one of the most dominant pass rushing units in the NFL, and the Pats will sorely miss Vollmer (the best right tackle in football right now) on Sunday. If he doesn’t play, the Dolphins will take full advantage of his absence with Wake.
DE Trevor Scott Rising
The New England Patriots pass rush is definitely on the falling swing without Jermaine Cunningham and, possibly, Chandler Jones, but one defensive end is benefiting from the absences at the top. Trevor Scott was a standout in the preseason and has provided a good pass rushing force in Jones’s absence over the past two games. A good pass rusher while with the Oakland Raiders, Scott has been saying and doing the right things so far. He’s a solid veteran pass rusher, and this is his chance to show that he is returning to form and that the Pats truly don’t need to sign a free agent pass rusher.
Pass Rush and DL Run D Falling
There’s not too much to expand upon here. The Patriots pass rush is going to be missing a solid rusher in Cunningham for four games and could still be without Chandler Jones. Not only that, but Jones has been one of the best 4-3 DEs against the run this season and Cunningham has also been an underrated contributor in run D. Scott is above-average in this regard and Rob Ninkovich is even better than Jones against the run, but the depth is certainly much more thin.
Shane Vereen Rising
That 83-yard touchdown scamper down the left sideline was a clinic in the skills of a running back that you just can’t teach; speed and explosiveness. How nightmarish is the combination of Vereen and Danny Woodhead? I have a feeling the Dolphins won’t be able to have an answer for Vereen either, even if they do have an answer for Stevan Ridley between the tackles.
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