The New England Patriots can clinch the AFC East with a win this Sunday against the Miami Dolphins, and the Pats are clearly the class of the division. They have swept up the other two teams in the division, and their meeting with the Dolphins this afternoon in Miami will be the first time New England will face rookie Ryan Tannehill. The Dolphins are the second best team in the AFC East, but the fact that they have a losing record and are expected to lose shows the weakness of the division and the Pats dominance.
The Dolphins could upset the Patriots and have done so in the past during these away “trap” games for the Patriots. Kick-off is set at 1:00 p.m. ET in front of over 75,000 fans at Sun Life Stadium, with the game being broadcast by CBS to regional audiences. Brace yourselves, because Dan Dierdorf and Greg Gumbel will be calling this game. You can always listen in to 98.5 The Sports Hub, and Brian Baldinger and Chris Carrino will once again be calling the game on radio for a national audience via Compass Media Networks.
New England Patriots pass offense vs. Miami Dolphins pass defense
Sean Smith has found his 2010 form after a disappointing season last year, but he’s the only defensive back on the Dolphins who is any good. I’m not a fan of the safety duo in Miami, and I don’t think Jimmy Wilson can hang with Wes Welker in the slot at all. If Aaron Hernandez receives more targets today after being rested a little in his return on Thanksgiving, then he could be in for a big day. I think Karlos Dansby is a very good coverage linebacker, but linebackers don’t hang well with Hernandez.
Brandon Lloyd will have his hands full against Smith and won’t be a much of a statistical factor, but Lloyd’s main job is to draw the attention of the opponent’s best DB and keep the play out of the middle of the field. That’s what he’s going to do today, and Tom Brady is in for a big game. Julian Edelman will likely find the end zone for a third straight game, and he and Welker are in line for big games.
The Dolphins pass rush is definitely worrisome, because the ‘Fins have two terrific defensive linemen in Cameron Wake and Randy Starks. Wake is arguably the most destructive pass rusher in the game, and I don’t know if even Sebastian Vollmer can hang with him. Vollmer has been the best right tackle in the league this season, but he’s coming into the game banged up having been inactive last week against the New York Jets.
Patriots run offense vs. Dolphins run defense
Stevan Ridley is a great starting running back and Shane Vereen has emerged as a good No. 2 back, but I have a feeling the Patriots are going to have a tough time running against the Dolphins. The best bet for the Pats is to run it towards the outside and utilize Ridley’s and Vereen’s explosiveness, because the Dolphins interior is incredibly stout.
The Dolphins feature Karlos Dansby, the rising Koa Misi, and Kevin Burnett at the linebacker position for a linebacker corps that rivals the talented group the Patriots have. Randy Starks is a destructive player at defensive tackle, and Paul Soliai is one of the most stout run defenders in the NFL as a three-technique. These guys are allowing just 3.7 yards per carry, which is good for fifth-best in the NFL.
Continue Reading for my thoughts on how the New England Patriots defense stacks up against the Miami Dolphins offense, as well as my final prediction of the game.
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