Patriots pass defense vs. Dolphins pass offense
Ryan Tannehill has been the fourth best rookie quarterback in a loaded class this year, but he has more potential than Russell Wilson (I think he’s been the third best this season). Tannehill is terrific when blitzed due to his athletic ability, and his physical tools aren’t praised enough. I guess that has to do with Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck being in the same rookie class.
The Dolphins offensive line could afford to be better in pass protection, but they aren’t terrible. Tannehill needs a true No. 1 receiver to combine with Davone Bess and Brian Hartline, who have both emerged as solid No. 2 receivers in this league with 55 receptions each.
This passing attack isn’t going to light the Patriots up, especially since the Pats secondary has really stepped up. Kyle Arrington is actually playing great in the slot now, and Devin McCourty continues to be one of the best DBs in the league this season. Alfonzo Dennard has been a revelation as a rookie, and Aqib Talib is consistently improving with his new team. Steve Gregory is hitting his stride, and I think the Dolphins passing game ends up being mediocre in this game.
What helps Tannehill is that the Patriots might manufacture pressure more often with their outside linebackers due to the absences of Chandler Jones and Jermaine Cunningham. Trevor Scott is no slouch as a starter, because the Patriots envisioned him as a future starter in training camp before the emergence of Jones. Scott has been solid this season and was once a star for the Oakland Raiders. The Patriots pass rush won’t exactly be effective, but it won’t be a non-factor either.
Dolphins run offense vs. Patriots run defense
The New England Patriots had one of the best run defenses in the NFL before the bye week, but the wheels have fallen off ever since C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson lit this defense up. The ugly missed tackles have been cut down since, but the Indianapolis Colts and New York Jets have managed some solid rushing performances against NE.
Reggie Bush has been inconsistent this season, but he is still averaging 4.4 yards per carry. The Patriots are great against traditional, between-the-tackles backs, but they struggle more often against shiftier backs like Bush. The Dolphins need to stop giving Daniel Thomas significant carries if they want to win this game, because they will need to feed Bush the rock and hope that he turns in a strong performance.
The Dolphins offense should be able to put up some points on the board and at least contain the Patriots rushing offense, but I have a feeling the Pats break open this game with a few big plays in the third quarter. Tom Brady is going to destroy a very weak Dolphins secondary, and I see this game ending up 38-21 in the Patriots favor. The Dolphins have done an excellent job under a new head coach (and OC) and a rookie quarterback this season, but they still have a ways to go.
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