Dec 8, 2013; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones (95) and defensive end Rob Ninkovich (50) during the second quarter against the Cleveland Browns at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports
If the New England Patriots beat the Miami Dolphins this Sunday afternoon, they will have won the AFC East 11 times since 2001. I don’t care how easy the division is, that is pretty damn impressive. It just goes to show you how lucky Patriots fans are, by having a trio of guys in Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and Robert Kraft, who keep the franchise not only on its feet, but in a position to dominate, and win football games.
With that being said, I fully expect the Dolphins to come out firing in front of their home crowd, as they attempt to delay the Patriots winning the division, and keep their own playoff hopes alive. Miami is currently tied with the Baltimore Ravens for the sixth and final AFC playoff spot, but because of a week five loss to the Ravens, they are not slotted to participate in the 2013 playoffs. Anytime a team is fighting for their playoff lives, (not to mention some divisional pride) they generally do not come out flat, and get run out of the building. This team will fight hard, and play well this week, knowing that both teams need this win. The Dolphins are not short on talent either, whether it is wide receiver Mike Wallace on offense, or defensive end Cameron Wake on defense, this group will give the banged up Patriots some trouble.
In my opinion, there a few matchups that will determine who wins this football game. The first is Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich, against a struggling Miami offensive line. It is no secret that second year quarterback Ryan Tannehill struggles against pressure, and if the Pats can get to him without blitzing, then it could be a long day for the Dolphins offense. Jones and Ninkovich have combined for 16.5 sacks this season, and the Patriots will need them to have a big game this Sunday.
The other matchup that has the potential to dictate the way this game goes, is how the Dolphins secondary deals with Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, and Shane Vereen. The biggest news that has come out of Foxboro over the last week, was tight end Rob Gronkowski tearing up his knee, which ended his 2013 season. Gronkowski is one of the best players in the entire league, and replacing him will be extremely tough for New England. However the Pats still have a lot of talent on the offensive side of the ball, particularly when it comes to players that can dominate the middle of the field. Tom Brady will lock in on Edelman, Amendola, and Vereen throughout this football game, largely due to their ability to beat man to man coverage. If the Dolphins are able to slow these guys down, then they may be able to come out of this game with a win. If Miami allows them to do their thing, then New England will probably run away with the division crown.