“This is why you lift all them weights” – Bill Parcells
It is hard to believe that another NFL Season is at its end, as Week 17 is upon us. Sixteen weeks ago the New England Patriots started off on their “Revenge Tour” as some have come to call it, and here we are one game left. The Patriots have certainly had a good season, as they sit at 12-3 with one game to go. The ultimate revenge is still four games away, but Sunday’s tilt in Florida is step one.
The Patriots with a victory will secure home field advantage throughout the AFC Playoffs. They will take on all challengers inside the friendly confines of Gillette Stadium. The Patriots finished 7-1 at home this year, so it’s a safe bet they would like to stay home until having to pack their bags for a trip to Santa Clara for Super Bowl 50. First things first they have to vanquish the Dolphins in a place that has never been easy to win. Tom Brady is 6-7 all time in Miami
The Patriots blew the doors off the Fins in week 8, 36-7. Tom Brady was awesome, finishing 26 of 38 for 356 yards and four touchdowns. Of course at that moment he still had Dion Lewis and Julian Edleman catching balls for him. Edelmen will sit out this week, but should be back for the playoffs, Lewis is on the shelf with a torn ACL. The Pats should be able to beat the 5-10 Dolphins, even with the JV unit that started last week.
The Patriots first an foremost must get out to a good start. They have struggled last week against the Jets on offense as they hadn’t scored a touchdown until late in the fourth quarter. It is imperative if the Patriots want to win to take the air out of Miami’s sails early in the game. The Dolphins will once again be in rebuilding mode in the off-season, and if the Patriots can get up early, they may be able to sit Brady and the other key players in the second half.
What to do on offense.
It is no secret that the Patriots offense has been offensive lately. Without many of their go to weapons, Brady and the offense has struggled. The Fins brought in Ndamukong Suh this year in hopes that he would create a better defense, through 15 weeks that has not happened as Miami is 24th in points allowed, 27th in yards against, 24th in passing yards against and 30th against the run. Last week against the Colts the Fins allowed Frank Gore to find the fountain of youth, as he rushed for 85 yards and a pair of scores, his third highest rushing total of the year. The Patriots of course brought in former all-pro Steven Jackson last week, perhaps Jackson can get on a similar role heading into the Playoffs. The game plan should be to protect Brady and what better way then by establishing a running game against the 30th ranked rushing team. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said “That Jackson’s familiarity with the offense could help his role in New England” Here is hoping that Jackson gets more than the nine snaps he saw last week. By getting Jackson going the Patriots can then protect Brady more against the likes of Cameron Wake and Oliver Vernon in the pass rush. Brady has been beaten up lately, simply because the ball is not coming out as fast without, Edleman and Danny Amendola catching the short and intermediate quick passes. Patriots fans always say that the short passing game is New England’s running game, however that short passing game has been non-existent, when Edleman or Amendola are not on the field. Expect a high dose of two tight end sets, with play action.
Defense must stay strong.
Despite giving up 26 last week against the Jets the Pats defense has been carrying the Patriots offense the last few weeks. For the second week in a row the team scored on a strip sack fumble recovery. The key will be limiting Lamar Miller and the fins rushing attack, which in week eight the Patriots did just that. Holding Miller down severely hinders Miami’s offense. Outside of Miller the player to watch is second year receiver Jarvis Landry, who has 188 catches his first two seasons in the league. With Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung questionable for this game, Malcolm Butler could be asked to go one on one against the solid player. Butler and the Patriots secondary should be helped out by the Patriots pass rush, which is second in the league with 47 sacks. The Pats have had a sack in 27 straight games. Last week against the Colts the Fins allowed Ryan Tannehill to be sacked six times. We will not see Chandler Jones who has been ruled out with a toe injury. Jabaal Sheard can aptly take his place. This may also be a game where we get to see what Geneo Grissom can do. Tannehill has been sack the most in the league, tied with Russell Wilson and Alex smith with 44. Expect the Patriots to bring the heat.
What the game means,
For the Dolphins it’s the final game of the year, and most likely their will be a new coach in town for the fins next year. Most of the players will probably be looking to upset the Patriots, but if the Pats get up quick it could turn into, where are we going on vacation.
For the Patriots its simply, win and you are the one seed in the playoffs. Lose and the Patriots need Denver to lose at home to San Diego. While the number one seed isn’t necessary to get to the Super Bowl, it would make the road easier. The Patriots have gone to and won the Super Bowl twice as the two seed in 2001 and 2004. Final prediction the Patriots 24 the Dolphins 13