By: Russ Goldman
The Patriots (11-3) are coming off of an away victory against the Broncos, and are back in action on Saturday to face the Miami Dolphins (5-9) at home at Gillette Stadium. Here’s a preview with my five keys to the game that I hope will lead to a Patriots victory.
WHERE TO WATCH: The game will be shown live on WBZ Channel 4 at 1:00 PM EST. You can also listen to the game on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston.
The Dolphins come into this game off of a 30-23 victory against the Buffalo Bills on the road. Miami has been slowly improving over the course of the season, and will be a tougher opponent than many might think.
On offense, the Dolphins running game has become a strength over the course of the season. Reggie Bush has really picked it up lately, and has 973 yards and averages 5 yards per carry. He is also very effective in the passing game.
The quarterback is Matt Moore and he has done a nice job filling in for the injured Chad Henne. Moore has thrown for 12 touchdowns and 2081 yards. Moore does have some weapons to throw to with Brandon Marshall and Brian Hartline.
On defense, the Dolphins are led by their linebackers. On the inside you have Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett. On the outside you have two players that can get after the quarterback in Jason Taylor and Cameron Wake.
The Dolphins also have a shut-down corner in Vontae Davis. He might not be at the level of Darrelle Revis, but he is not that far behind. Tom Brady will have to be careful throwing to his side.
AFC East divisional games are often going to be close. Don’t underestimate the Dolphins based on their record. They have improved since the Patriots played them in the first game of the season. I am expecting a Patriots victory, but I don’t think it is going to be easy. I see the Patriots pulling this game out in the 4th quarter.
Here are my “five keys” which I believe could play a role in a potential victory for the Pats.
1. The offensive line needs to contain Jason Taylor and Cameron Wake. The Patriots line could have their job cut out for them as they have combined for 13.5 sacks this season.
Nate Solder and Matt Light will have to continue their fine play as of late of keeping Brady safe in the pocket. This is an important key in this game.
2. The tight ends need to take advantage of the middle of the field. Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski continue to be match-up nightmares for opposing defenses.
I don’t see the Dolphins safeties or linebackers being able to stay with the Patriots tight ends. You can cover one of them, but that usually leaves single coverage on the other tight end.
3. Devin McCourty need to step up against Brandon Marshall and the Dolphins receivers. It is time to see McCourty finally raise his game. He could be the key to the entire defense in the play-offs. Hopefully a good performance against some good receivers will help his confidence.
4. Mark Anderson needs to get after the quarterback in this game. With Andre Carter out for the season, Anderson could be counted on to pick up the slack. Anderson already has 9 sacks, but can he continue to rush the passer effectively without Carter?
He has huge shoes to fill, but I think it will be important against the Dolphins to see how much pressure he can bring against the quarterback. The Patriots certainly will need someone to fill the void of Carter.
5. The Patriots need to contain Reggie Bush. Bush has been running wild lately, and I think the Patriots need to show they can stop the run after the last two games. They did a nice job against Bush in the first game of the season. It will be interesting to see if the Patriots can take away Bush from the Dolphins offense.
I actually see this as a very close game for the Patriots because the Dolphins have played much better in the second half of the season. I wouldn’t be shocked to see this game not be decided until the 4th quarter. I am predicting a 28-24 victory for the Patriots against the Dolphins.
What are your predictions? Feel free to post them in the comments section below.