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Pregame Thoughts: Patriots Host Dolphins in Divisional Showdown

Derek Havens
Derek Havens on Twitter
October 29, 2015 at 9:00 am ET

Pregame Thoughts: Patriots Host Dolphins in Divisional Showdown(PHOTO: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports)

🕑 Read Time: 3 minutes

The New England Patriots host the Miami Dolphins in a week eight Thursday Night Football matchup. Here’s a few thoughts on the upcoming contest. —

Pregame Thoughts: 

– The Patriots enter this game 6-0 with their eyes on attaining a firm grasp on the AFC East before the calendar flips to November this weekend. New England started this year very healthy, avoiding many serious injuries, but have encountered some issues the previous two weeks.

Now, on a short week, Bill Belichick must manage the roster with hopes of keeping guys fresh the rest of the season. The good news? The team gets a few extra days heading into week nine to rest up and get healthy.

– The Dolphins were supposed to get off to a fast start this season with a ton of easy opponents on the schedule. Instead, they sit at 3-3, winning their last two games under interim Head Coach, Dan Campbell, after firing Joe Philbin after week four (1-3 start).

Miami has a very talented roster, so they have under-performed and should be closer to 4-2 or 5-1 to this point. It’s clear the players were not giving their all for Philbin and Campbell is pressing the right buttons. But this New England team isn’t the Tennessee Titans or Houston Texans, the Patriots will be the toughest opponent Miami has faced.

Three Keys to Victory: 

Keep It Clean: Thursday Night Football games aren’t the NFL’s best product. It’s usually a sloppier contest and favors the home team more times than not. But with the quick turnaround, come turnovers and missed tackles.

The Patriots must play with more discipline and eliminate turnovers. New England is (+5) in the turnover margin this season, while the Dolphins are (-1). Whoever can play the cleanest game will likely end up with the victory.

Eliminate Explosive Plays: The Dolphins have some firepower on offense. Second-year wideout Jarvis Landry is one of the more dynamic playmakers in the conference and can turn it upfield quickly, just ask the Texans secondary.

Lamar Miller is one of the more underrated backs in the league and he does his work between the tackles. He doesn’t have the power of a Chris Ivory, like the Pats faced last week, but his speed and cutback ability allow him to get to the second level of a defense.

Taking away Landry and Miller are the first two priorities for New England’s defense. They can take over a contest in a hurry.

Attack the Middle: The Dion Lewis injury is a big one to monitor for this week. If he’s able to go, New England could use him, Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola to attack the linebacking core of the Dolphins defense, which is the most vulnerable part of the unit.

Miami’s defensive line consisting of Ndamukong Suh, Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon is a threat to any opposing offense. Tom Brady will need to get the ball out of his hands quickly, but if given time, he should be able to take advantage of the backend.

Lewis could be the most important player. Draw plays, quick dump off passes and screens would not only negate Miami’s strong defensive line but put Lewis in space against their average linebackers. His abdominal injury is concerning, though.

Prediction: 

Patriots 31, Dolphins 20

The Patriots and Dolphins both had a short week and a quick turn around from Sunday. To me, this favors New England. Belichick knows how to handle these situations and Campbell is still learning.

Brady has been terrific in Thursday night contests. The 38-year-old is 8-0 with 20 touchdown passes and two interceptions. We’ll see if the Dolphins are up to the task or if New England will send them back to reality.

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