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Pregame Thoughts: Patriots Travel to Face Dolphins in Regular Season Finale

Derek Havens
Derek Havens on Twitter
January 1, 2016 at 9:00 am ET

Pregame Thoughts: Patriots Travel to Face Dolphins in Regular Season Finale(PHOTO: David Butler II - USA TODAY Sports)

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The New England Patriots travel to face the Miami Dolphins in week 17 to close out the regular season. Here’s a few thoughts on the upcoming contest. —

Pregame Thoughts: 

– The Patriots enter this game 12-3 with their eyes on attaining the no.1 overall seed in the AFC playoff picture.

– The Dolphins were supposed to be a playoff team entering the year (Isn’t that the case every time they overpay for a big name free agent?), but now sit at the bottom of the AFC East with a 5-10 record.

– New England started this year very healthy, avoiding many serious injuries, but have seemingly encountered some health issues every week. This is a tough spot for Bill Belichick, how will he manager the roster this week?

I’m in the conservative, health is the priority camp. The top seed means nothing if you’re limping onto the field in the divisional round. Rest the guys who need it, play the guys who are good to go.

This approach, however, doesn’t mean the Pats shouldn’t try to win the game. Of course the goal is to obtain the top seed and have home field advantage throughout January. But it’s not worth risking your best players, keep the big picture in mind.

If they can establish a solid lead, then maybe manage snaps and rotate in some players who normally don’t see the field too often.

Three Keys to Victory: 

Start Fast: The Miami Dolphins may or may not show up Sunday, that’s to be determined. For some, they may look at this as an opportunity to end the season on a high note or potentially put some good tape together for next year.

The flip side is some players could have one foot out the door, thinking of their offseason plans and family vacations planned for the upcoming weeks.

If the Patriots can get off to a fast start, perhaps a double-digit lead, there’s a good chance the Dolphins pack it in and this could get ugly in a hurry. Don’t let Miami believe they’re in this game. New England can clinch the top seed with ease if they play well early.

Win on Third Down: This was a key for me last week, too. But it didn’t work out so well. In fact, the Patriots were abysmal (1-for-10) on third down last week and 3-for-12 on third down offensively in their first contest with the Dolphins.

New England’s offense has been mediocre the last two months, largely due to the injury situation forcing key players to miss time. Because of this issue, they’ve had a hard time sustaining drives and staying on the field. Time to get back on track this week and hopefully build some momentum for the post season.

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.

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.


Patriots 23, Dolphins 13

The Patriots are in a better spot this week simply because they are facing a worse team and not an opponent fighting for a playoff spot. New England will likely be short-handed again, so we’ll see how efficient they can be on both sides of the ball.

The Dolphins are one of the league’s worst teams. Already with an interim Head Coach, in-fighting between players, drama with Miko Grimes’ comments on QB Ryan Tannehill and an overall “unprofessional environment” as depicted by Miami Herald’s Armando Salguero.

New England will likely get off to a comfortable lead, look to run the ball in the second half and get off the field healthy as they head into the post season. We’ll see how it plays out Sunday afternoon.

All-22 Look at the Patriots, Dolphins; What to Watch for Sunday

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