Good morning and Happy New Year; hopefully, it finds everyone healthy and happy today and ready for the final home game of the season.
The Patriots and Dolphins are not exactly rolling through the season’s final quarter, although both are still alive for the playoffs. Miami has dropped four in a row and will be without Tua Tagovailoa this week, who suffered his third concussion of the season.
Interestingly enough, Miami is in the same place they were a year ago with Brian Flores at 8-7, the difference being that they are after spending a boatload of money this year.
This week, the Patriots will be extremely thin at cornerback. Both Jack and Marcus Jones are out. Jack has been placed on IR, ending his season. Jonathan Jones and Jalen Mills are questionable. Mills has been out for a month. That leaves Jonathan Jones, and either Myles Bryant or Shaun Wade will likely be the boundary corners, with practice squad corners Quandre Mosely or Tae Hayes being signed to the active roster.
Quick Hitters For the Patriots and the NFL:
Patriots Play-calling and Play Design Issues: I didn’t finish up some thoughts on those things, and although I told someone that posed the question to me last week (Thanks MDR) that I would address them today, it will have to wait for next week.
Let’s hope this week reverses that trend they’ve been stuck in all year with the play-calling/design, and the offense looks better. Crazier things have happened.
Mac Jones: The Patriots QB was fined a total of $23,976 by the NFL for two infractions during last Saturday’s loss against the Bengals. The first was a low block on CB Eli Apple that was labeled a dirty hit by several current and former players as well as the media. Jones was charged a $13,367 fine for that hit.
He was also charged $10,609 for an unnecessary roughness penalty when he dove into the scrum to recover the ball after Rhamondre Stevenson’s fumble at the end of the game.
“There’s a little bit of a pile there, and then the ball squirted out into another pile; I went over there and tried to grab the ball to save the game,” Jones said after the game.
“At the end of the day, you’ve got to take your chance and try to get the ball, compete for the ball, because it’s a live ball until somebody holds it up in the air. You got to go get it, and that’s what I tried to do.”
Patriots 4th & 2 Podcast: If you haven’t checked out our PatsFans.com podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2”, in a bit, please check it out. Russ, Derek, and I looked at the Raiders’ game and looked ahead to the Bengals.
Russ Francis/Chuck Fairbanks: The former Patriot tight end and head coach both should be in the Patriots team Hall of Fame, and the fact that especially Francis isn’t is an absolute travesty. Francis and the Raiders’ Dave Casper changed the game with how teams used the tight end position…this will be on our Sunday posts until it happens.
Quick Matchup Notes against the Dolphins:
The Patriots and the Dolphins will have unseasonably warm temps this weekend with the highs in the low-50s at the kickoff. There are no more scenarios for the Patriots to get into the playoffs. They must win their last two games, period against Miami and Buffalo, or they go home. That’s it. And even if they do make it, they’ll have to turn right around and go to either Kansas City or Buffalo. But that is a discussion for another day.
Today Miami comes in without their starting QB (Tua) but with a very experienced backup (Teddy Bridgewater). The Patriots are thin at corner, so they’ll have to scheme some stuff up defensively. The Patriots’ offense is… still the offense, but at least they’ll get Damien Harris back to take some of the workload off of Rhamondre Stevenson, who has been carrying too heavy a workload the past month.
Here are our keys this week from a Patriots perspective.
Attack the Middle of the Field: The Dolphins have had very good play from their corners, and the pass rush will negate most deep shots along the perimeter. However, the middle of the field, especially targeting the linebackers, is a place where the offense could (definitive word here) have some success.
Miami blitzes as much as any team in the league (about 38 percent of the time). So, they play a ton of man coverage and single high safety. If Mac Jones gets the time to throw, and it is always a big “if,” but the short middle of the field is open.
Hunter Henry and Kendrick Bourne would be ideal targets to use as blitz beaters. We don’t know if Henry will play yet, so we’ll have to wait and see. Miami is good against the run, so some early passes could keep them ahead of the chains for a change.
Jam Miami’s Receivers and Throw Off Their Timing: This can be a double-edged sword. Saying you’ll jam their receivers is one thing, but if they break free and get separation off the line, it can result in a long pass play. Mike McDaniel likes to put Hill in motion to get him a free release. They’ve done it all season, and it will be interesting to see how the Patriots plan to address it.
I expect Jonathan Jones will be on Tyreek Hill, with safety help over the top. That leaves Jalen Mills, if he can go, or Myles Bryant (heaven help us) on Jaylen Waddle. Belichick has traditionally gone with veterans. But they also have Shaun Wade and two PS call-ups in Tae Hayes and Quandre Mosely. Mosely has intriguing size (6’2,195) and 4.4 speed, but none of these matchups are optimal for New England. So, how do they do it?
One of the things Belichick has always preached is that pass rush and coverage go hand in hand. And they will need to get their pass rushers playing an excellent game today. Matthew Judon, Josh Uche, Christian Barmore, and Deatrich Wise will need to be huge factors taking away Bridgewater’s time to look down the field. This corner group needs some help, and if they are to win, the pass rushers will have to dominate Miami’s OL in the trenches. That has been an issue; the Dolphins’ OL has been one of the worst pass-protecting units, according to Pro Football Focus.
Start Early (For A Change): The Patriots dug themselves into a 22-0 hole the size of the Mariana Trench last week against the Bengals. They were down 17-3 at halftime two weeks ago against the Raiders. They had a 13-10 halftime deficit in Arizona and were behind 17-7 at halftime against the Bills. In the past month, they’ve been behind a combined 69-20 at the half.
That’s unacceptable. And putting yourself in this kind of hole with this offense, no wonder they are 7-8 now. Things have to change. The defense is going to have to make a statement early. The offense can’t wait until late in the third quarter to finally figure out how to get in enemy territory.
Prediction: It won’t generate any style points, but something tells me they have one more win in them. Patriots 21-20
Week 17 Game Predictions:
The slate of games for Week 17 and my predictions are straight up for this week. There are no more bye weeks in the season.
Thursday Night Football
Dallas over Tennessee 1-0
Arizona over Atlanta
Detroit over Chicago
Kansas City over Denver
New England over Miami
NY Giants over Indianapolis
Philadelphia over New Orleans
Tampa Bay over Carolina
Washington over Cleveland
Jacksonville over Houston
San Francisco over Las Vegas
Seattle over New York Jets
Green Bay over Minnesota
LA Chargers over LA Rams
Sunday Night Football:
Baltimore over Pittsburgh
Monday Night Football:
Buffalo over Cincinnati
Last Week: 11—5
This Season: 153—84—2
Last Season: 182—88—1
2020 Season: 169—86—1
2019 Season: 162—93—1
“Yeah, absolutely. It’s been great. So glad that we were able to re-sign him in the offseason when he was a free agent. He’s been great on and off the field. Leadership on the field. Communication very good communicator, which is important in the role that he plays. Middle linebacker and free safety, and quarterback, center, like those are all – personal protector on the punt team, they’re all high-level communication positions, and he does a great job of that.
“Very unselfish player. Does what’s best for the defense, what’s best for the team, not what’s best for him. So, that makes it a lot easier to somebody who always thinks about what’s the best thing for the defense to be in, not what’s easiest for me. Devin’s [McCourty] the same way. Like sometimes, those guys take on the hardest jobs. But that’s what’s best in that situation, then that’s what they do. So yeah, appreciate that.
“Works hard in the offseason. He was one of the first guys in every morning back in February, March, coming in to work out on his own. It’s been impressive. He’s really developing into a great career.”
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick asked about the growth of LB Ja’Whaun Bentley.
“So, how was your week?”
Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]
Listen to ourPatriots 4th and 2 podcasts on Stitcher and Streamyard as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens, and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.
Posted Under: 2022 Patriots Regular Season
Tags: Bill Belichick Buffalo Bills Damien Harris Deatrich Wise Devin McCourty Jalen Waddle Josh Uche Kendrick Bourne Mac Jones Matthew Judon New England Patriots New York Jets Patriots Patriots edge rushers Rhamondre Stevenson Teddy Bridgewater Tyreek Hill