The Patriots play their divisional rival Miami for the second time this season in South Beach as the regular season series finishes early this year. The weather forecast for Sunday calls for temps at kickoff at 83 degrees with a 50 percent chance of rain.
The Patriots are currently the only team in the AFC East with a winning divisional record at 2-1. All the other teams sit at 1-1. And divisional records can figure into tie-breaker scenarios for divisional front runners like Miami and Buffalo. But as well know, the Patriots have never played consistently well in Miami, even when Brady was the QB.
CBS will broadcast this week’s game, which can be seen locally in the Boston area on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Spero Dedes will handle play-by-play duties with Adam Archuleta as the color analyst. Aditi Kinkhabwala will provide analysis from the sidelines.. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station, 98.5 The Sports Hub, with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.
We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2023 to analyze some of the game’s key matchups and what you can look for in how the game plays out.
So now we can look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge. First up is the Patriots offense:
Patriots RBs vs. Dolphins Front Seven — Edge Miami
The Patriots’ running game was better but still nowhere close to what they needed against Buffalo last weekend. Rhamondre Stevenson and Ezekiel Elliott are still struggling to get four yards per carry. After gaining some early success running up the middle against the Bills, Buffalo adjusted and did a better job in the second half.
Miami’s run defense is currently ranked 18th, allowing 112.3 yards per game on the ground and 3.9 yards per carry, which is 14th. But due to solid play by the DL, especially Christian Wilkins, Raekwon Davis, and LB Jerome Baker, those numbers are trending upward. Last week against Philly, the Dolphins held the Eagles to just 2.9 yards per carry, which is outstanding.
In the first matchup, the Patriots had Calvin Anderson (LT) and Vederian Lowe (RT) starting on the offensive line. If the starting unit from last week stays intact, the team will have Trent Brown and Mike Onwenu, which should be a big upgrade over the Week 2 crew they started. Look for them to test the interior of Miami’s DL this week. A big matchup, literally and figuratively, between RG Sidy Sow and Wilkins.
Patriots WRs vs. Dolphins Secondary — Edge New England
The Patriots passing game was very effective against the very good secondary of Buffalo, thanks to the revamped OL. Mac Jones was 25-30 for 272 yards with 2 TDs and 0 INTs. They utilized the short passing game to perfection. In the first meeting, Miami’s pass rush disrupted the timing of the NE offense, using Bradley Chubb and Andrew Van Ginkle as outside pass rushers.
Miami’s defense is designed to take away the big plays down the field, and they frequently play a Cover-3, but they can easily switch it up at the snap. The pass rush, which pressured on more than 36 percent of Jones’ dropbacks in the first meeting, adds Jaelan Phillips, who missed the first meeting. The Dolphins may get back CBs Xavian Howard and Jalen Ramsey back this week.
Look for the Patriots to lean on the short passing game utilizing Kendrick Bourne and Demario Douglas again this week. Douglas has shown that he can get open quickly and be a factor. Tight ends Hunter Henry, Mike Gesicki, and Pharaoh Brown should also play significant roles this week attacking the perimeter, and seams. Expect more motion this week, something they used against Buffalo to get some chunk yardage.
Next up, the Dolphins offense:
Dolphins RBs vs. NE Front Seven — Edge New England
The Miami running game couldn’t get much going last week against Philly. Their OL is really banged up, and they were down three starters. Their speedy rookie De’Von Achane is on IR until at least Week 11. But Miami’s #1 rushing attack is led by Raheem Mostert, who is averaging 5.6 yards per carry. Miami averages a whopping 162.3 yards per game rushing and 6.2 yards per rush.
The Patriots ‘ run defense has been excellent recently, with Christian Barmore, Davon Godchaux, and Deatrich Wise all being very disruptive at the point of attack. Barmore has been playing his best football of his career the past few weeks, now that he is fully healthy.
Miami’s health along the OL, or lack of it, may become the difference in this matchup which would allow the Patriots to slow down Miami’s rushing attack. Ja’Whaun Bentley, Anfernee Jennings, and Jahlani Tavai will also play key roles this week. The consensus of the national media (always take it with a grain of salt) is that Miami is a finesse team and can be bullied up front. Regardless, the Patriots must be the more physical team.
Dolphins WRs vs. NE Secondary — Edge Miami
The absence of three OL men in the loss to Philly affected the Miami passing game. Plus, the Eagles were very physical with Miami’s receivers at the line of scrimmage. This forced Tua Tagovailloa to hold the ball for an average of 2.5 seconds for more than 40 percent of his throws. The physical front of the Eagles was then able to bring pressure and disrupt the rhythm of the passing game. Tyreek Hill is now dealing with a hip injury, and his availability is doubtful. Jaylen Waddle is dealing with a back injury as well.
The Patriots secondary has been banged up, missing Christian Barmore and Marcus Jones at cornerback, with pass rushers Matthew Judon, Keion White, and Josh Uche also out. Uche has returned to practice this week, which is a positive sign. Jonathan Jones isn’t 100 percent, but he’s always done a solid job on Hill.
Look for the Patriots to pressure up the middle with Barmore and Wise to disrupt Tua like they did Josh Allen last week. While they will prepare for Hill to play, if he’s not able to go, it would be a huge loss for Miami’s passing game.
Special Teams — Edge New England
The Patriots special teams had an excellent game last week, and this should be a trend…finally. Chad Rylan made three field goals and Bryce Barringer had his leg on full display, booming one punt 64 yards, and both of his punts were downed inside the 20. Douglas returned a punt 25 yards.
Jason Sanders has been spot-on for Miami. He’s missed only two FGs this season, both against the Patriots in Week 2. Former Patriots punter Jake Bailey is averaging more than 45 yards per punt. Braxton Berrios is the KR/PR.
Keys to the Game from a Patriots Perspective:
Find The Running Game — They have shown flashes of the potential of Stevenson and Elliot, but have yet to fully set the tempo and control the game with their backs. They need to be physical and get their backs to the second level.
With the last combination of the OL being the best thus far in the season, they should stick to that lineup and try to assert their will. It will allow Jones to play more under center and use play-action passing.
Take Advantage of Miami’s Injuries on Offense — The Patriots DL has to dominate this matchup with Miami. Missing up to three starting OL men this week, could definitely tilt the scales toward the Patriot defense. They have to disrupt the running game and put pressure on Tua. If Hill isn’t able to go, it will take away Miami’s #1 target who has been lighting it up this year.
They need to win the turnover battle again this week, getting a fumble or INT or two would definitely help the overall game situation.
Keep Expanding the Passing Game — The Patriots need to continue doing the things they did last week. Giving Jones time to throw is the key. Last week he had time to go through his progressions. Bourne and Douglas are the keys this week again to get the passing game going. Play-action and motion should again figure heavily this week.
The Patriots had a fantastic game last week. Was it a turning point for the season? We’ll see how it plays out, but it looked like they finally figured things out. With an effort like This could be a winnable game, but things will have to fall their way.
But as we’ve seen in Miami for decades, those things rarely work in the Patriots’ favor. I think they’ll play better but I think Miami prevails at home. Dolphins 24-23
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: Bill Belichick Demario Douglas Ezekiel Elliott Jaylen Waddle Kendrick Bourne Mac Jones Miami Dolphins Rhamondre Stevenson Tua Tagovailoa Tyreek Hill