The Teams: New England Patriots (6-4) at Miami Dolphins (6-4)
The Terms: Regular Season Week 12
The Place: Dolphin Stadium, Miami, FL
The Time: 1:00pm
The Channel: CBS
3 Burning Questions:
- Can the Patriots stop the wildcat? Ronnie Brown ran all over the Patriots in week three thanks in large part to the wildcat formation with Brown as the quarterback. Brown finished with four rushing touchdowns and one passing touchdown as the ‘Phins embarrassed the Patriots at Gillette. Bill Belichick and his staff could not adjust to the formation and the Patriots suffered for it. Weeks later, there’s no excuse for the Pats not to know the wildcat is coming and not to be prepared for it. Jerod Mayo leads a linebacker corps who actually has some speed and it will be up to them to deny Brown from getting into the secondary. Chad Pennington also had a solid outing in the first meeting (17-20, 226 yards) so again quarterback pressure will be key. It will be interesting to see if Belichick stays with the 3-4 and sends out Pierre Woods to try to stop the wildcat or tries to stuff the line with a 4-3 formation. With Tedy Bruschi listed as questionable and Eric Alexander now on injured reserve, Mayo, Mike Vrabel and Woods will have to be on top of their game to stop the wildcat.
- How will the weather affect the Patriots? It’s no secret that players hate playing in Miami. The heat and humidity makes cramping a real problem and the Patriots cannot afford too many injuries, especially in the running back position. Sammy Morris returned last week but Lamont Jordan is listed as doubtful for the game. In this case it may be beneficial that the Patriots have a deep running back corps so they can substitute frequently. Today’s forecast is for temperatures to be in the mid 70s so it could be a lot worse. The Patriots will want to control the ball and clock and their deep running back corps gives them a little edge over the Dolphins.
- Is this a must win game? It’s tough to see the Patriots lose this game and still have a great chance at winning the division. Yes, the Jets are playing the undefeated Titans and if they lose, the Pats will only be one game behind the Jets and one behind the Dolphins. Unlike last year when Pats fans were trying to figure out how many points/TDs were needed for NFL records, this year it’s all about the tiebreakers. If the Pats lose to Miami not only will they in effect be two games behind the Dolphins because of the head-to-head tiebreaker, but their division record will take another hit. It looks like it will take at least 10 wins to make the playoffs as a wild card this year so it’s imperative the Patriots take advantage and move back atop the AFC East. Though the schedule ahead has a lot of winnable games, it’s not in the best interest of the team to make those matchups absolute must-wins.
Matt Cassel threw for 400 yards and three touchdowns last week in the loss to the Jets and this week should have more success through the air. The running game has to get back on track for the stretch run and today will be a big test for Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk, and BenJarvis Green-Ellis. Of course the Patriots do not want to be involved in another shootout or have to come from behind so stopping the wildcat – and all of the Dolphin offense attack – will not be easy with the injuries suffered by the Pats since their Week 3 loss to Miami but the speed from Mayo and Woods may be the difference this time around. I think the Patriots will jump out early in this game and hold on for a gritty victory. Look for Moss to haul in half a dozen catches for about 100 yards.
Patriots 24, Dolphins 20
Tags: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Bill Belichick, Chad Pennington, Jerod Mayo, Kevin Faulk, Lamont Jordan, Matt Cassel, Mike Vrabel, Pierre Woods, Randy Moss, Ronnie Brown, Sammy Morris, Tedy Bruschi