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Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots: Preview and Pick
Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots: Preview and Pick
The New England Patriots are off a very ugly loss to the New York Jets and this week they will look to take it out on the Miami Dolphins who travel north for this divisional matchup. Before losing to the Jets the Patriots had won 12 of 13 against the AFC East and they are hopping they will start a new streak this weekend. The Dolphins are just hoping for a win.
Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots Odds
The NFL opening point spread is fluctuating in this game but it is very easy to see that the Patriots will be the favorites. The Miami Dolphins are being overlooked by the early football betting fans that are piling in on the Patriots to rebound and get a big win. The Dolphins lost to the rebuilding Buffalo Bills and the season is looking like it can be in jeopardy if they continue to play this way.
Tom Brady will get a second chance to get on the same page with his tight end. Rob Gronkowski was targeted a career-high 17 times Sunday, but had only eight receptions. It was just the third time since Gronkowski joined the team that he and Tom Brady failed to complete at least half of their attempts in a game. Four of Brady's passes to Gronkowski were either defended or intercepted, three of which by safety Antonio Allen. Allen had no pass breakups entering the game. The Dolphins defense will get a big test this week and since they struggled against the Bills a week ago, it is only fair to say that this good be a very ugly game for the Dolphins as they continue to struggle to protect the quarterback and the ball.
The latest football betting trends for this game reveal that the Dolphins could be in some big trouble. Miami is 1-6 straight up in its last 7 games when playing on the road against New England which includes a 1-4-1 against the spread (ATS) in its last 6 games when playing the Patriots overall. The Patriots have been dominant at home as they are 5-1 straight up in the last six games at home and they are 15-3-1 straight up in its last 19 games overall. The total has gone over in 4 of New England's last 6 games when playing Miami and the total has gone over in 8 of New England's last 12 games at home.
Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots Pick
With plenty of time to go before the start of the regular season, I will wait to release my pick on this game until we get closer to game day.
The Dolphins acquired the former University of Miami from the Baltimore Ravens with the hopes that he'll patch up Miami's leaky pass protection, which has allowed 26 sacks.
"He is a proven and experienced player who will be a great addition to the offensive line," Ireland said.
The Dolphins gave up a conditional late-round pick for McKinnie, but the trade for this 34-year-old is contingent on McKinnie passing a physical. The Dolphins released second-year linebacker Josh Kaddu to make room from McKinnie.
Considering McKinnie has been plagued by a sore knee this season, and has had it drained more than once this season, there is some concern about his health.
If healthy, and motivated, it is possible that McKinnie could fortify the offensive line by replacing one of Miami's starting tackles, who have allowed 14 of the team's 26 sacks.
"I know the fans are going to love that," said starting linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, who played with McKinnie in Baltimore last season.
Michael George, McKinnie's agent, told The Baltimore Sun that his client is happy about the move, which brings his hometown.
"It is a good opportunity for him," George said. "This should be a positive change for Bryant and he's very excited."
But can McKinnie still play?
"Big guy, 6-foot-8, 360 (pounds)," defensive end Olivier Vernon said. "A lot of man!"
McKinnie, who has started 152 games in his 12 NFL seasons, is rated the 65th best offensive tackle by ProFootballFocus.com. Tyson Clabo, the Dolphins struggling right tackle, is rated 66th.
According to website, McKinnie had his worst game of the season against the Dolphins two weeks ago.
The Dolphins produced two quarterback hits and four quarterback pressures against McKinnie. Rookie pass rusher Dion Jordan also beat McKinnie to tip a Joe Flacco pass that led to Reshad Jones' pick-six against the Ravens.
"I'm happy for Bryant," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "I think it's a good opportunity for him more than anything. It's an opportunity for Bryant to go down there and play and do well."
McKinnie, 34, was recently replaced as the Ravens starting left tackle by Eugene Monroe, who the Ravens traded to acquire from the Jacksonville Jaguars two weeks ago.
So far this season McKinnie has allowed one sack, four quarterback hits and 15 hurries. However, he's been a liability from the run blocking standpoint, possessing PFF's second worse run blocking grade.
The Dolphins explored signing McKinnie as a free agent this offseason, but opted to go another avenue, signing Clabo and Lance Louis in free agency, and drafting Dallas Thomas in the third-round of the 2013 draft.
None of those players have panned out, which explains why the Dolphins are ranked 31st in sacks allowed per pass play.
At this point it is uncertain if Miami will use McKinnie in Miami's offense, and how long it will take him to learn the Dolphins playbook, and zone-blocking approach.
Jonathan Martin, the team's 2012 second-round pick, is presently manning the left tackle spot. However, Martin played right tackle for the first 12 games of the 2012 season. The Dolphins need to fortify the right side of the offensive line.
Clabo allowed two fourth-quarter sacks in last Sunday's 23-21 loss, which includes a Mario Williams sack that featured a forced fumble the Bills recovered at Miami's 34-yard line, leading to the game-winning 31-yard field goal.
"He's got to come in and do his best," veteran offensive lineman Nate Garner said. "He's a great football player. He's been in the league for a long time. If he does come in here I'm pretty sure he can come in and make a difference."
Veteran defensive end Andre Carter intends to sign a contract with the New England Patriots today, according to ESPN's Josina Anderson, and here are a few thoughts on the move:
Veteran presence after losing key leaders. With captains Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo landing on season-ending injured reserve, the Patriots not only lost two of their best players, but also a steadying veteran presence. Enter the 34-year-old Carter, who was a similar-type veteran presence in his one season with the Patriots (2011).
- Potential Carter for Buchanan swap.
In the Patriots' 4-2-5 nickel and 4-1-6 dime packages, rookie Michael Buchanan has primarily been coming on as the right defensive end, kicking end Chandler Jones (the team's best pass-rusher) to an interior rush position. Buchanan has lost containment in two of the last three games on third-down plays, which contributed to quarterback scrambles for first downs (Bengals' Andy Dalton for 6 yards on third-and-5 and Jets' Geno Smith for 14 yards on third-and-14). Carter's presence could be tied, in part, to the Patriots looking for a more consistent player in that role. Buchanan has played 28 snaps over the past three games, and while those numbers can always fluctuate, the lower playing time total in recent weeks reflects how this is not a full-time role.
- Pass-rush considerations.
While maintaining rush-lane integrity has been a struggle at times for Buchanan, there is also the bottom-line results of producing a pass rush. Carter helps in that area, too, as the Patriots are coming off a performance in which they didn't consistently get enough pressure on Smith, which contributed to a disappointing third-down showing. Carter can get after it.
- Overall view of defensive end spot.
The Patriots are playing starting ends Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich on every snap. Buchanan and second-year player Jake Bequette are the backups. Carter adds depth and flexibility should the Patriots' coaching staff consider limiting the workload of Ninkovich and Carter, or moving Ninkovich to more of a linebacker role. This also makes one wonder if the coaching staff has concerns about the development of Bequette, a 2012 third-round draft choice.
The Miami Dolphins are struggling on a three-game losing streak. They have a variety of issues, which includes sloppy play, lack of pass protection, and a quarterback with seven turnovers in the past three games.
Gronkowski will have another week of practice to shake the rust and get in shape before facing the Dolphins (3-3) in a big AFC East game on Sunday.
“Obviously, they made a conscious effort to try and get him the football,” Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said of Gronkowski. “He’s a unique guy in that his combination of size and strength, his ability to body position people is really what separates him. I thought the Jets did some things, that at times they did some good things with him in the ball game, but yet he still caught the ball and had over 100 yards of receptions in the game.”
The Dolphins have struggled defending tight ends at various points this season. They’ve allowed four passing touchdowns to tight ends in six games. Two tight ends -- Jimmy Graham of the New Orleans Saints and Jordan Cameron of the Cleveland Browns -- recorded 100 yards or more against Miami.
Gronkowski and Graham are widely regarded as the top two tight ends in the NFL. Graham lit up Miami’s defense for four catches, 100 yards and two touchdowns on Sept. 30. Gronkowski has the potential to do similar damage. Dolphins linebackers Philip Wheeler, Koa Misi and Dannell Ellerbe have been inconsistent defending tight ends in the middle of the field and vertically.
After dealing with young and inexperienced receivers, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is happy for Gronkowski’s return. Brady targeted Gronkowski 17 times in the tight end’s first game Sunday. The Dolphins expect Gronkowski to get plenty of opportunities again in Week 8 and have to be ready for the burly and talented tight end.
“You don’t want him to catch the big balls down the field,” Coyle said. “If you can kind of keep him contained where he’s catching shallow balls that is a good thing. You have to be able to do some things to try and take him out of the game, so that’s going to be a big challenge for us.”
The New England Patriots last lost two straight AFC East games in 2006 - to the New York Jets followed by the Miami Dolphins four weeks later.
They'll try to stay atop the division and avoid a second straight loss within it Sunday at home against the Dolphins - a week after their 30-27 loss to the Jets.
Despite the return of tight end Rob Gronkowski, the offense continued to struggle moving the ball. The injury-hampered defense allowed a season-high 30 points to a Jets offense that had scored 30 once in its last 16 games.
The Patriots (5-2) were held under 300 yards for the second time in three games and the third time this year. They were 1 for 12 on third down.
Quarterback Tom Brady went 22 of 46 for 228 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. He has one touchdown pass in his last three games and has already set a career high with three games in one season with a completion percentage under 50 percent. He had zero such games the last three seasons.
Gronkowski, who caught eight passes for 114 yards in his season debut, is already fifth on the team in receiving yards and first among tight ends. He was targeted 17 times, which was second in the league for the week behind Vincent Jackson's 22.
"You always get the jitters the first game back and everything. It's just football now, Gronkowski said. "This is my fourth year. I've got to just go out there and do what I've got to do, listen to the coaches, listen to the players and just practice to the best of my ability so I can be ready for Sunday, and keep a rhythm going every single week."
Brady said having other options is still a priority.
"You've got to be able to spread it around, there's no question about that," Brady said. ''It just happens to be if a guy is a particular read on a play and he is open, you let it rip, whoever it is.
"Gronk, when he is on the field, he is obviously a part of the reads. Whether he is the first read, the second read or the third read."
The defense allowed 30 points for the first time this year while the Jets nearly doubled up the Patriots in time of possession - 46:13 to 23:40 - in the overtime game. Despite allowing 57 points in their last two games, the Patriots still rank fifth in scoring defense, allowing 18.1 points per game.
New York's Chris Ivory ran for 104 yards on 34 carries to become the first player to run for 100 yards against the Patriots in 22 games.
With Vince Wilfork on season-ending IR with a torn right Achilles tendon and fellow defensive tackle Tommy Kelly having missed the last two games with a knee injury, the Patriots re-signed Andre Carter, who made the Pro Bowl with the team in 2011. He was released by Oakland on Aug. 31.
"He's a hard-working guy that's given us great leadership in the past and is a good teammate," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said.
New England is also without linebacker Jerod Mayo - the team's leading tackler - for the rest of the season while top cornerback Aqib Talib sat out Sunday with a hip injury.
After a 3-0 start, the Dolphins (3-3) have lost three straight, including Sunday's 23-21 defeat to Buffalo.
"We're in a tough spot right now," said quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who was limited in practice Wednesday with a sore right shoulder. "We have to face the adversity and grow from it. There are two ways we can go. We can tank it, or we can turn it around."
Tannehill was sacked a season-low two times Sunday against Buffalo, but he's been dropped a league-high 26 times this year. He's fourth in the league with 11 turnovers after throwing two interceptions and losing a fumble against the Bills.
"The decision-making has to improve," coach Joe Philbin said. "And our protection at times has to improve."
The Dolphins made a deal with Baltimore Monday for veteran left tackle Bryant McKinnie to help with pass protection, though it's uncertain when McKinnie will be available. He lost his starting job in Baltimore two weeks ago.
The Dolphins have lost six in a row against the Patriots and four straight at New England. They last won at New England on Sept. 21, 2008, when the Patriots were without an injured Brady. They've never won in New England with Brady as the Patriots' primary quarterback.
The teams last met in a 28-0 Patriots' home win on Dec. 30, 2012.
Coming off their biggest win of the season against the Saints, the New England Patriots did the exact opposite of what they needed to do, and laid an egg versus the rival New York Jets. It was an ugly game, and while the Patriots may have had a loss handed to them by a badly timed call, they really lost the game with some terrible second half play. This week they have another division rival in the Miami Dolphins, so they again can’t get caught napping like they did last week. The Dolphins are more talented than the Jets, but hold the same burning passion to knock off the king of the mountain in the AFC East. So without anymore further wait, let’s look at what the Patriots have to do to grab a win from the Dolphins.
1. Run the Damn Ball
Last week we saw the play calling go to hell in the second half, and the Patriots who had a pretty balanced attack of rushing and passing in the first half, turned to all out passing attack in the second half, and that loss of balance pretty much cost them the game. The Miami Dolphins are a worse rush defense team, in fact they are ranked 15th in the league compared to the Jets 2nd rank, so you have got to take advantage of that, and take the pressure off of Brady and his weapons. Stevan Ridley has continued to look good since his breakout game versus the Saints, and I would expect a big game this week if the Patriots stay true to him. He’s the best back on the roster, not Blount, not Bolden, stay consistent with Ridley. The Dolphins have a good defense, but the Patriots will want to control them as much as possible, and the best way to do that is to impose your way through the running game.
2. Ryan Tannehill WILL Make Mistakes, Take Advantage When They Happen
Ryan Tannehill has had a rough go of things over the past few weeks, and has turned the ball over five times over the past three losses, compared to just two in the Dolphins three wins to start the season. He will make a couple big mistakes here and there, and the Patriots are going to have to take advantage of them when they do happen. Whether it’s turning an interception into a pick six, or a fumble recovery into a touchdown, or even just getting some points off a turnover, it needs to be exploited. Creating turnovers is nice and all but they mean nothing if you can’t capitalize on them.
3. Keep Feeding The Gronk
Rob Gronkowski had a huge day back last Sunday catching eight passes for 117 yards, but it still didn’t seem like he was all there. He dropped what would’ve been a great one-handed catch, which he normally does catch when healthy, and he also lost a ball in the sun, so there was some bad luck as well. So keep feeding the big man, as he’s bound to break out even more. Brady loves Gronk so this is going to probably happen, and versus the 25th ranked team against the pass, some good things will happen. #FeedTheGronk
4. Some Consistent Play Calling
This was the reason the Patriots lost last week. Playcalling went to hell, and the Patriots had no balance. They ran the ball only 10 times in the second half, a half they entered with a lead, and instead of trying to control the Jets, they seemed to get a bit more reckless, and it cost the Patriots dearly. Brady passed the ball 46 times and only managed 22 completions, most of the incompletions coming in the second half, and when you’re constantly giving the other ball after three and outs, you’re going to struggle, and have a tough time winning. The Patriots don’t face as stiff of a defense in the Dolphins, but they’re going to have to tone things down a bit, and be more conservative. Instead of trying to get big plays, try to control the football, make the defense really work. It’s tough to convert when you’re faced with a 3rd and 12 on your own side of the field.
The Patriots took the Jets lightly last week and they paid for it. The Dolphins are struggling through this part of the season after winning their first three games. But again this isn’t a game to look past. Ryan Tannehill was very good in the first three games, and the last thing the Patriots want to do is be the team that gave him confidence again. Be consistent, play to win the game instead of looking for stats, and #FeedTheGronk. These division games are so important, and you don’t want to drop two in a row.
When Dolphins run the ball:
The running game showed signs of life last week as Daniel Thomas (12 carries, 60 yards) and Lamar Miller (seven carries, 43 yards) combined for 103 yards. But the Dolphins are still 25th in rushing yards per game (78.0). The Patriots have lost NT Vince Wilfork to injury, which leaves a big hole in the middle. That’s one reason they’re 31st in rushing yards allowed per game (127.1). In a shocking change, look for both Dolphins backs to be productive. Edge: Dolphins
When Patriots run the ball:
The DT trio of Jared Odrick, Randy Starks and Paul Soliai is the Dolphins’ strength. Having said that the Dolphins are a so-so 15th in rushing yards allowed per game (102.8) and 13th in yards per rush (3.8). New England is 13th in rushing yards per game (116.1), and you can bet they’ll use Stevan Ridley (78 carries, 320 yards, 4.1 yards per carry, 3 TDs) and LeGarrette Blount (54-219-4.1-1) a good amount of times. If Dolphins MLB Dannell Ellerbe (shoulder) plays it tilts this matchup significantly. Edge: Dolphins
When Dolphins pass the ball:
Pass protection is key. QB Ryan Tannehill (26 sacks) has to have time to throw. We don’t know whether newly-acquired LT Bryant McKinnie will play. Either way you’d have to think Patriots DE Chandler Jones (6.5 sacks) will be scary in the fourth quarter, when the Dolphins have allowed the most devastating sacks during the last two weeks. Tannehill (9 TDs, 11 turnovers) has to be sharp. And he has to work around CB Aqib Talib (4 INTs). That’s asking a lot. A couple of big plays would help greatly. New England, 15th in pass defense, has allowed 24 plays of 20 or more yards. Edge: Dolphins
When Patriots pass the ball:
Out of respect, Tom Brady, the three-time Super Bowl winner, always gets the advantage. But he hasn’t been himself. He’s failed to throw a TD pass in two of his last three games after threatening the NFL record with at least one in 52 consecutive games. But TE Rob Gronkowski (eight receptions, 114 yards) is back. That’s trouble. New England’s pass protection is suspect. The Dolphins need DE Cam Wake (knee) to be at his normal Pro Bowl level, but that’s doubtful. Most likely the secondary gets shredded. Their goal should be to keep the Patriots out of the end zone. That, too, is doubtful. Edge: Patriots
The Special Teams Story:
The Dolphins were shaky in this area last week. K Caleb Sturgis missed a 51-yard FG and is now 10-for-12 on FGs, having missed his last two attempts. Rookie S Don Jones had a punt coverage penalty that resulted in a 40-yard field position difference that led to Buffalo’s only offensive TD. KOR Marcus Thigpen (7th at 26.8 yards per return) almost broke one late in the Bills game. New England K Stephen Gostkowski (18-19 FGs) is solid. Patriots PR Julian Edelman (8th at 11.6 yards per return) is slippery. Keep an eye on him. Edge: Patriots
New England is 32-3 (.914) at home over the last four-plus seasons. They’re 3-0 at home this season…The Dolphins haven’t won in New England since 2008…Tannehill (83.1) has a better passer rating than Brady (75.3)…Patriots coach Bill Belichick always has some strategic twist. Keep an eye out for some such adjustment…Dolphins coaches had plenty of tweaks last week (rollouts, read option, end-around, CB Brent Grimes moving with WRs, new KOR formation, etc…) and it’ll be interesting to see if they continue that this week…Dolphins coaches haven’t been solely focused on the Patriots. Because they host Cincinnati on Thursday they have to work two gameplans this week. That’s typical. All NFL teams operate that way…It’ll be chilly, but weather won’t affect the outcome. Forecasts call for a high of 56 degrees. Edge: Patriots
Miami has no major injury concerns, as everyone who’s injured is listed as probable.
For the Patriots, defensive tackle Tommy Kelly and running back Leon Washington are out and a bunch of players are listed as questionable, including receiver Danny Amendola (concussion, groin), running back Brandon Bolden (knee), tackle Marcus Cannon (shoulder), receiver Julian Edelman (thigh), tight end Michael Hoomanawanui (knee), cornerback Aqib Talib (hip) and safety Tavon Wilson (hamstring).