Pats Preview: Pats Vs. Dolphins
Just off the heels of a 30-23 win over the New York Jets on Sunday, the New England Patriots are set for a quick turnaround as they host the Miami Dolphins on Thursday Night Football.
As the Pats get read for their midweek match up, let's take a look at some of the thoughts for this game:
Quick Turnaround- Be cause of the NFL's desire to monopolize as many days of the week as possible, every Thursday during the regular season the league forces two teams to play just four days after their previous game. Players don't seem to like the idea of the game, but it makes the league more money so it lives on. It might not make for the highest level of play, however. Don't expect the well oiled machine in New England to not be able to weather the storm, regardless of injuries.
AFC East Battle- Just like last week, the Patriots find themselves in a divisional match up the Dolphins come to town. With New England at 6-0 overall and 2-0 in the division they sit comfortably atop the league right now, as the team to beat. The Dolphins started the season 1-3 but after firing their head coach, Joe Philbin, and handing over the reigns to assistant Dan Campbell the team has won their last two games.
Miami Outburst- As mentioned above, since a change at head coach the Dolphins have been a better football team. Last week the team had their way with the Houston Texans in a 44-26 thrashing. Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill led the way, completing 18 of 19 pass attempts for 282 yards and four touchdowns.
Running Their Mouths- As a few of the Patriots' previous opponents have done this year, the Dolphins have attempted to trash talk the New England and their star quarterback, Tom Brady. This week it was Miami linebacker Chris McCain's turn to insert his foot into his mouth, after he posted a new twitter avatar which showed him crushing Brady's head. Along with new picture was the hashtag #CrushBrady. All things considered, it will probably be a move McCain winds up regretting, whether he admits it or not, after Brady lights up the Miami defense like a Christmas tree. Of course, McCain deflected attention for the picture from the media saying it was a fan photo that he liked. He also called Brady the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time). At some point, other coaches around the league have to start putting a gag order on their players, before their team's play New England. Things like this come back to haunt New England opponents all too much.
Injury Concerns- The Pats, once again enter the week short handed, as left tackle Marcus Cannon and defensive ends Jabaal Sheard and Rufus Johnson have already been ruled out for Thursday night. Along with those three, New England has four offensive players (Dion Lewis, Shaq Mason, Brandon Bolden and Keshawn Martin) who missed last week's game all listed as questionable for the game. Not having Lewis in the backfield really limited New England's utilization of their running backs. Having him back would be a huge boost to the offense, as Lewis can make plays rushing and in the passing game.
Catch The Ball- New England receivers struggled to catch the ball last week, dropping 12 of Brady's 54 pass attempts. The biggest culprit was Brandon LaFell, who gets a bit of a pass as last week was his first action of the season, after being activated of the physically unable to perform list. Catching a few more of Brady's passes could just help create more space between the Patriots and their opponents, on the scoreboard.
Bend But Don't Break- With the Dolphins putting up 82 points in their last two games, the Patriots defense will be test and tasked with finding ways to keep them out of the end zone. Last week, alone, Miami had four first half plays of 50 yards or more. New England has been a "bend but don't break" type defense for a few years now and they will need to employ that mindset again on Thursday. They'll have to live with some big plays by Miami but stop the Dolphins from getting into the end zone regularly.
Secondary Step Up- New England's secondary has been a bit shaky through its first six games. With Tannehill having an impressive last couple of games and the Dolphins having the majority of their offensive play makers at wide receiver, New England's defensive backs should be ready to see the ball coming their way a lot. They'll have to make some plays and maybe a couple of picks to help get the win.