As the New England Patriots prepare for their Week 14, Monday night showdown with the Miami Dolphins, here are some pregame thoughts:

Going Without Gronk- The Pats will be forced to play the game without tight end Rob Gronkowski, who was suspended by the league for his uncharacteristically dirty hit on Buffalo's Tre'Davious White during last week's win. In the first meeting between these two teams, three weeks ago, Gronkowski had a monster day, catching five passes for 82 yards and two touchdowns on the day. With Gronkowski out, expect the Patriots to utilize their backs even more than usual, to compensate for the lost statistics. Dwayne Allen, who has become more of a threat in the passing game over the past couple of weeks, and rookie Cody Hollister figure to have expanded roles at the tight end position, as well. Though not having Gronk on the field it not ideal, getting the benefit of having a rested top flight weapon for their conference showdown with the Pittsburgh Steelers is worth going short-handed to Miami.

2 Times In 3 Weeks- The game will mark the second time the teams will square off in a three week span, as the Patriots have a back loaded AFC East slate on their schedule. When the two teams met back in Week 12, the Pats rolled to a 35-17 home win over the lowly Dolphins. While they put the game out of reach early, the Pats had to deal with the chippy and somewhat dirty Dolphins for the entirety of the afternoon. They'll likely face the same scenario this week, as Miami has continued to sputter and seems more interested in hurting their opponents than beating them.

Gotta Do A Better Job- While the Patriot offense had themselves a heck of a day, statistically, when the two teams squared off in November, the offensive line struggled and got quarterback Tom Brady smacked around by the questionably aggressive Miami front seven. On the day, they allowed Brady to get sacked once, hit eight times and hurried relentlessly. Against an opponent like Miami, which has a number of dirty players along the front seven, that type of poor coverage could lead to disaster for New England. Heading into the game without starting right tackle Marcus Cannon, again, and potentially without his backup, LaAdrian Waddle, could lead the Pats to keep extra blockers in, either on or near the line, all game long.

Dion Keeps Dicin' Em Up- Look for Patriots running back Dion Lewis to get a lot of touches, Monday, as he has been dicing up opposing defenses as of late. After a slow start to the season, in which he was getting used sparingly in the offense, Lewis has turned it on. Over his last two games, Lewis has been superb, carrying the ball 30 times for 204 yards. The first of those two games was his first career 100+ yard effort, which he got against this Miami defense at Gillette Stadium. His 7.5 yards per rush in that game are a season-high and one that he will look to build on this week. Though he has battled an illness this week, he is expected to play on Monday.

Injury Report- The Pats have already announced that right tackle Marcus Cannon and linebacker Kyle Van Noy, who play impact roles on offense and defense respectively, will both be out of the game. The team has also listed 10 other players, including six defensive players, as questionable. If all or even a few of those guys are unable to go, the team's defense could be really challenged. With the team's three top corners, Malcolm Butler, Stephon Gilmore and Eric Rowe, all on the list of questionable players, the team could enter the game in a precarious position at that spot.

Prediction- With such a short turnaround between meetings, the Pats should have the advantage. Their ability to shift their offensive approach to attack whichever type of defense they are playing and their recent exposure to Miami's defense should allow New England to cruise to another 30+ point day. As for the defense, while they are battling injuries, the Dolphin offense posses little real threat with underwhelming weapons and a weak-minded quarterback. Expect the Pats to roll early and shift the focus to protecting themselves and staving off further injuries by the second half.

Pats 36, Dolphins 13






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