The New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins will meet in Week 14, and below are some predictions of what it will take for the quarterback-challenged Dolphins to upset their divisional rival.
The two teams will be quite familiar when they meet in Miami on Sunday, as it is the second time in the last three weeks that the AFC East rivals will meet. In their previous game on November 26, the Patriots overcame a physical Miami team to win 35-17.
So, what will it take for Miami to reverse their fortunes and win this time around? Below are some predictions for the New England Patriots vs. Miami Dolphins matchup in Week 14.
Hitting Tom Brady
While Tom Brady will likely retire as the best quarterback (and likely, the best NFL player of any position) of all time, there is a clear gameplan to beating him — getting pressure up the middle and putting Brady on his backside. Blitzing Brady is asking for disaster, even with the quarterback at age 40, but teams that are able to generate pressure with their front line and get physical with Brady have been able to force him into mistakes and disrupt the Patriots exceptional offense.
The Dolphins got this part right in their first matchup, hitting Brady eight times and sacking him once, but it did little to slow him down as Brady threw for four touchdowns. To have a chance in Week 14, the Dolphins will need to keep the pressure on Brady and hope the secondary can make more plays.
Taking advantage without Gronk
While the New England Patriots have fared well against the Miami Dolphins in recent years, they will be going into the Week 14 game without star tight end Rob Gronkowski after he drew a one-game suspension for a late hit on Tre White of the Buffalo Bills.
NFL suspends Rob Gronkowski for 1 game for violation of unnecessary roughness rules pic.twitter.com/kPfAei4cCL— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) December 4, 2017
Losing Gronkowski means Tom Brady will be without one of his favorite targets, which could be a significant blow to the Patriots. Gronkowski has missed 18 games over the course of his career due to injuries, and the Patriots are a very un-Patriot-like 14-5 in those games. New England’s other tight ends have not picked up the slack in his absence, Boston.com noted.
“Over the course of his career in the regular season, Gronkowski has averaged 69.3 receiving yards and 0.77 touchdowns per-game. In regular season games without Gronkowski, Patriots tight ends have combined to average only 39.5 yards and 0.37 touchdowns per-game.”
With Gronkowski out, the Dolphins must be able to shut down Brady’s other favorite targets and hope to hold the offense in check.
Though the Patriots have been perennial leaders of the AFC East, the Dolphins have performed surprisingly well at home against them in recent years. Though the Patriots swept the series last year, prior to 2016 they had a three-game losing streak in games played in Miami. So the Dolphins may look to get a boost from the hometown fans and warm weather — and reverse their fortunes from the rest of the season. The Dolphins are just 3-3 at home so far this season and will need a big effort to beat the Patriots in Week 14.