NGSC Sports

Miami Dolphins/New England Patriots Preview

It’s been five seasons since the Miami Dolphins won the AFC East. On Sunday, the team hopes they can begin their quest to win their first division title since 2008 over the team that’s has dominated the AFC East since 2001, the New England Patriots.

New England finished last season 12-4 and is coming off its 11th AFC East title in 14 seasons. While the Patriots have dominated the division in recent memory, they have not won a Super Bowl Championship since 2004.

So the Patriots went out and addressed some needs on offense and in the defensive secondary. New England signed receiver Brandon LaFell, who had a career-high 49 catches in his fourth season with the Carolina Panthers in 2013. Just last week, the Patriots traded six-time Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for tight end Tim Wright. 

The 6-foot-4-inch, 220-pound Wright had 54 receptions for 571 yards and five touchdowns as a rookie with the Buccaneers in 2013.

With additions of Wright and LaFell to go along with Julian Edelman, and a healthy Rob Gronkowski, that should help Brady improve on his 2013’s 87.3 passer rating, which was his lowest since 2003. 

Patriots added five-time Pro Bowler Darrelle Revis to their secondary. Revis, who is considered by many to be the best cornerback in the NFL, will make life difficult for AFC East receivers all season long. 

Miami Dolphins’ quarterback Ryan Tannehill was sacked a league-high 58 times last season. After an up-and-down 8-8 season, the Dolphins retooled their offensive line and hired a new offensive coordinator in Bill Lazor to improve the team’s offense. 

Lazor, who was the Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterbacks coach last season, is often credited in helping quarterback Nick Foles because a 119.2 rated passer. The Dolphins offense is much faster and has a better rhythm than it did under previous coordnator Mike Sherman. 

Branden Albert, a Pro Bowler in 2013 for the Kansas City Chiefs, is the Dolphins new left tackle. 2014 first-round draft pick Ja’Waun James will be on the right side at tackle. Center Mike Pouncey, who is still recovering from hip surgery won’t play on Sunday. The Dolphins are expecting him back by the end of September or the beginning of October. 

Injury Report

New England

Out                                                                                                  Questionable

Michael Buchanan (ankle)                                                      Rob Gronkowski

Chris Jones (ankle)                                                                    Tom Brady

Gronkowski and Brady are both expected to play on Sunday, so I wouldn’t worry about by them being on the injury report.

Miami 

Out                                                                                           Doubtful                                                                              Probable 

Philip Wheeler (thumb)                                                   Billy Turner (Foot)                                                              Walt Aikens (hand)

Terrence Fede (knee)                                                                                                                                                            Chris McClain (hip)

Mike Pouncey (hip)                                                                                                                                                                Koa Misi (shoulder)

Jordan Tripp (chest)                                                                                                                                                              Jamar Taylor (hip)

The biggest player out for the Dolphins is starting outside linebacker Philip Wheeler. He practiced some during the week but was officially ruled out on Friday. Miami will have to look at options such as Chris McClain, Jason Trusnik or Jelani Jenkins to replace Wheeler. 

Keys to the game

Even if Gronkowski is 80 percent of what he once was, that will still give the Dolphins problems on Sunday. With Wheeler out, it will be interesting to see how the Dolphins decide to play Gronkowski

Charles Clay was one of the most underrated players in the NFL last season. He caught 69 passes for 759 yards and had six touchdowns. Clay only had a combined six catches for 43 yards in his two games against New England last season, so the Patriots did a good job containing him. He will definitely provide a challenge for the Patriots linebackers. 

The Dolphins defensive line is as talented as it has ever been. If Miami can get pressure on Brady by just bring four defensive lineman, that will of course help their linebackers and their secondary. I do expect the Dolphins to have some blitz packages in their game plan, but they will be careful about how they blitz Brady. Miami can’t let Brady sit back in the pocket all day because he will pick their defense apart. 

Prediction

New England has won 10 straight season openers. The Dolphins are 3-7 in their last 10 season openers, but they defeat the Cleveland Browns in Week 1 last season.

Miami always plays the Patriots tough when they visit Sun Life Stadium and Sunday will be no different. This should be a very close game that will come down to the final minutes, much like the 24-20 Dolphins victory last December. 

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Patriots won the game nor would I be surprised if the Dolphins came out on top. In the end I say the Dolphins win 27-24.

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