New England Patriots Super Bowl Champs

Patriots-Dolphins Monday Night Preview

Jump Ball: Tom Brady has a tall target in Randy Moss, who’s five inches taller than the CB defending him.

In this preview leading up to Monday night’s showdown between the Patriots and the division rival Dolphins, we will address some of the biggest concerns facing the Patriots and its defensive backfield, the match-up they must attack, and if they can win a game that doesn’t involve a shootout.  Also, of course, I have the winner of this all-important battle of 2-1 clubs.  Remember the Jets are 3-1, looking really impressive.

Everyone knows about the issues New England is having with its secondary. Do you think coach Belichick will figure out a way to take some of the heat off of the unit?

  • It’s unlikely with the hand he’s dealt: Kyle Arrington, a second-year guy undrafted from Hofstra, is starting at corner back in place of Darius Butler. Coming into this season, the team had high expectations for Butler, a 2nd round pick in ’09. That doesn’t help their plan to match up Brandon Marshall and Steve Johnson.

On top of that, New England is still trying to make up for the loss of Leigh Bodden, a key contributor whom the team was counting upon to cover opponent’s go-to No. 1 targets. And the team’s other corner, Devin McCourty, is a rookie, so how much can you expect from him?

The Pats pass rush has been almost nonexistent and that’s usually a secondary’s best friend. Piling on the laundry list of uncertainties, rookies Jermaine Cunningham and Brandon Spikes are being forced into action. It’s hard to defend the pass over the middle of the field in a league where the tight ends continue getting more athletic, let alone with inexperienced linebackers having the assignment of matching up with these talented tight ends.

The combination of injuries, unprepared youngsters and an underachieving Butler has put a chink into Belichick’s armor to contain the opposition’s aerial display.

Creating a time of possession advantage will limit the amount of opportunities the secondary has to getting exposed. We need long, orchestrated, time-consuming touchdown marches by Tom Brady to help out the defense and secondary in particular.

While the Pats’ defense has seen better days, the team’s offense, outside one bad half against the Jets, looks almost as good as it did back in 2007. Can the Patriots still win a 13-7 slug-fest or does this team have to score 30 points every week to win?

  • If the defense persists on surrendering 27 points a game, its average, then the offense will have to put up 30. Tom Brady’s bunch has to play the role of hero every Sunday from here on out. Unless BenJarvus Green-Ellis turns into Corey Dillon, Curtis Martin, or Craig James, the passing game will have to be flawless almost every week. Your 2010-2011 New England Patriots: “Get ready for a shootout boys”.

Which matchup do you think New England will try to exploit early and often against Miami?

  • As improved as the Miami secondary is, Randy Moss will have his way with Vontae Davis. Davis is a serious, big-time athlete, but at 5-foot 11, he’s giving up almost half a foot to Randy. I think the best matchup for the Pats, though, is Aaron Hernandez vs. Karlos Dansby. Hernandez is way too quick and shifty for Dansby, and you can expect Brady to look for his new toy from Florida early and often.

Hernandez is going to be a perennial Pro-Bowler for the next decade and he’ll sting the Fish worse than Dustin Keller did last week.

Final score prediction: New England Patriots 31, Miami Dolphins 23

Patriots handle pressure, spotlight as well as anybody.  New England’s red zone efficiency, ability to score touchdowns, not settle for field goals, is the deciding factor in this divisional rivalry.  I trust the Pats offense to cash in more when it counts than I do the ‘Phins offensive attack.


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