First off numbers you should know heading into this game. Runningback Steven Ridley needs just 61 rushing yards in this game to get 1,000 yards rushing on the season and he will be running against the Dolphins 7th ranked run defense in the NFL but he can surpass it vs the Dolphins if the Patriots can maintain good balance. Welker a former Miami Dolphin, has caught 75 passes for 981 yards and four touchdowns in nine games against his old team and he averages more than eight catches and nearly 110 yards versus the Phins which are his best numbers against any team that Welker has faced more than once in his career. Tom Brady needs to throw at least one touchdown pass in this game to extend his streak to 44 consecutive games with a touchdown pass. The Patriots defense has forced 32 turnovers and their plus-24 differential is the best in the league while Miami this season is tied for fifth worst in the NFL in turnover differential at minus-10. Dolphins pass defense ranks 26th in the NFL while the Patriots offense is ranked number one in the NFL. Tom Brady hasn’t beaten Miami in Miami in the month of December. The Patriots will win their 10th AFC East title in 12 years if they beat Miami while Miami looks to try to stay in the playoff hunt.
Patriots Offensive Line: Must block the blitzes. The Dolphins are stout on their defensive line and have a great pass rusher in Cameron Wake and the Dolphins love to blitz. The Double A-gap blitz is the favorite blitz of the Dolphins as it puts two linebackers to each side of the center, forcing both guards to account for inside pressure leaving the offensive tackles on an island with the defensive ends which will be a tough task for the Patriots offensive tackle going one on one against Wake. The Patriots offensive line is having a great year no matter who is playing that position it seems and if they want to dominant the game then they need to protect Brady from schemes like this and of course Brady can help with getting the ball out quickly on blitzing plays.
Steven Ridley: I think Ridley will get more the 61 yards in this game due to the balance this offense has. Ridley is a very talented runningback who can keep grinding away all game and break a run before it is over. He faces a tough task in the 7th ranked Dolphins defense but with the help of an effective passing game Ridley should surpass the 1,000 mark.
Wes Welker: He has been astonishingly good against his former team who traded him to New England for a second round pick which the Dolphins used to draft Samson H. Satele and a seventh round pick which they used to draft Abraham Winston Wright. His numbers should increase when he faces off against the Dolphins as they don’t have the best secondary. Welker should be in great matchups all game long and torch his former team once more.
Pass Defense: The Dolphins like to attack the middle of the field so they will use shallow crosses, slants and spot routes to attack in between the hashes against New England who has struggled to cover the middle of the field. I don’t fear the Dolphins passing attack to shred New England’s secondary. It is the linebackers over the middle against the tight ends or runningbacks I fear getting picked apart the most. I would like nothing more to see Mayo, Spikes, and Hightower focusing only on stopping the run and sacking the QB and not dropping into coverage and instead I would rather another corner to come in and play that spot. The linebackers for New England are horrendous in coverage and that’s being nice, and the challenge will be keeping runningbacks Reggie Bush, and Daniel Thomas contain in pass plays over the middle along with covering tight end Anthony Fasano and fullback Charles Clay who loves to work the middle in pass plays. That is going to be the biggest challenge for the Patriots in this game. They need to pass rush Hightower and Mayo more and blitz more in this game and allow a corner to come in for Spikes to cover the middle or New England will give up yards. Tannehill has 12 interceptions and the Dolphins runningbacks have lost five fumbles which all bolds well for a New England team who loves to collect turnovers. New England seems to have master the art of causing fumbles and getting interceptions and there will be opportunities for the Patriots to get more in today’s game.
Rush Defense: The Patriots run defense has been great this season. The Bills game wasn’t pretty for New England in anyway for the Patriots defense including the ground game as Spiller had 70 yards rushing along with 61 yards receiving and Fred Jackson had 80 yards rushing and 35 yards reciving and two rushing touchdowns. Reggie Bush is a Spiller type runningback and the Patriots run defense needs to step it up and contain the explosive back. I don’t think Bush is the greatest runningback but he can and will make you pay if you leave him space too. Spikes is the best run stopping linebacker in the NFL and will need to bring his A game against the Dolphins to make them a one dimensional team. Spikes is a force to be reckon with and will light up a runningback and I expect him to light up Bush to set the tone for the Patriots in this game. I think the run defense will be fine as I worry the most about the linebackers in coverage.
Tom Brady: He should be getting the ball out quickly to avoid pressure from the Dolphins blitzes and looking to expose great matchups for his team. I think the wide outs will have the most success in this game since I think Tom Brady will be looking to expose the bad cornerback play of the Dolphins. Maybe this game will allow Brandon Lloyd to get more invovled in adding something to this New England explosive offense. This far into the season the wideout has been disappointing and not adding that dimension of a deep threat some thought he would. If Edelman plays he will take shots away from Lloyd and look for him and Welker to do the most damage. If Edelman isn’t in this game or doesn’t play much then Lloyd might have a rare big game. Tom Brady will look to put up MVP type numbers against the 26th raked pass defense in the NFL. Brady will also look to get his first win in Miami in the month of December. Brady and the Patriots will win the AFC East with a win.
The Dolphins and the Patriots will square off on CBS at 1 p.m.est.