The Miami Dolphins will travel to Foxborough this Sunday to take on the New England Patriots in a big division game.
Both teams are coming off of heart breaking division losses. Miami lost to the Bills off a sack – fumble in the 4th that lead to the Bills game winning field goal. The Patriots lost to the Jets in overtime when a rare penalty that hasn’t been called this year was called on the Patriots after the Jets missed a 56 yard field goal to give the Jets another chance from the 44 yard line. The Jets connected and beat the Patriots.
Both teams are looking at this game as a must win, Dolphins need a win to avoid 4 straight losses, and the Patriots want the win to feel as if they have their hands firmly wrapped on the division.
I will break down the 3 players that will have the biggest impact on the game.
1. TE Rob Gronkowski
– The Dolphins have had a hard time stopping tight ends this year and when Gronk is 100% healthy he is extremely hard to stop. Gronk had 114 yards receiving in his first game back against the Jets. Gronk can terrorize the middle of the field and with one game under his belt he should perform even better this Sunday. Gronk is the X – Factor in this game and will have the biggest impact on offense.
2. The Entire Offensive Line
– Can we please start protecting Tom Brady better? The Patriots are facing a stout defensive line in the Miami Dolphins and the Patriots have had problems all season with protecting Tom Brady. Tom Brady and the offense has a hard time scoring if Brady is getting hit but when he is protected the offense puts up points and Brady has better numbers. For New England to put up big numbers and win they need to protect Brady and maybe the OL will get it figured out by Sunday.
3. CB Alfonzo Dennard
– Dennard may have the toughest assignment of anyone, to shut down WR Brian Hartline. Hartline has been Miami’s go to guy, the chain mover, and even the deep threat. Hartline has done it all this year and QB Ryan Tannehill relies on him, so if Dennard can slow him down it will go a long way in slowing down their offense.
Dennard has been having a good year, shutting down the number two receivers for each team the Patriots have had and when he and Talib are both out there they are the biggest reasons offenses have found it hard to pass on them.
The Jets had success with big plays and deep passes because Dennard had to stop Stephen Hill, which he did, and Arrington had to be on Kerley and it wasn’t a good matchup. If Talib had play, Talib and Dennard would have shut down Hill and Kerley and the Jets would have found it very difficult to move the ball through the air.
Dennard can’t do everything so hopefully Talib will be back to shutdown Wallace so Dennard can focus on stopping Hartline, a tough match all in itself.
If he shuts him down Miami won’t score too much and New England will have a great chance of winning.