Culture of Hoops

NFL Preview: Patriots vs Dolphins II

Image courtesy of Keith Allison/Flickr.

Image courtesy of Keith Allison/Flickr.

I want to start my final New England Patriots Preview of the regular season by saying this:

The New York Jets are a damn good football team! Head and shoulders above what they were last season under coach Rex Ryan. Between the roster rebuilding and the philosophy change brought about by new head coach, Todd Bowles, has done wonders for the Jets. When the road to the playoffs seemed unlikely for any Jets team in the past decade, they won many important games and have found themselves in a “win-and-you’re-in” situation. They got there, finally, by beating my Patriots last week in a game where the missing parts of the Patriots offense were so obvious it was painful.

After the game last week there is no doubt left in my brain that Bill Belichick and the Patriots were looking past the Jets to the cream puff matchup as they close the season. While Tom Brady has had his struggles in his career playing in Miami, a late week press conference of his, convinced me of my suspicions.

Late Wednesday Brady spoke to the press, telling them he wants he and his teammates to “…empty the tank one last time to secure the number one seed…”

If you have been an avid reader of mine this season then you know I am a lifetime Patriots fan. Always have, always will be. In my lifelong obsession with the Patriots and Tom Brady, never have I heard Brady say anything remotely close to “emptying a tank.” This means the underwhelming and far from impressive yet talented Miami Dolphins team is the last team standing in the way of The Patriots “scorched earth tour.” The Pats team you saw earlier in the season, blowing teams out and running up the score will return in the game against Miami.

In the words of a great actor in one of the funniest movies of all time speaking to his fellow wedding crasher:

“Lock it up!”

Key Matchup
Brandon LaFell vs Brent Grimes

Without question the Patriots wide receivers are on the rebound from injury. With the current skeleton of a receiving corps for one the games greatest quarterbacks the importance of Brandon LaFell has never been greater. He’s had a shaky season as he cannot seem to find any consistency from game to game. One game he could pull in eight of his 12 targets and be Brady’s crutch. While the next game he could drop all but one of the balls that come his way and become a real weak point of the offense. His performance will be key to the Pats in order for them to move the ball efficiently.

If I can come to the conclusion, I am almost positive the misled Miami Dolphins defensive has as well.

Last season Brent Grimes burst onto the scene during his second season with the Dolphins and was being referred to as one of the games brightest up and coming cornerbacks. Most memorable from last season was Grimes’s diving, outstretched, one handed interception while covering Megatron.

See here:

Amazing athleticism, right?

Unfortunately this season has not been so hot for Grimes. Although he is not the reason why the Dolphins defensive unit is struggling, his poor play has not helped at all. This week his team will be trying to spoil a top seed for their divisional rival. Grimes is usually covering clear-cut number one wideouts, LaFell is all the Patriots have to offer in that spot and he is not one of those. Grimes is undeniably licking his lips at this matchup and I’m sure the Dolphins are as well.

Now the question becomes not so simple. If LaFell cannot catch a cold on Sunday and a different receiver is hurting the Dolphins, will they reassign Grimes to whoever Brady is targeting often? Once this begins to happen and the Dolphins cannot adjust, that is when you will really notice the lack of good coaching for the Dolphins.

Player to Watch
Tom Brady

Can you believe a total stud like Brady has trouble in the warm weather? Isn’t that crazy? Shockingly Brady has a LOSING record in Miami. You are not seeing things, that says a losing record. Brady is 6-7 lifetime in the fishbowl and it has been steadily the case throughout his career. I of course do not think it has anything to do with whichever Dolphins team he plays but more the setting. In each loss in Miami during the Brady era, rain or shine the temperature never goes under 85°. So I don’t think it is the team Brady plays that affects him negatively, it’s the weather!

It is almost like the reverse Peyton Manning rule. For those who are unaware in cold weather (32° Fahrenheit or below) or snow, Peyton is abysmal. There are plenty of cold weather stadiums for Manning to bomb in so there are an ample amount of numbers to support that statement. As for Brady struggling in warm weather that is a little harder to expose because there are very few NFL stadiums that average 85°F after September. In fact, there is only one, the home of the Miami Dolphins.

So with the number one seed in the AFC playoffs on the line as well as Brady pulling even with his less than stellar Miami record, I expect a massive game out of Brady. Even with his limited options he will have to throw the ball too, he will still look like the sharpest player on the field. With all the absences on defense the Patriots will unquestionably need Brady to bring his “A” game.

Game Prediction
As the year comes to a close this Patriots team has a lot more in mind than just winning. They are already guaranteed a top two seed in the playoffs, so a first-round bye is already locked up. With playoffs clinched the Patriots are now concerned with health over everything else because a team riddled with injuries during the postseason is doomed.

So to be honest I’m not sure how the Patriots will come out and play this one. They are far more talented in every facet of the game when compared with the likes of Miami so they could depend on a very vanilla defense. Running the ball between the tackles and throwing the ball to the sideline when necessary. Or we could see the Pats come out with reckless abandonment, five wide and huck the rock 50 times Sunday afternoon, trying to send a bold message to the rest of the conference.

This is the time of year where Bill Belichick becomes even harder to predict. The time of year when Belichick separates himself from the other coaches in the league.

Patriots 35 Dolphins 10

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