Patriots look to secure number one seed in Miami
Unlike at this time last season, the New England Patriots have a lot to play for in week 17. Last season, the Patriots already had the number one seed locked up and they were able to allow their starters to rest in their match up with the Buffalo Bills. This time around that is not the case as they still have to win in Miami to allow the road to Super Bowl 50 to go through Foxborough, Massachusetts. It will be a tough task indeed as the Patriots have lost their previous two games in South Florida. Here are my keys to a Patriots victory.
Get up early: The Miami Dolphins have nothing but pride to play for on Sunday. If they were a team like the Buffalo Bills that has shown they can play with some juice when motivated, then I would be slightly nervous as a Patriots fan. However, right now the Miami locker room is divided as there has been in-fighting between players this week, and their very brash interim head coach Dan Campbell seemed to have lost his players about a month ago. The Fins will still come out ready to play, but if the Patriots can get a couple scores early, then they should pack it in and the Patriots should roll to a victory. They cannot get cute though, because all of Patriots Nation saw what happened against Philadelphia four weeks ago.
Pound the rock: For Patriots fans that have been calling for Josh McDaniels to, “establish a run game” this should be your week. The Patriots can only have success on the ground when the game plan calls for it, and it does so this week as Miami is ranked 30th in the league in run defense. It doesn’t matter if LeGarrette Blount is on injured reserve, anybody the Patriots put in the back field this week should be productive. It should be Steven Jackson’s time to show that he has something left in the tank. If he doesn’t have a solid performance, then he really is all done. A running game will be essential this week for the Patriots, especially if they can go out to an early lead.
Don’t let receivers run wild: The Miami Dolphins offensive line has been a major detriment to their franchise the past couple of seasons. Chandler Jones has been border line dominant against the Dolphins in his four seasons with New England, but he has already been ruled out for this Sunday’s match up with a toe injury. Don’t’a Hightower also will not be out there. Therefore, the pass rush may not be as effective which means players such as Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan need to be on their A-game, and not allow Rishard Matthews and Landry Jones to run free.
In the end, regardless of who is out there this week the Patriots should win this match up if Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski are on the field as expected. It appears as though they are trying to rest some players as they have already ruled out the likes of Sebastian Vollmer, Chandler Jones, Don’t’a Hightower, and Rob Ninkovich. That leaves Tom Brady as the only offensive player who has started all 16 games this season for the Patriots, if he does in fact start as expected. The Patriots can still score on this Miami defense without Julian Edelman and Sebastian Vollmer, and they should be helped by a decent run game lead by Steven Jackson. That will lead to the Patriots winning by ten points and securing the number one seed in the AFC playoffs.