THURSDAY NIGHT PREVIEW: Rejuvinated Dolphins Learning to Swim

MIAMI DOLPHINS WEEK 8 PREVIEW

 Miami Dolphins @ New England Patriots

Gillette Stadium – Foxborough, Massachusetts

Thursday October, 29

8:00 PM E.T. on NFL Network

What to Watch For

Offense:

This week’s matchup against the defending Champion, New England Patriots is unquestionably the most difficult test Miami has faced this season. Despite New England’s undefeated 6-0 start, this newly rejuvenated Dolphins team under Interim Head Coach, Dan Campbell might be just the team to end the Patriots winning streak. The two biggest changes everyone has observed Dan Campbell implement since being promoted are as follows: 1. Play stronger 2. Play faster.

These new philosophies will never be more imperative than this week against the defending World Champions. The Patriots haven’t been beaten at home in the month of October in 10 years. However, no one can deny the difference in energy within the entire Dolphins organization now that Dan Campbell is leading the charge. Last week against the Texans, the Dolphins came out firing on all cylinders, scoring a franchise record 41 points in the first quarter against one of the league’s most notorious defensive lines. If the Dolphins can come out in similar fashion against the Patriots, it will do wonders for their odds of conquering this difficult matchup. The Patriots are currently 71-0 at Gillette Stadium when leading at half-time, so if Miami comes out flat in the first-half it will almost certainly cost them the game.

The dolphins will look to establish a run game early just as they did last week against Houston. Lamar Miller will see the majority of the carries but expect Campbell and Lazor to give Jonas Gray his fair share of touches as well. Gray will be facing a team that he helped win a Super Bowl last season before being cut from the team this preseason, shocking many around the league. Look for Gray to run with a chip on his shoulder Thursday night against his former team.

There is no question that Jarvis Landry is the Dolphins strongest offensive weapon, but if you haven’t accepted that Bill Belichick has been conjuring up a way to shut down Landry all week, you’re in denial. It will be imperative for Campbell and Lazor to find a way to utilize their depth at wide receiver outside of Landry and possibly even consider using him primarily as a decoy. This team has always operated two steps behind Bill Belichick and his Patriots, and many believe Dan Campbell could be the Coach who finally changes that culture.

Defense/Special Teams:

Let’s just be clear, there is no such thing as “shutting down Tom Brady”. Therefore, what Dolphins fans should really hope for is to simply slow down Brady. He will inevitably throw a few touchdown passes. The sooner you accept that, the sooner you can strategize on how you compensate for those points in other ways. Brady’s talent is undeniable, so Miami should first focus on something that they can control- stopping the Patriots rushing attack. This is why Ndamukong Suh was brought to Miami. With Suh, Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon all healthy, there is no excuse to allow the Patriots to run on them. If they fail to stop the Patriots rushing attack, it will be difficult to stop the bleeding.

Expect huge games from Patriots wide receivers, Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola. Brady loves to find these two slot receivers in the flats and with Brice McCain questionable, Miami will rely heavily on Jamar Taylor at the second cornerback position across from Pro Bowler, Brent Grimes. Taylor has underperformed all season so it will be difficult for the Dolphins to stop the Patriots short passing attack unless their linebackers play outstanding, which has yet to happen this season.

The great news for Dolphins fans is that linebacker; Chris McCain is probable to play after being out last week. Chris McCain is 6’5, 250 lbs. He is a unique athlete as he has the size of a defensive end, but also has the speed and athleticism of a linebacker. McCain is the only player on the Dolphins entire roster who can guard Rob Gronkowski. The “Gronk” stands at a massive 6’6, 265 lbs which is why most teams have no answer for him. The Dolphins are fortunate to have McCain on their roster, but the question remains… Will he actually be able to slow down one the NFL’s most dominant offensive weapons?

Six Keys to Victory

Offense:

  • Establish run game early
  • Utilize depth at WR, as New England will surely zone-in on Landry
  • Must stretch out the field in order to keep New England guessing (Last week Dolphins averaged only 3 yards per pass)

Defense:

  • Slow down Rob Gronkowski
  • Defensive line must pressure Tom Brady constantly (Utilize depth on defensive line to continuously sub in fresh bodies)
  • Jamar Taylor must step up to slow down Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola (Belichick looks for team’s weaknesses- and there’s an obvious one at CB2)

Injury Report

Miami Dolphins

CB- Brice McCain (Knee) Questionable

CB- Zack Bowman (Shoulder) Probable

CB- Brent Grimes (Knee/Ribs) Probable

QB- Matt Moore (Nose) Probable

LB- Spencer Paysinger (Groin) Probable

LB- Chris McCain (Not Injury Related) Probable

DT- Jordan Phillips (Ankle) Probable

C- Mike Pouncey (Hip) Probable

New England Patriots

OL- Marcus Cannon (Toe) Out

LB- Rufus Johnson (Illness) Out

DE- Jabaal Sheard (Ankle) Out

RB- Brandon Bolden (Hamstring) Questionable

RB- Dion Lewis (Abdomen) Questionable

WR- Keshawn Martin (Hamstring) Questionable

G- Shaq Mason (Knee) Read Questionable

DL- Trey Flowers (Knee/Shoulder) Probable

LB- Dont’a Hightower (Ribs) Probable

G- Josh Kline (Shoulder) Probable

Prediction

Dolphins 37 – Patriots 34

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