Patriots Preview - Squish the Fish?
Friday, November 30, 2012
The juggernaut is building steam.
But the question remains - can the juggernaut be derailed? Or even slowed at this point? The Miami Dolphins will be the next team to try, but the catch here - they also have something to play for, just like the New England Patriots.
While the Patriots have steamrolled their way to 108 points scored in their past two games (a franchise record), Miami hasn't exactly been setting the NFL on fire offensively. While they defeated Seattle 24-21 a week ago, the previous three weeks the Dolphins managed to score just 37 points - total - in the those three games, which were all losses. Rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill is getting attention for his solid, if unspectacular play, and at the very least...the Dolphins come into Sunday's game against New England with something to play for.
At 5-6, if Miami can beat the Patriots, they thrust themselves right into the AFC Wild Card race...and pull within 2 games of the Pats with four to play. They would also have one game (and a win) in hand on NE, with another to play late in the season. Never underestimate a team that has motivation.
Perhaps then, the larger question remains...while New England begins its post-season push with big wins, is there enough to play for on their end? There is, if getting a first-round bye in the playoffs means anything. There is, if getting your due against the rest of the AFC's contenders drives you. Several on line fan polls this week asked questions about what teams should be favored to contend in the AFC playoffs...and one in particular failed to mention the Patriots entirely. Even with an 8-3 record and the AFC East virtually clinched.
With a win in Miami Sunday, the Pats do clinch the AFC East, and assure themselves of a spot in the tournament. But does the juggernaut keep rolling?
Pay No Attention
The Patriots haVe been in this position previously - and they've responded each of the last two seasons with running the table through the second half of their seasons. Forget it's Miami, forget that South Florida has been troublesome in the past. Keep the eye on the prize - which in this case would be another division crown, and at the very least, a home game in the playoffs.
Make the Rook A Rook
There's been little doubt quarterback Ryan Tannehill has exceeded his expectations for the Dolphins. And while the team suffered through a couple of early tough losses (blowing leads against the Jets and Cardinals), he has maintained composure...and gained respect with his teammates and coaches. Even his head coach, Joe Philbin, is a rookie...so perhaps the two are looking out for one another? Give Tannehill, hopefully, something he didn't expect from your defense.
Go with who brung you
Translated - stay with what works. Tom Brady finds Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez and Brandon Lloyd early and often, and the offensive line always keeps an eye on DE Cameron Wake. Run Stevan Ridley. Force turnovers, and don't commit them on your end. Miami can struggle to score, you don't. So don't help them out.