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Patriots vs. Dolphins: 3 keys to the game, fun facts, prediction

Ryan Hannable
September 29, 2018 - 10:32 am
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Even though it’s Week 4, this is an extremely important game for the Patriots, arguably the most important regular-season game in the Bill Belichick era.

The Patriots are 1-2, losers of two straight, and haven’t lost three straight since 2002. On the other hand, the Dolphins are a perfect 3-0 and if the Patriots lose, they would fall three games behind in the AFC East.

Fortunately for the Patriots, historically Miami struggles in New England, losing nine straight contests and not winning a road matchup since 2008.

Head coach Adam Game has done a nice job in his two-plus seasons and has earned the respect of Bill Belichick and the Patriots.

Related: Watch every Patriots game season this season with fuboTV -- click to start free trial now

Dolphins vs. Patriots
Sunday, September 30, 2018
1:00 p.m., CBS
Patriots -6.5, over/under 48

3 keys to the game

Get off to fast start

This has been the biggest problem for the Patriots the last two weeks, as they have fallen behind by double digits early in both games. Last week against the Lions was the worst, as the offense had three consecutive three-and-outs to open the game, the first time that's ever happened in the Belichick era. Given how the season has gone, if the team gets off to a bad start not only could the fans get restless, the team may have a hard time reacting given its struggles recently. It’s important to score first every week, but it’s incredibly important for the Patriots in this one.

Limit big plays

Despite Miami being 3-0, it is ranked No. 23 in total offense and No. 19 in passing offense. Furthermore, of the 972 yards of total offense, 21 percent of them (201) have come on three plays (74, 75, 52). If the defense can eliminate big plays, it should be in good shape. Also, Gase has called multiple trick plays in the early going and that is something the Patriots need to be aware of. The Dolphins skill position players are very quick and could pose a threat to the Patriots defense, which overall lacks speed.

More players involved offensively 

Through the three games it’s been basically Rob Gronkowski or nothing for the Patriots offense, and Tom Brady needs more help. Whether it is establishing a running game, or getting consistent production from the wide receivers, Brady and the offense desperately need it because teams have been honing in on Gronkowski and shutting down the entire offense. Miami ranks 29th in defending the pass, so this could be the week for Brady and the offense to get back on track.

Fun facts

1. Since 2007, in the regular season, Brady is 57-2 in home games against AFC opponents.

2. When Gronkowski scores a touchdown at home, the Patriots have won 25 straight games (includes postseason).

3. Including the postseason, when leading by double-digits at home, the Patriots have won 78 straight games. It is the longest such streak in NFL history.

4. Since 2002, following consecutive losses in the same season, the Patriots are 8-0 and have outscored opponents by an average of 17.2 points in those games.

5. Patriots haven’t gone three straight regular-season games without scoring more than 20 points since 2011 (Weeks 6-9 with bye Week 7).

Prediction 

Patriots 30, Dolphins 24

We expect the Patriots to get the job done, but it won’t be easy. Miami’s speed is not good news for the Patriots defense, but we see the Patriots offense having a big bounce-back game and Josh McDaniels calling his best game of the season. There may be some stressful moments, but look for the Patriots to get a much-needed win.

Related: Mike Lombardi clarifies comments on Rob Gronkowski

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