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

Ryan Hannable
December 28, 2019 - 1:36 pm
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The last week of the regular season is here and there’s still plenty to play for.

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With a win Sunday against Miami, the Patriots will clinch a first-round bye in the playoffs. The team has said all week it is treating it like a playoff game, just like last week against the Bills.

Led by first-year coach Brian Flores, the Dolphins enter with a 4-11 record, but have won four of their last eight games, including last week in overtime against the Bengals. With that being said, Miami is statistically among the worst teams in the entire league.

It also has the potential to be Tom Brady’s final regular-season game as a member of the Patriots with him being a free agent after the season for the first time in his career.

Dolphins vs. Patriots
Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019
1:00, CBS
Patriots -16.5, over/under 45

3 keys to the game

Get off to fast start

Not only is this a key to winning the game, but also potentially stealing some extra rest for some banged up players. Julian Edelman is the main one as he’s been dealing with a number of injuries all season and he could use as much down time as possible before the postseason. If the Patriots build a big lead, do not be surprised to see a few of their key players exit the game earlier than usual.

Continue to run ball successfully

The Patriots have ran the ball well each of the last two weeks — 143 yards against the Bills and 175 yards against the Bengals. This was the key to the Super Bowl run last season and it appears like it will be needed once again this year. The offense is much better when it is balanced and defenses cannot key on Brady dropping back to pass. Miami is 27th in the league in defending the run, so it should be another confidence-building game on the ground.

Don’t give up big plays

While Miami is 27th in total offense, it is 15th in passing so the Patriots defense needs to beware of Ryan Fitzpatrick and DeVante Parker in particular when it comes to making plays down the field. The Patriots gave up a few big plays last week against the Bills and they do not want it to happen again this week. Fitzpatrick isn’t afraid to take some chances and he has nothing to lose, so the defense needs to beware of the big plays.

Fun facts

1. A win would give Brady his 250th overall (including the postseason) extending his own NFL record. Peyton Manning is second with 200.

2. If the Patriots hold Miami to fewer than seven third-down conversions, they will set a new NFL record for third-down conversions allowed in a 16-game season. Currently, Patriots have held opponents to 42-for-183 on third down this season.

3. Since 2001, the Patriots are 95-3 with a positive turnover margin.

4. Since 2007 in home games against the AFC East, when Brady and Edelman both play the Patriots are 20-0.

5. The Patriots enter the game with the No. 1 ranked defense in the league. They have never finished a season as the league’s top-ranked defense. In the Bill Belichick era, the best they’ve been is No. 4 (2007).

Prediction 

Patriots 27, Dolphins 10

This game likely will never be in doubt, as the Patriots seem locked in and really want the first-round bye. Flores’ team will likely fight until the end, unlike some past opponents in Week 17, but Miami does not have the talent to compete with the Patriots. The bigger question might be if/when do the Patriots starters get pulled, but it is worth noting last year the Patriots beat the Jets 38-3 and the starters played the whole game.

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