The New England Patriots (8-2) get set for their division rival to come to Gillette Stadium on Sunday when the Miami Dolphins (4-6) come to Foxboro.
The Pats are coming off a dominant 33-8 win over the Oakland Raiders in Mexico City while the Dolphins fell to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30-20. This is the first time these two teams will square off against one another before meeting again on Dec. 11 in Miami.
The Dolphins announced on Friday that they will start quarterback Matt Moore over Jay Cutler – who is still in concussion protocol. This will be Moore’s second start of the season after starting in Week 8. Moore’s start was less-than-desirable and the team was steamrolled by the Baltimore Ravens, 40-0.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who missed practice earlier in the week with what the team reported as an achilles injury, said he is good to go for Sunday. With a reported injury, it may be cause for concern with Miami defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh ready to take charge at Brady any chance he gets.
Suh, who is one of the dirtiest players in the league, said he wants to be able to hit Brady as often as possible as well as throw his own receivers into him. Brady will not only have to be protected by his offensive line every time Suh steps foot onto the field, but he will need to rid of the ball quickly to his receivers.
He will likely be without tight end Martellus Bennett, who was ruled doubtful on Friday with hamstring and shoulder injuries. Bennett has played two games with the Pats since being cut by the Green Bay Packers.
With a big body like Bennett out, Brady will look to connect with tight end Rob Gronkowski, who was taken off the injury report after he was sick and missed practice on Wednesday. He hasn’t had a touchdown since Oct. 29 against the Los Angeles Chargers – but he has had at least three catches in the previous two games.
Wide receiver Chris Hogan will miss Sunday’s bout while he still battles his shoulder injury. He hasn’t practiced since Week 8 so Brady will have to look to target running back Brandin Cooks and wide receiver Danny Amendola.
Cooks has been a main target for Brady, catching 12 passes in his last two games including six against Oakland last week for 149 total yards. Brady will need to rely on him downfield to get into the endzone and to add to his season yardage total of 786.
For the Pats run game, running back Dion Lewis will look to continue being Brady’s main target on the ground. Over the last two games, Lewis has taken half of the rushing attempts for the team for 115 total yards. He’s recorded double-digit carries since Week 6 and Brady will be counting on him to break through the Miami defense.
Miami has lost four games in a row and will be looking to get back in the win column – but with a lackluster backup quarterback as well as ranking second in the NFL with 84 penalties, they’re going to need a lot of help to get past the Pats defense that has been clicking on all cylinders as of late.
Running backs Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker will need to figure out the New England D if they want any chance of a victory over the red-hot Pats. Parker, who was expected to have a breakout year, has been extremely disappointing and inconsistent on the field with only one touchdown and 34 catches.
Landry on the other hand has six touchdowns on the season and 67 catches – so Moore will likely rely on his running back to pick up yards and fight the pressure of the defense.
It’s simple for the Patriots: pressure Moore early and often, protect Brady from Suh and make sure Cooks gets his hands on the ball.
Pats linebacker Kyle Van Noy said he wants more chances to get at the quarterback after having one of his best performances against the Raiders with a half-sack and three pressures on quarterback Derek Carr. If he can have the same type of performance against Moore, the Dolphins quarterback will be spending a lot of time on the ground.
Final score prediction: New England: 21, Miami: 17