By Danny Cox
Only a couple of weeks ago, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots routed the Miami Dolphins, despite committing a lot of penalties and dealing with a number of injuries. This time around, Jay Cutler has returned as quarterback and Miami is going to be fighting for its playoff life.
Miami Dolphins Season Record: 5-7
The 2017 version of the Dolphins is a very tough book to read through, as one never quite knows what team will show up. Early on, the Dolphins had a couple of big losses to the Chargers and Saints before winning three in a row. From there, they lost five in a row before blowing out the Denver Broncos, but who will be on the field when they play the Patriots this time?
Dolphins On Offense
The Dolphins are not an offensive juggernaut, which is evident by the fact that they’re in the bottom three of the NFL for yards this season. Jay Cutler has simply not been the type of franchise-leading quarterback that the organization hoped he would be, but the team has dangerous targets in Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills, and Julius Thomas.
When they’re running the ball, the Dolphins have gone through a number of backs this season, but the ball is now in the hands of the young Kenyan Drake. Still, they’re going to need more out of Cutler if the offense is going to have any semblance of balance, which the Patriots should be able to expose.
Dolphins On Defense
New England needs to have the offense running effectively as the Dolphins have some good playmakers on defense. Guys like Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh make game time into a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks, and it is no surprise that those two guys are leading the Dolphins in sacks with eight and 3.5, respectively.
One place that Tom Brady needs to attack is the secondary, which is a big weak spot for Miami as Reshad Jones has been their only real consistent threat this season.
Dolphins Players To Watch: RB Kenyan Drake and CB Xavien Howard
First the Dolphins traded away running back Jay Ajayi, and then Damien Williams was injured, which means they’ve turned to second-year back Kenyan Drake. Last week, Drake proved he could take the pressure of being a starter as he had his first career century game with 120 yards on 23 carries and a 42-yard touchdown against the Broncos. He’s a strong back who is very fast, and the Pats will need to keep eyes on him.
The secondary of the Dolphins has been rather bad this season, but cornerback Xavien Howard has been one of the lone bright spots for them. Before Sunday’s game against Denver, the Dolphins had only four interceptions as a team this season and Xavien Howard had none. Against the Broncos, he picked up two on his own, and it is obvious that his ballhawk skills are improving. Any receiver he’s assigned to will have a hard time getting open for Tom Brady.
The little argument on the Patriots’ sideline this past weekend won’t be a problem, as it has likely happened before, but the cameras simply didn’t catch it until now. Still, there were some other issues that the Pats faced in their win over the Buffalo Bills that need to be addressed and corrected. If New England can fix their small problems and operate as a cohesive unit, the Miami Dolphins should not pose much of a problem.