Week 18 Game Preview
In the final game of the season the Dolphins play host to the New England Patriots, a couple of weeks ago it was lining up to be a crunch game against the old nemesis, but last week’s loss to the Tennessee Titans means that there is nothing meaningful on the line for the Dolphins apart from pride. New England probably think they have this chalked up as a win, but we hope Miami pulls this out of the bag and sends Bill Belichick back up North with his tail between his legs.
A lot of games have been played since Miami pulled off a week one victory up in Gillette Stadium. After that Miami lost seven consecutive games followed by seven wins, whereas the Patriots quietly went about business racking up ten wins, a vistory today would mean they finish as division champions for the umpteenth time in the last two decades. A loss to the Dolphins and a Bills win would give Buffalo the division crown. What could be better than to see the Patriots lose any home field advantage in the play-offs.
Both teams are relatively healthy, the Dolphins may have full availability, the Patriots aren’t far behind. The only player officially out is DB Kyle Dugger, there are a number that are questionable, but as we all know questionable means they will more than likely play. There is one player that benefits from Dugger being out. Jaylen Waddle must be smiling as his day should be easier with their starting slot corner on the sidelines. The first-year receiver is three catches away from breaking Anquan Bolden’s rookie reception record. It isn’t that surprising as he has been Tua’s go to guy all season, and with Dugger out the record looks likely to fall.
We all know Belichick is a tactical genius, like him or loath him he comes up with great game plans and Waddle will be squarely in his targets. Being short-handed may cause him to change his plan, we could see pro bowler J C Jackson lined up on Waddle. That would possibly free up Devante Parker, the grumpy one may decide to take his chances and leave Parker covered by Jalen Mills, it should be one to keep an eye on throughout the game. We would hope that three receptions are more than possible for the phenomenal rookie.
In his first game as a pro Mac Jones was better than expected and from a stats perspective outperformed Tua, even if it ended with the Patriots losing by the slimmest of margins. Fast forward seventeen weeks and it will be intriguing to see how the former teammates stack up against each other. There is now a season’s worth of game tape on Jones and we are sure Flores and Boyer have been dissecting it to understand the rookies tendencies. We all know that Flores will want to get one over on his old boss and sweeping the Patriots would be a good consolation prize to close out the season.
To get the win Tua is going to have to bring his A game and stay error free. He can’t afford to fumble the ball or throw an interception otherwise the Patriots could take advantage and as we have seen this Dolphins team has trouble digging themselves out of holes. If they can keep it close then there is always a chance, but the New England defense is going to make Tua and the offense work for every yard, they are one the best in the NFL so yards won’t come easy.
If they have a weakness, it is against the run. They are in the bottom half of the league; the big question is will Miami look to run more than pass, we doubt not considering what happened last week when the most obvious thing to do was run.
We know that the Dolphins’ running game isn’t the strength of the team put they have never really committed to it. There are reasons for this as the offensive line isn’t one of the best and the team doesn’t have a between the tackles power runner, so sustaining an effective rushing attack is always going to be a potential problem. There have been fleeting moments when the ground game looked credible, but it has only been that. The Dolphins are first and foremost a passing team.
The Patriots on the other hand will do whatever it takes, if they need to run it, they will turn into that team, just look back at their first game against the Bills. They ran at Buffalo, and then for good measure ran some more. The Dolphins’ run defense has been one of the best since week 8 but had a bad day at the office against the Titans. Will Belichick try and replicate what he saw last week, it wouldn’t be that surprising. They have two good backs in Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson, both have put up good numbers and are averaging over 4.4 yards a carry. The Dolphins on the other hand are giving up a league low 3.4 yards, so something has to give. Will Belichick turn to his rookie QB to pass their way to victory and take his chances. We don’t have to wait that long.