The good times have been rolling for the Miami Dolphins since interim head coach Dan Campbell took over following the team’s loss to the New York Jets in London.
Miami has been dominant in a pair of wins over the Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans, but now the Fins will be put to the test as they travel up to New England for a Thursday night matchup with the undefeated Patriots.
The Dolphins have looked like two different teams this season. Under former head coach Joe Philbin Miami constantly looked uninspired and unprepared during the first four weeks of the season.
When Philbin was fired and replaced with Campbell, suddenly the team was all fired up. They have played with intensity and emotion, and the results couldn’t have been better.
That being said, Miami’s two dominant wins have come against lesser opponents. Tennessee and Houston have combined for an unimpressive 3-10 record.
Now we get to find out how good this Dolphins team really is as they’ll have to battle the best team in the NFL on the road in a short week. Here are the top questions heading into Miami’s Week 7 battle with the Patriots.
What can Miami do to limit Tom Brady’s success?
I realize this is one of those questions where people will say “if we knew the answer then someone would be doing it” which clearly nobody is as Brady is having one of the best seasons of his career. He’s carved up every defense he’s faced so far this year, including the Jets top ranked D last weekend.
The usual formula for success against the Patriots is to put constant pressure on Brady and limit his time in the pocket. Miami’s pass rush has been dominant during the past two games, recording ten sacks and countless QB hurries, but they’ll need to turn that up a notch against the Pats.
How will the Dolphins play on a short week?
Any team in the NFL will tell you that playing a game on a short week is not an ideal situation. The only good thing is that both teams are working with the same time constraints to rest and heal from the previous game and prepare for the current one.
Under Campbell’s watch the Dolphins have looked amazing but that will be put to the test this week as they’re dealing with less preparation time while having to travel to New England and play against the best team in the league who has won 17 of their last 18 home games (the only loss was a Week 17 game where they rested most of their starters). Which leads me to my next question…
Can Miami play just as well without having any ‘physical’ practices this week?
One of the major changes that Campbell implemented was increasing the physical competitiveness during practices. He added live hitting to many of the drills which brought a new intensity to the Dolphins practice sessions.
That wasn’t the case this week though, as Campbell said he wanted to give his players an opportunity to rest their bodies and instead put the emphasis on being mentally prepared for the game. We’ll see if that has any effect on how they perform in the game.
Will Dan Campbell and Lou Anarumo figure out a way to cover Rob Gronkowski?
There is no doubt that Rob Gronkowski is the most consistent tight end in football. Through six games he has 34 catches for 533 yards and six touchdowns, averaging an impressive 15.7 yards per reception.
In the past Miami would have Dion Jordan shadow Gronkowski due to his combination of side and speed, but now the Dolphins will need to come up with another plan to try and limit the production of Tom Brady’s favorite target.
Is the Dolphins offense going to keep up with the Patriots offense?
New England’s offense has been downright lethal this season. They rank first in the NFL averaging 35.5 points per game and a big part of that success is due to the right arm of Tom Brady. Though the Patriots defense has struggled at times, their offense has been good enough to outscore every team they’ve faced.
Through the first four weeks of the season Miami’s offense was near the bottom of the league, averaging just 16.2 points per game. Then came the Dolphins coaching changes and with them came a lot more points. In two games under Campbell, Miami is averaging a whopping 41.0 points per game. If the Fins can put up those kind of numbers against New England there’s a good chance they may pull off the upset.
Be sure to check out our FinsOn4 Live Dolphins Blog where we will be posting season-long coverage, updates, photos, video, commentary and more throughout the entire 2015 season.
Watch Miami take on the New England Patriots this Thursday at 8:25 p.m. on CBS4, your official Dolphins station!
Follow David on Twitter (@DavidDwork)