By Abraham Gutierrez
What’s the definition of a brutal stretch for the Miami Dolphins? How about having to face the sizzling, defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots twice in three weeks. Luckily, Miami will catch a bit of a break, as the Fins will not have to worry about containing perennial Pro Bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski.
On Monday, The Gronk was issued a one-game suspension for a cheap shot on Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White that led to a concussion during New England’s 23-3 victory over Buffalo in Week 13.
Gronkowski, who’s second in the NFL in receiving yards (849) and touchdowns (7) at his position, appealed the decision, but the suspension was upheld.
Sunday’s contest marks the 105th meeting between these bitter rivals, with the Dolphins leading the head-to-head series, 53-51-0 over the Patriots. However, it has been one-way traffic as of late, with Bill Belichick & Co. coming in winners of three straight games and five of their last six, including their most recent encounter in Week 12.
Patriots 2017 NFL Record: 10-2
Tied for the best record in the National Football League, New England invades Hard Rock Stadium with brooms in-hand, looking for a sweep of the season series against Miami. With a balanced-offensive attack, the Patriots defeated the Dolphins, 35-17, three weeks ago in Foxborough.
If the playoffs started today, New England would win its eighth straight AFC East division title and would go into the tournament as the second seed behind the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Pats are currently 4-2 at home and undefeated on the road with a 6-0 record. They’re also perfect against intradivisional foes at 3-0; they’re 7-1 versus AFC rivals and come in riding a 9-game winning streak.
Patriots on Offense
Featuring the most prolific attack in professional football, it’s no surprise that the Patriots offense comes into Week 14 ranked first in total yards (413.2) and passing yards per game (292.6). In terms of points, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels’ bunch ranks fourth in the NFL, averaging 29 per contest and 120.6 rushing yards per game, which is good enough for ninth place.
Patriots on Defense
On paper, defensive coordinator Matt Patricia’s defense appears to be among the worst in the National Football League with some areas for the Fins to exploit. With 13 weeks in the books, New England’s “D” ranks 29th in passing yards allowed (254.9), 28th in total yards (375.7) and 26th in rushing yards surrendered (120.8).
Nevertheless, this unit hangs its hat on its ability to keep opposing teams out of the end zone and off of the scoreboard. Ranked ninth in the NFL in points per game (18.6), this enables quarterback Tom Brady and the offense to do what they do best: score at a pace that the rest of the league simply cannot match.
Patriots Players to Watch: Tom Brady, Kyle Van Noy
Highly regarded as the greatest quarterback of all-time, Tom Brady continues to build a legacy that will live on forever. In his 18th season out of Michigan, the 40-year-old from San Mateo, California, is showing no signs of slowing down. The consensus G.O.A.T. leads the league in passing yards (3,632), completions (300), passer-rating among signal-callers with a minimum of 33 attempts (109.7) and is second in touchdowns (26) trailing only Philadelphia’s Carson Wentz (29).
Defensively, the Dolphins must game-prep to try and keep outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy from running wild all over Hard Rock Stadium. The fourth-year man out of BYU comes in leading the team with 73 tackles (58 total, 15 assist) and second in sacks with 5.5 behind defensive end Trey Flowers (6 sacks). Van Noy has registered at least a half-sack in each of the last three games, and will be looking to extend that streak against Miami’s suspect offensive line.
The last time they met three weeks ago, NFL oddsmakers listed the hosting Patriots as a whopping 17-point betting favorite against the Dolphins. Belichick’s bunch would go on to cover the spread by coming away with an 18-point shellacking in what became a barn burner.
This time around, Miami is at home, but will still have some long odds in its attempt to pull off the upset. According to NFL Week 14 point spreads, the New England Patriots (-12) are favored by a dozen against the Miami Dolphins (+12) and the OVER/UNDER is set at a combined total of 47 points.