- Hold up against New England’s run. The last time the Patriots came to town in the season finale, New England ran the ball 27 times, in part, it seemed, to limit injury opportunities for Tom Brady. If New England runs more than 27 times on Sunday, it may also be because the Dolphins are 30th in the NFL against the run. LeGarrette Blount smashed the Dolphins with 29 carries for 123 yards in the first meeting this season.
- Limit tight end Martellus Bennett. OK, so the Patriots obviously realize Miami has struggled to cover tight ends this season (start video review with the Baltimore loss). And Bennett posted 114 yards on five catches in the first meeting. And Miami is without two starting linebackers, two starting safeties and one starting cornerback. The Dolphins will try to vary coverages and vary pressure, but it may not vary the results.
- DeVante Parker picks up where he left off. And by this, I mean, where Parker left off last week at the Bills (56-yard touchdown) and in Week 2 at New England (8 catches, 106 yards.) Parker feels he can win one-on-one matchups against the Patriots, again, as he did in the first meeting. It is clear that Parker was feeling and looking much healthier last week than he has most of the season. Matt Moore is smart enough to know a guy like Parker is so talented he could actually beat one or two of the Patriots’ highly-skilled defensive backs.
- Throw to running backs, especially Kenyan Drake. The Dolphins may have an opportunity to get players like Kenyan Drake into space because other running backs have had success against the Patriots out of the backfield. Drake is averaging 5.8 yards per carry but has only five catches in the last 12 weeks. He’s been underutilized. Sunday is an excellent opportunity to get Drake, a rookie, some extra touches. Damien Williams is also a receiving threat out of the backfield.
- Ndamukong Suh has his best game of the season. I was trying to think of a way to begin to neutralize Tom Brady and the first thing that came to mind was pressure up the middle. New England’s tackles have played very well this season but there is an opportunity to stir something through the middle. Perhaps Jordan Phillips will be angry enough at his reduced snaps to play with fire and passion. If not, perhaps Suh plays the game of his life. With so many pieces missing, something like that may be needed to pull the upset.
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