The Patriots hope to win their ninth straight game on Monday night, when they take on their rival, the Miami Dolphins. The Patriots can clinch their ninth straight AFC East title with a win on Monday night, or if the Buffalo Bills lose against the Colts today.
Here are a few things to look at entering tomorrow’s game.
1. Gronk’s absence
Rob Gronkowski will not be active against the Dolphins, as he is currently serving his one-game suspension due to his late hit on Bills’ cornerback Tre’Davious White during last week’s game. Gronk was dominant against the Dolphins in Week 12, hauling in 2 touchdowns to fuel the 18 point victory for the Pats. It will be interesting to see how Tom Brady & Co. change their game plan to account for the absence of #87. Look for Brandin Cooks, Danny Amendola, and James White to step up in the passing game.
2. Containing the Dolphins’ pass rush
The Patriots easily defeated the Dolphins in Week 12, but an alarming element of that game was the hits that TB12 absorbed from Miami defenders. The Patriots’ offensive line has drastically improved as the season has gone along, but they can’t continue to allow their 40-year-old quarterback to endure this kind of punishment on a week-to-week basis. It will be interesting to see if Bill Belichick opts to take out Brady in the latter stages of the game if victory is guaranteed.
3. Will the Patriots’ defense continue their dominance against the Dolphins’ offense?
The Patriots’ defense has been spectacular as of late, holding their opponents to less than 17 points during their eight game winning streak. They were able to hold Miami to 17 points in Week 12, and this was achieved by constantly getting after Matt Moore, and causing turnovers. However, Miami’s offense has changed quite a bit in the last 2 weeks. Miami easily beat the Denver Broncos 35-9, and were fueled by their newly-found rushing attack, led by Kenyan Drake. The Patriots have had trouble stopping the run recently, and will need to perform better to avoid an upset.
Taking these factors into consideration, I expect the Patriots to pull out a win in Miami (which has proved to be difficult for them in recent years). This will definitely be closer than Week 12’s rout, as Miami has improved on offense. However, TB12 and Dion Lewis should make it hard for Miami to have any chance of winning.
Prediction: Patriots 24, Dolphins 14