Curran's Hard Truths game preview: Another Miami meltdown?
The Patriots' problems in Miami have been well-documented. Still, a team that has made the ground game its calling card the past few weeks against a Dolphins' defense that one of the NFL worst against the run could be the difference.
WHEN THE PATRIOTS RUN
Miami is 30th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game (144.7), 27th in yards per carry (4.96). That’s not great for a defense dealing with a Patriots team making running the football its calling card. In three of their past four games, the Patriots have run it more than 30 times. All parts of the Patriots running game – backs and line – enter the game in good health. This could be fun to watch.
WHEN THE DOLPHINS RUN
Miami’s got the 24th-ranked running game in the NFL based on yards per game (102.5). Frank Gore and Kenyan Drake split the carries and they make yards (4.4 and 4.6 averages, respectively), they just don’t hand it off very much. They were over 30 carries as a team one time all season and ran for just 60 on 23 carries last week against Buffalo. The Patriots have a tendency to let up chunks on the ground – only once in their past eight games have they held a team under four yards per carry and they allowed 85 on 13 carries to Minnesota. This could be a spot Adam Gase tries to test. Still...
WHEN THE PATRIOTS PASS
Creating turnovers in the passing game is Miami’s strong suit. Even though they’ll be without injured corner Xavien Howard (seven picks), they get picks all over (19 interceptions). They pay a price, though. They allow chunk plays (12.3 yards per catch for opponents). Annually, the Miami pass rush wreaks havoc on Tom Brady but this year, Miami’s managed a pedestrian 20 sacks. They are 29th in sacks per pass attempt. With Howard out, the Dolphins pass rush kind of tepid, a porous run defense and a very healthy Patriots offense coming at them, this could be a burial.
WHEN THE DOLPHINS PASS
I love Danny Amendola. You love Danny Amendola. But when 33-year-old, 5-10, 185-pound Danny Amendola is your leading receiver in his first year with the team, your passing game is ailing. And that’s what he is. Amendola has 48 catches for 469 yards – both team highs – and may not play because of a knee ailment. Kenyan Drake, their changeup back, is second on the team with 40 catches. Ryan Tannehill, whose ineptitude is sometimes overstated, was very effective the past two weeks but the Patriots defense has hit its stride, it seems. Not enough weaponry for Miami to get the Patriots on their heels.
The Dolphins are 23 and 29th in punt and kickoff return coverage. But they are second and fourth in returns so the Patriots (30th and 28th in coverage) need to be wary. Stephen Gostkowski’s missed field goals in three of the Patriots past five games. He’s having an outstanding year but he has hit a relative rough patch. Meanwhile, Jason Sanders – Miami’s kicker – is having a very good rookie season with just one miss this season.
QUESTIONABLE: TE Dwayne Allen (knee), CB Stephon Gilmore (ankle).
OUT: C Jake Brendel (knee), CB Xavien Howard (knee). QUESTIONABLE: WR Danny Amendola (knee), C Travis Swanson (ankle)
Pete Morelli’s crew handles this game. He’s the one that looks like Abe Vigoda. He did the game down there last year and his crew threw 17 flags. They are 1.03 flags per game over the league average. Could be a lot of yellow in the air.
The Patriots are favored by 8. The total is 47. The Patriots are 8-4 against the spread this season. Miami is 7-5.
It will be partly sunny and hot – 82 is the expected high. And it’s a thicker heat down there so – as usual – the heat will be a factor for a Northern team heading South in December.
Patriots 30, Dolphins 17