The Miami dolphins have officially been eliminated from the Play-off race, but that does not mean they have nothing to play for. At 7-9, 2012 has already brought more success than 2011; though the Dolphins seek a .500 record to finish out the season. Currently they hold the 15th position in the draft, and a win against the Patriots this Sunday will lower that draft slot. Cue “Suck For Luck” retiree’s to talk about how the Dolphins shouldn’t try to win this game, but an 8-8 season is without a doubt more respectable than 7-9. The Patriots seemingly have more at stake, and may bring more hunger to the game. If New England wins, and either Denver or Houston lose, the Patriots will have a bye week in the 2012 post-season. Can the Dolphins defeat Tom Brady and the Patriots at Gillette Stadium? Find out after the break.
Did Not Practice
WR Davone Bess (back)
DT Randy Starks (non-football)
CB Nolan Carroll (knee)
S Reshad Jones (hip)
S Chris Clemons (ankle)
LB Koa Misi (ankle)
C/G Josh Samuda (shoulder)
CB Sean Smith (knee)
New England Patriots
Did Not Practice
CB Marquice Cole (finger)
S Patrick Chung (shoulder)
G Dan Connolly (back)
CB Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring/knee)
DB Nate Ebner (hamstring)
TE Rob Gronkowski (forearm/hip)
TE Aaron Hernandez (ankle)
LB Dont’a Hightower (hamstring/shoulder)
DE Chandler Jones (ankle)
WR Brandon Lloyd (knee)
DT Kyle Love (knee)
G Logan Mankins (ankle/calf)
LB Jerod Mayo (elbow)
OL Nick McDonald (shoulder)
LB Mike Rivera (ankle)
OT Nate Solder (abdomen)
LB Brandon Spikes (knee/ankle)
CB Aquib Talib (hip)
OT Sebastian Vollmer (back/knee)
WR Wes Welker (ankle)
LB Tracy White (elbow)
Dolphins Offense vs Patriots Defense
The Dolphin’s offense has been on a bit of a roll lately, scoring 24 points in each of their last two games. Last time Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins offense went up against the Patriots defense, they were only able to put up 16 points; hardly enough for a win against the leagues top scoring offense. Though to call New England’s defense vaunted, would be an exaggeration. Currently they allow the 17th most points per game and the 27th most yards per game. Most of those yards come from their inability to stop the passing attack. ProFootballFocus.com (PFF) rates the Patriots defense 8th overall; while rating them 5th against the run, 6th in coverage, and 20th at rushing the passer. Lets take a look at the individual units and the anchor players of each.
|Run Snaps||Tackles||Run Stops||RSP Ranking (Run Stop Percentage)||Pass Rush Snaps||Sacks||Hits||Hurries||PRP (Pass Rushing Productivity)|
|DRT, Brandon Deaderick||145||8||6||77th||255||2||1||13||31st|
|DLT, Vince Wilfork||310||26||25||14th||494||2||3||18||50th|
|DLE, Rob Ninkovich||273||24||21||13th||418||8||6||21||43rd|
Anchored by 14 year veteran Vince Wilfork, The Patriots defensive line has no shortage of star power. Wilfork, according to PFF is the 31st overall best DT in the NFL. Manning the middle, Vince Wilfork averages 30 pass rush snaps per game (494 total), and has accumulated just 2 sacks, 3 hits, and 18 hurries; this performance earns him the honor of being the 50th best pass rushing DT in the NFL in 2012. While Wilfork is no real threat to Tannehill, he does have the 14th best run stop percentage among all DT. Kyle Love typically lines up next to Wilfork, and holds the 34th best RSP (run stop percentage), as well as the 31st position in PRP (pass rushing productivity). Rookie DE, Chandler Jones started the season on a role but has hit somewhat of a rookie wall. He currently has the 30th best PRP, as well as the 54th best RSP. The Dolphins should plan to run to the left, as Jones and Deaderick are easier to exploit than Wilfork and Ninkovich.
|Run Stop Rank||Sacks||Hits||Hurries||PRP||Completion % Against||TD Allowed||INT||Passer Rating Allowed||Coverage Ranking|
|ROLB, Tracy White||N/A||0||1||1||30, N/A||80%||0||0||90.8||N/A|
|MLB, Dont’a Hightower||N/A||1||0||1||33.3, N/A||72.1%||1||0||97.1||N/A|
|LOLB, Jerrod Mayo||2nd||3||3||7||17.2, 5th||84.7||1||1||101.4||17th|
New England’s Linebacking core has been severely plagued by injuries, and the most notable detraction is MLB Brandon Spikes, however Dont’a Hightower has done a fine job to date in relief. His PRP of 33.3 would be league leading if he can miraculously keep up that pace for an entire year. His RSP would also lead the league, if it were spread among starter’s reps. Jerrod Mayo has become somewhat of a fixture in that LB corps, and his dominance against the run is the reason why. Then again, it does help when you have Wilfork and Ninkovich plugging the inside gaps and feeding you the runner. All three LB’rs can be considered a liability in coverage, and therefor Tannehill should really try to attack their zones. Tracy White has also been pretty productive in his short time rushing the passer, so look for him to be testing Martin.
|Coverage Snaps||Targets||Completed||Completion %||Deflected||TD||INT||Passer Rating Allowed|
|SS, Patrick Chung||287||21||11||52.4%||2||1||2||49.4|
|FS, Steve Gregory||403||29||19||65.5||2||3||2||100.1|
|RCB, Kyle Arrington||473||65||42||64%||5||0||120.8|
|LCB, Devin McCourty||292||47||23||48.9%||3||2||76.0|
|NCB, Alfonzo Dennard||345||61||31||50.8%||4||3||75.9|
The Patriots secondary is full of holes, but are opportunistic at the same time. They allow the 4th most passing yards per game, but also have the 4th highest amount of Interceptions. With the injury of Aqib Talib & the return of Patrick Chung, Devin McCourty has been Moved back to CB along side Kyle Arrington. The Patriots use all of their DB’s in a complex rotation, which keeps it hard to game-plan around certain guys. Alfonzo Dennard usually replaces Arrington when the Nickel formation is rolled out, and Tannehill should aim to target him when the Pats do so. Patrick Chung is having a statistically low year, but he was out for a few games starting in week 6. Steve Gregory, is somewhat of a liability as well, that the Dolphins should aim to expose.
Dolphins Defense vs Patriots Offense
Theres no way around the fact that the Patriots are the #1 offense in terms of scoring. They have the 4th most passing yards per game and 8th most rushing yards per game. The Patriots offense has had back to back performances in which they started slow and had multiple turnovers, a rare sight for sure. They were able to come back from a 29 point defecit agains the 49’rs but it was not enough to win the game. New England also was down against the lowly Jaguars, but were able to turn on the heat and come away with a 2nd quarter win. The Dolphins have had their share of games in which they were able to shut down Brady & Co. for a half, only to lose the game.Can the dolphins defense slow down this offense enough to get the win?
|Att.||Compl||Comp. %||TD||INT||Passer Rating||Drops||TA||HAT||SP||BP||Accuracy %||Deep Accuracy %||Accuracy under Pressure||Passer Rating on aimed Passes|
No introduction needed, This offense is predicated on Tom Brady. Hey may have thrown 2 interception in each of his last 2 game, but Brady is good enough to come back from that. He is not unbeatable though, as Arizona proved early this year. He also looked human the last time the Dolphins and Patriots squared off. Brady’s been a little off this year on his deep passing but is still accurate an average amount of 40.7% (16th best percentage). The key to beating Tom Brady though, is to get consistent pressure. He has only been accurate on 55.6% of his aimed passes this year while under pressure, which is the 29th best percentage for that category.
|Snaps||Sacks||Hits||Hurries||PBE Rank (by position)||Run Block Rank|
|LT, Nate Solder||633||4||9||27||28th||15th|
|LG, Logan Mankins||390||2||3||10||28th||22nd|
|C, Ryan Wendell||637||5||2||18||31st||2nd|
|RG, Donald Thomas||313||1||2||9||28th||8th|
|RT, Sebastian Vollmer||581||6||7||21||24th||18th|
New England has done a relatively poor job protecting Brady, especially recently. Through 16 games, the unit has allowed 23 sacks, 33 hits, & 109 hurries on 637 passing plays. This performance earns them the 17th position in PBE (Pass Blocking Efficiency). Sebastian Volmer will be lining up against Cameron Wake and is likely to have a rough day. He is currently the 24th best OT in the NFL in PBE. Nate Solder will have to deal with either Odrick or Vernon, and is currently 28th in PBE among OT’s. Odrick, Vernon & Wake should be able to get edge pressure on Brady consistently, as these 2 OT’s are responsible for 10 of the 18 allowed sacks. On the interior OG’s Logan Mankins & Donald Thomas have been disappointing as well, sporting a tie on the PBE chart at the 28th position. Ryan Wendell, C, has a lot of room for improvement. He alone has allowed 5 sacks, 2 hits, & 18 hurries this year. This is good enough for the 31st best PBE among NFL starting Centers.
Run Blocking on the other hand, the Patriots do very well. PFF rates them as the 2nd best run blocking offense in the NFL. RT Sebastian Volmer has the 18th highest run block rating, & LT Nate Solder has the 15th best. RG Donald Thomas has been a beast in the ground game (yes, he is a ex-Dolphin) with the 8th best run block rating. LG Logan Mankins has not been as good as Thomas but is still rated 22nd. As poor as Ryan Wendell is at pass blocking, he may make up for it in run blocking. Wendell is the 2nd best run blocking C in the NFL, according to PFF.
|#||Name||Snaps||TA||Rec.||% Ct||Yds||Yds / Rec.||YAC||YAC / Rec.||LG||TD||In||DP||MT||Fu|
There is no shortage of targets for Tom Brady on this team. We can talk Welker, Gronkowski, Lloyd, Hernandez, & even the benefit the offense receives from Steven Ridley’s strong rushing ability. Welker is always a threat to take it deep, while Gronkowski & Hernandez handle the intermediate. If Sean Smith and Nollan Carroll come back, with Dimtri Patterson playing the slot, It could tough to trow the ball. Smith is a shutdown corner when he plays Man-on-Man but allows too much separation when he is zone. WR’s like Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd will eat on that all day, if Smith is not careful. Nollan Carroll is not anything special, but is efficient in zone coverage. Dimitri Patterson has done his best work historically from the slot, so let him, Jones, and Dansby handle anything that comes over the middle (i.e. Gronkowski)
|Name||Team||Snaps||# of Pen||Att.||Yds||Avg.||YCo||YCo / Att.||LG||TD||MT||Fu|
The Dolphins Defensive line needs to make sure its up to the task of stopping the run. Steven Ridley has been a very effective RB for the Patriots this year, especially behind that elite run-blocking help he has been getting. The last time these two teams matched up the dolphins allowed 108 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD and a 3.4 YPC average. Far from a poor performance, but they may need to do better if Brady throws a couple of TD’s.
The Patriots probably have more reason to win, but this game really could go either way. The Patriots need to show that their recent slow starts will not be carried over into the Post-season (as well as potentially earn a bye week), while the Dolphins need to break their losing record streak. I think tom Brady will be out to make a statement and his stat line will be evidence. I predict Tannehill and the rest of the Dolphins offense will continue its recent streak, but I do not believe it will be enough to top the Patriots. Reggie Bush will have a TD catch. Ryan Tannehill will throw 2, and Lamar Miller will run 1 in. Tom Brady will throw 3, and Ridley will score 1 as well. The two offenses will split 5 FG’s, 2 MIA, 3 NE.
Final Score: 27-37 Patriots win.