AFC Game Of The Week
New England Patriots (13-2) at Miami Dolphins (10-5)
Patriots: For a while, I’ve stated that Tom Brady isn’t as valuable as people make it seem. I’d like to retract my statement and explain why I said that but also explain why he is indeed valuable and in the running to potentially win his third career MVP. I do remember stating that the Patriots were able to win without him as they went 3-1 without him in their first four games this year and in 2008, they were able to win 11 games without him after he tore his ACL but here’s the thing: They missed the playoffs that year. Without him, they win ten games tops. With him, they win 12 or more and they now sit at 13-2 and they wouldn’t have another first-round bye without Brady. When we thought the Patriots would struggle without Gronkowski in the lineup, it’s been a collective effort to replace him and the Patriots offense hasn’t missed a beat. Their defense hasn’t been too bad either. Everyone was shocked when Jamie Collins was traded in October and he was by far their best and most versatile defensive player but in typical Bill Belichick fashion, the move was done for the best of the team. I’ve liked the way they’ve looked as of late. They tackle in space, they can rush four and not have to load the box necessarily to get pressure and they will always be known for this and that’s taking away what you do best as a football team. Everything is set for the playoffs and Sunday, they’ll face a team that’s defeated them a few times in Florida.
Dolphins: For a majority of the year, Jack Del Rio was my pick to win coach of the year. I was actually all over the place. At first, I was saying Bill Belichick for what he did without Brady in those first four games, then I gave it to Mike Zimmer for starting 5-0 without his starting quarterback and running back, then I said Jack for the stellar job he’s done in Oakland. Adam Gase deserves this award now more than anyone with the job he’s done with the Miami Dolphins this year and for the first time since 2008, they will be in the playoffs. They won six games in a row after a 1-4 start and have won nine of their last ten games overall. Adam Gase was meant to be a head coach and you’re seeing it this year. So how’d they win games? Simple, the legs of Jay Ajayi and he came out of nowhere and has put together a great season and gives the Dolphins offense a ton of balance. Their defense has also improved and when they hired Vance Joesph to run the defense, I knew this was a good sign of things to come for them. They come out in a basic four-man front and love to blitz with their linebackers and safeties. It’s also been great to see Cameron Wake back on the field and he could be considered a candidate for comeback player of the year.He has 11.5 sacks a year after tearing his Achilles. Since 2013, the Dolphins have defeated the Patriots each year at home and they’ll look to make it a fourth.
Patriots Player To Watch: Marcus Cannon– He’ll definitely have his hands full with Wake. The Patriots will probably bring a tight end or a running back to chip him and assist Cannon.
Dolphins Player(s) To Watch: The Back Seven– The front four will do what they’ve always done. The linebackers and secondary will be in for a big challenge. In their first meeting, they faced Jimmy Garoppolo and were torched. This Sunday, they enter this game with key guys such as Byron Maxwell and Kiko Alonso out with injuries. Any mistakes made, Brady will see and capitalize on them.
Prediction: This is actually a battle where both teams are playing for something. If New England wins, they’ll have home-field advantage through the AFC playoffs meaning the road to Super Bowl 51 will travel through Foxborough once again. A win for Miami along with a Chiefs loss would move them up to the five seed. I like Miami in this one. I think they continue the streak of defeating New England at home. Dolphins 24 Patriots 21.