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Friday, 12 December 2014

Miami Next Victim For New England: 5 Things To Know

It's week 15 in the NFL and the heat is definitely on! The playoffs are fast approaching and a few teams are fighting for their playoff-lives. Although none have clinched a spot, officially, a few are on the fast-track to the post-season.

And while many called the AFC East "the weakest team in football", it turns out that the NFC South may be the first division to send a losing team to the playoffs. That's just a tid bit for your trivia cache.

Here's what you need to know for the match-up between the division leading New England Patriots and the second-place Miami Dolphins.

1. The Patriots just score more points.

Miami has a +54 point differential, while the Patriots are flying high at +134. The Patriots have also scored twelve more TDs through 13 games, that's almost a TD per game. The Dolphins only scored 13 points last week (at home against the Ravens) and 16 the week before at the Jets. They just don't score enough to beat this team.

2. New England is 6-0 at home this year.

Miami won the first contest this year in week one, but that was in the friendly confines of Sun Life Stadium. The Patriots were also struggling with a porous offensive line and a less-than-100% Rob Gronkowski. Brandon Browner was also not roaming the defensive backfield. The memory of that game will fuel their fire in the cold at Gillette.

3. Tensions are rising in Miami.

It's bad enough that the pressure of a playoff run may be getting the better of a team that had high hopes of challenging the reining division champs. But when the players are yelling at the coach, that's really bad. Miami Herald's Armando Salugero thinks that things are boiling over and this is the first sign of trouble. It seems there have been other, smaller signs prior to this incident, but it looks bad from the outside. There is even talk that Joe Philbin may not survive the fallout.

4. The Patriots have found the running game again.

Stevan Ridley suffering a season-ending injury was bad; LeGarrette Blount getting a second-chance in New England is a wonderful coincidence. And the emergence of rookie Jonas Gray is even better. Add Shane Vereen on third downs and as a relief runner and you have a really good attack. It's a great distraction from a Tom Brady-led air attack.

5. The Patriots really, really want home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

It's hard to stress enough the importance of playing at home. On second thought, no it isn't. This is huge, and the Patriots have a ton of reasons to want it. Playing Denver in Foxboro instead of at Mile High would give them the edge they lacked last year. And knocking Miami out of the playoff hunt would be huge, as well. As it stands now, the Patriots could play the Colts, Bengals, or Chargers in the Divisional round; they have beaten all of those teams this year. The Championship game would bring the winner of the Denver and whomever-wins-the-other-wildcard-game to Foxboro. All the way around, playing in their own back-yard is highly desirable.

There is no such thing as an easy game, especially in the AFC East. The Dolphins would love nothing better than to knock the division leader down to size. It doesn't seem likely to happen, but that's Belichick's job- keep the team focused. Let's not forget that the Patriot's have found their defense for the first time in a long time. Ryan Tannehill is facing one of the league's best units. I just don't see them scoring any more points than they did the previous two weeks.


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