The newness of this 2016 NFL season is wearing off quickly as teams get into perceived "must-win" games already. In week 2, really? I thought that was reserved for only playoffs and wild-card games. Nevertheless, with a tough schedule, the Miami Dolphins are already facing somewhat of a "must win" against the New England Patriots.
Three of Four AFC East teams lost their opener. An interesting scenario with altering consequences occurs this week. Did anyone notice the AFC East only plays divisional games this week? This potentially sets up a three-tier division early within four teams, two of them winless.
While the Patriots are missing chief personnel for various reasons, Bill "The Hoodie" Belichick, of the "Parcellian" School of Coaching, remains. He probably watches film of us watching film or people writing game previews, from within the cover of his cowl, I mean hood. I wrote this article nocturnally as just a precaution, probably to no avail.
Wit aside, the 'Phins really need this game to move up in league standings, let alone a current 0-1 logjam in the AFC East. The last team to survive an 0-2 start and make playoffs, let alone winning the Super Bowl: 2007's New York Giants. Let's get to the Roman V:
-No Tom Brady, No Rob Gronkowski (probably): In a Captain Obvious way, our chances get no better than this, especially playing in their home. Patriots QB Jimmy Garoppolo aired the Cardinals for 130 yards on the outsides, using wideouts Julian Edelman & former Dolphin Chris Hogan. Play them hard within the first 10 yards to disrupt routes and keep them blanketed, forget covered;
The Blount Factor: Patriots RB LeGarrette Blount got 70 ground & pound yards last week. His 4.6 yards per carry is the highest average in Pats history. Not handsome, but effective. Blount is a "finishing" runner who gets his best yardage in 2nd, and especially 4th quarters only behind KC's Jamaal Charles. We need either fresh legs or a concentrated effort (or both) vs. their run game as Blount is a "Hulk" runner: the longer the game, the stronger he gets, especially in closing halves. Suh & Co. face their 1st name-brand threat;
Shifting O-Line Schemes: Per Pro Football Focus, this line changed 41 times last season, while the rest of league achieved 28, at best. That averages at least 1 line change PER HALF. Our front 7 needs to be observant and "real-time" responsive to stunts, sweeps and gimmick plays. This is probably why Blount gets high and ugly yards re: morphing O-line set-ups;
No Slow Starts: Watch game film of the Cardinals' Carson Palmer & Co. from last week. No first quarter scoring. We need to treat this like a car's 0-60 time. That means all 3 units (offense, defense, special teams) need the best start possibly available so early in a season;
Defenses: Both teams' rankings are negligible, between 15-20th, but it's only after 1 week. We took one of the biggest jumps in rank from
a post-preseason 25th to 19-20th overall. The strength of those Pats has been the tandem of Belichick/Brady, not defense. 1/2 of the duo is gone.
Here's looking at you, Hoodie. Last week, we broke Vegas' spread. This opportunity, nor this 17-16 win vs one of the league's best, is a chance that we can't afford to lose.