Jon Scott: Seau is an interesting player, certainly high intensity. While he has said all the right things leading up to the game to avoid any bulletin board material, what he isn't saying is how much the game means to him. If I recall correctly, Seau did the same thing in Miami when facing the Chargers the first time.
As for the impact he'll have, he needs to work on getting off blocks better. The Denver game wasn't his best in run support, but that's been the case with Seau in the past, even in San Diego. When he's on, he's unblockable, but get a big body locked up in front of him, and he can't escape to make the play.
The Patriots played a bit more 4-3 lately against certain teams like the Jets and the Bengals, and look what it did for them. Although the 3-4 allows for better matchups (supposedly), this team plays better in a 4-3. Which means, in a 4-3 Seau is less likely to see the field. So any impact he might have will be limited. We do expect him to make the most of it. You may remember Heath Evans' first game against the Dolphins last year when the Patriots HAD no running backs. He turned in a career performance. We expect a similar effort from Seau in the time he's in there.
DD: Opponents have blitzed the Dolphins like crazy all season because of their offensive line issues; can we expect the Patriots to do it as well?
Scott: They probably won't need to as much if they line up in the 4-3. Jarvis Green is one of the most underrated defensive linemen in the league, and he only starts when the team plays a 3-4. You saw what he did against Cincinnati. If the game goes anything like last Sunday and the Patriots have a lead, expect a heavy dose of a base 4-3 with pressure coming from the front four.
If New England does need to get to Culpepper, pressure can come from anywhere. Many times it's Bruschi or Seau up the middle. Other times the Patriots have used a corner or safety to shoot in from the edge. In the 3-4 expect Mike Vrabel and Rosevelt Colvin to bring the heat. If the Dolphins have protection issues, it's going to be because they have a hard time figuring out who to block athletically, not from some hidden scheme. They have to double-team Richard Seymour, many times Vince Wilfork, which exposes the rest of the line to Vrabel, Colvin, even Ty Warren.
We expect it to be a long day for the Dolphins offense if they have to pass a lot.
DD: If the Dolphins can protect Daunte Culpepper, is the Patriots secondary something Miami can exploit?
Scott: Absolutely. The Patriots secondary is a sieve. While they may not like to hear that, it's true. The unit is ranked 16th overall (13th run, 22nd pass), and has performed as poorly this season as they did last year at this time — 21st overall (23rd run, 17th pass). The defense was the worst in the AFC against the pass five of the last seven weeks of 2005, and they haven't fixed the problem. Injuries have taken a toll. When New England plays Troy Brown in the secondary, with Hank Poteat (signed the week of the game), and Antwain Spann, promoted from the practice squad the day before, you know there are problems.
Ellis Hobbs, who had a good game against the Dolphins in last season's regular season finale, is out with a broken wrist. Eugene Wilson is banged up and may not play. So the potential is there to get the ball to Chris Chambers, Marty Booker, even the tight end Randy McMichael if Culpepper has time.
DD: If somehow the game comes down to a field goal, is there a sense in New England that rookie Stephen Gostkowski will get the job done or is there a lot of nervousness that he'll choke?
Scott: Gostkowski has struggled with FGs lately, but he has belted the ball on kickoffs. If he relaxes he can convert. He may have a case of rookie jitters, or it may just be that he's unfamiliar with his surroundings (aka the turn) at Gillette. Missing three FGs in three games is not a good way to start a season. Two of those were blocked kicks.
Can he make a good kick? Yes. Will he? is the question. And at this point, that hasn't been determined. Most of Patriot nation hopes it never comes down to that. From under 40 yards out the kid is pretty solid, except for those weird blocked kicks. Over 40 yards gets iffy.
DD: Because this looks like a mismatch on paper, can you give us any reason to think the Dolphins can leave Gillette Stadium with a victory?
Scott: Because it's the Dolphins and anything can happen. I expect Nick Saban to create a tough defense that will put the Patriots through the wringer. After those tricks are exhausted, or the Patriots see them … it could be good night. I was asked the same question going into the Cincinnati game, and what the Pats had to do to win. Here are three keys.
1) Avoid dumb turnovers. It kills the team every time, and has happened repeatedly against Miami.
2) Get the running game going early
3) Pressure Culpepper to cut down on those deep passes that have plagued the secondary.
If Miami wants to win, they'll have to find a way to keep from the Patriots doing two of those three things. I just don't expect them to be able to put it all together for the full 60 minutes. As you know, New England is very tough coming out of the half with their adjustments. That may be the case again on Sunday.