Jon Scott: The Patriots have had unique situations in each stop for their losses on the road. And, frankly, I'm not surprised they lost the games they did. I had the Patriots winning 12, 13 games this season based upon the offensive capabilities. It's been their defense that let them down most of the time. The Patriots lost games to the Jets, Broncos, Colts, Saints.
The Jets loss was Rex Ryan throwing the kitchen sink at the Patriots and New England missing Wes Welker. Obviously when Welker is in the game, the Patriots can beat the crazy zone blitz schemes. Julian Edelman replaced Welker, but it wasn't the same. See Baltimore game for a comparison.
The Indy game was all about the Colts' home field and never giving up late in the game, propelled by the home crowd. The fourth-2 call played a part, but the Patriots lost momentum late and had no chance other than to try that fourth down if they wanted to beat Indy. Second time they blew a big lead AT Indy. (See AFC Championship Game loss.)
The Saints game was all momentum. The Patriots hung tough, but the Saints used a home crowd roar to fuel their momentum. I would also say that New Orleans is by far one of the best teams in the NFL (at home). I'd like to see if they play the same way in the elements or on the road.
Q: Have you seen any repercussions -- mainly from a defensive standpoint -- from Bill Belichick's controversial decision at the end of the Indy game?
JS: Not really. The Patriots played solid defense in Indy as they did in New Orleans (in part) in the first half. The one thing you can take out of this: lack of defensive adjustments. The Patriots used to be able to make second-half adjustments to get the game back in their favor. Sometimes they still do, but Indy and New Orleans were able to unmask what New England does on defense and find a new way to expose the secondary. I think this is on BB and Dean Pees to fix. The players aren't bad — see Titans and Buccaneers games for proof that they can play when given the right scheme.
As for the fourth-and-2 call itself, Belichick took responsibility for the game outcome. Brady took responsibility for not making the first down. Kevin Faulk stepped up by crediting Indy on the play. The Patriots believe it was the right call, and I think they would do it again given similar conditions.
Q: Your prediction for Sunday, and why?
JS: I think the Patriots will be able to do enough to contain any new wrinkle the Dolphins decide to try on offense. Unless you scheme the Patriots with three (3) or more offensive targets downfield and have a solid running game to bolster it, I don't see similar problems to the Indy/New Orleans games. The only offenses I see capable of doing that are not in the AFC East. San Diego and Houston come to mind, as does the "new look" Titans team. With that said, I have always been one to say that the Dolphins — of any team in the AFC East – are capable of pulling off the upset. So, much like the oddsmakers, I'm not entirely confident in the score of the outcome, but I believe that the Patriots will score 4, 5 or 6 times in their 9-12 possessions while the Dolphins may only score on 3-4 of theirs. That puts my prediction in the 27 (3TDs, 2FGs) to 20 (2 TDs, 2 FGs) range.