Special thanks to Dolphin Digest's Alain Poupart for his insight into this key AFC East matchup. Read more about the dolphins at Dolphin Digest
Don't Miss Six Questions about the Patriots in Part 1 of this series: From The Other Side, Patriots
1. Chad Henne has certainly come a long way since getting his first start in the NFL. Is he the guy the Dolphins envisioned he'd be since they installed him as start over Chad Pennington?
Alain Poupart: Yeah, I would say so. Henne isn't putting up big numbers on a weekly basis, but the Dolphins aren't really giving him the chance to do that. The Tony Sparano philosophy, which is pretty much the Bill Parcells philosophy, is to win with great defense and winning the turnover battle. Henne has thrown only one pick all season, and that came on the fourth-down pass at the end of the Jets game. In the first two games, he threw for little yardage but didn't commit a turnover and the Dolphins won both games. So for what they're asking him to do, Henne has done a very good job.
2. The Dolphins have had close games each week. Is that an indication of the competition or something else?
Poupart: It's an indication of the style the Dolphins are going to play. They tend to get very conservative on offense with a lead, so it's going to be difficult for them to blow anybody out. They easily and probably should have won their first two games more decisively than they did, but Tony Sparano will tell you it doesn't matter because they won. Conversely, they're a good enough team that it's not likely they'll get blown out very often, it at all. So you can expect a lot of close games with the Dolphins this season.
3. What did the Dolphins think of playing against Jason Taylor last week, and how is his replacement doing?
Poupart: Only those Dolphins who have been around for a while had any kind of emotion and they all looked at it as business as usual once the game started. Channing Crowder might have had some reaction to it, but he was inactive for the game. As for Taylor's replacement, since he played strongside linebacker last year, I'll stick with the same position and that would be Koa Misi. He had a fumble recovery in the end zone for a touchdown in Week 2 and a sack in Week 1, but even with those plays it would be inaccurate to say he's been a difference-maker. The truth is, the Dolphins still could have used Taylor this season.
4. It's been a while since we've seen the Wildcat take anyone by surprise, but if there's one team it has worked well against it's New England. How much a part of the Dolphins offense is the Wildcat and do you think it can be effective again?
Poupart: After the Wildcat was first unveiled the surprise element was gone and it worked because it was executed well. But that hasn't been the case and maybe it's because teams have seen it so much or perhaps because teams crowd the line of scrimmage the second they see Ronnie Brown in the shotgun because there's no threat of a pass. The Dolphins ran the Wildcat eight times against the Jets on Sunday night, and for many of us who cover the team, it was eight times too many. It disrupts the rhythm of the offense, particularly in games when Chad Henne is throwing the ball well. That said, I wouldn't expect a heavy dose of the Wildcat on Sunday if Henne gets off to a strong start.
5. The Patriots have used Aaron Hernandez as another weapon in the passing game, but he's not the only TE on the roster who can catch the ball. How will the Dolphins defend this group of tight ends.
Poupart: Based on recent history, probably not well. Both Visanthe Shiancoe of the Vikings and Dustin Keller of the Jets had big games against Miami, and covering tight ends was a problem all of last season. Karlos Dansby is the Dolphins' best coverage linebacker, but he's not always the one covering the tight end. Even safety Yeremiah Bell had problems with Keller last Sunday night. This is a matchup that has to worry the Dolphins.
6. What is the best way for the Patriots to attack the Dolphins defense
Poupart: See question 5. The Dolphins generally have been pretty good against the run and Vontae Davis has emerged early in his second season as a top-notch cornerback. So the Patriots figure to throw at Jason Allen, the other starting corner who's coming off a tough game against the Jets, quite a bit and they also figure to use the tight ends extensively.
Prediction for Monday Night and why
Poupart: The big question with the Dolphins is whether their defense is as good as it showed against Minnesota in Week 2 or as vulnerable as it was against the Jets in Week 3. The answer is probably somewhere in the middle, which doesn't really bode well going up against the New England offense. On the other side, though, I see no reason the Dolphins won't be able to move the ball up and down the field. As a result, I'm looking at a high-scoring game that goes down to the wire. In that scenario, it's just impossible for me to go against Brady. So, as painful as this is, I'll say, New England, 34-31.
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