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Patriots vs. Dolphins: 3 keys to the game, fun facts, prediction

Ryan Hannable
December 10, 2017 - 12:14 pm

In a strange scheduling quirk, for the second time in three weeks the Patriots and Dolphins will face off Monday night in South Florida.

New England got the best of Miami in the last meeting, beating them 35-17 at Gillette Stadium, but the game was a little closer than the final score indicated. The Dolphins will have Jay Cutler at quarterback after Matt Moore started the last game. This may be good news for the Patriots, as in three career starts against the Patriots, Cutler is 0-3 and has lost those games by a combined 62 points.

The Patriots can clinch the AFC East with a win (or a Buffalo loss), and Miami needs to win out and get a ton of help to sneak into the second AFC wild card spot.

Patriots vs. Dolphins
Monday, Dec. 11, 2017
8:30 p.m., ESPN
Patriots -11, over/under 47.5

3 keys to the game

Replacing Rob Gronkowski

On offense, the Patriots will be without Gronkowski as he serves his one-game suspension. The player who might be asked to do the most in filling the void is Danny Amendola. In his last two games he has a total of three catches and that will likely increase Monday. Getting Chris Hogan back into the mix likely will help as well. Don’t expect Dwayne Allen or Jacob Hollister to all of a sudden be targeted like Gronkowski was.

Keeping Tom Brady safe

Miami’s defensive line was able to get to Brady two weeks ago and hopes to do the same thing Monday night. Any time you face Ndamukong Suh you want to make sure he doesn’t get any clean shots on a quarterback and this week is no exception. One of the things for Brady is in the past few weeks he’s held the ball longer than earlier in the year. Look for him to have a quicker release this week.

Stay strong on defense

After being ranked 30th in points allowed after Week 4, the Patriots are currently ranked ninth — a tremendous turnaround. The unit has allowed 17 points or fewer in eight straight games. To put this in perspective, since the NFL merger in 1970, only 19 teams have ever done it in nine straight games. It may be tough this week with all the injuries, but facing a mediocre Miami offense it is certainly possible.

Fun facts

1. Of Gronkowski’s 85 targets this year, 45 of them have gone for first downs. At 53 percent, that is tied for the highest percentage in the NFL.

2. In the first half of games this year, Brady has a QB rating of 112.7, the best in the NFL.

3. In its last 11 games, Miami has turned the ball over 23 times. The Patriots have turned the ball over 23 times going all the way back to Dec. 6, 2015.

4. The Patriots have held their opponents to less than 350 yards from scrimmage in six straight games. If they do it against Miami it will tie the longest streak in the same season under Bill Belichick (last season they also did it in seven straight games).

5. A win would be the Patriots’ 15th straight on the road. They’ve already set the franchise record, but are now going after the NFL record of 18 set by the 49ers from 1988-90.

Prediction 

Patriots 30, Dolphins 13

There’s a chance this one is closer than some expect, but we just don’t see it happening. The Patriots are much better than the Dolphins and by playing on the national stage of Monday Night Football, as well as competing for a division title, the Patriots will be extremely focused and will not have a letdown game. Also, don’t expect heat to be a factor, as temperatures will be in the low 50s.

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