By Danny Cox
Mathematically, no teams are eliminated from the playoffs in either the AFC or NFC as of this time, but it won’t be too long until every single game is about to count. The Miami Dolphins are heading into such a game against the New England Patriots—one that could end up determining if they have any shot at all in heading to the postseason.
Unfortunately for the Fins, the Pats are chugging forward with all cylinders going full force, and the Dolphins are hurting at a number of positions.
Miami Dolphins Season Record: 4-6
The Dolphins started out the season on a promising note with a 4-2 record that included victories over the Falcons, Titans and Chargers. Now, they’ve lost four in a row including blowout losses to the Ravens and Panthers. Things have fallen apart for Miami, and Jay Cutler may regret coming out of retirement after seeing the way this season is going, especially since landing in concussion protocol against the Buccaneers.
Dolphins On Offense
Jay Cutler is in the NFL’s concussion protocol and it is not yet known if he will play against the Patriots on Sunday. If he’s not cleared, Matt Moore will step into the starting spot for the Dolphins. Moore played a decent game after replacing Cutler against the Bucs, but being without their starting quarterback will alter Miami’s game plan.
Miami has a couple of very talented wide receivers in Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills, who can be trouble for any opposing defense, but they still need the ball to get to them. The Dolphins’ running game has been virtually non-existent all season, and suffered even more after they traded away Jay Ajayi, as Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams don’t bring enough to be efficient.
Dolphins On Defense
In some games this year, the Dolphins defense appeared to be strong and have a lot going for them. But then there are games where they’ve allowed 40 or more points (twice). The defense has also allowed 20 or more points in seven games. They don’t cause a lot of turnovers (three interceptions, five fumble recoveries) and only have 17 total sacks on the season.
Cameron Wake leads the team with six sacks and Ndamukong Suh is second with 3.5 sacks, but there is not much of a pass rush elsewhere. If the Pats’ offensive line can pick up those two on Sunday and give Tom Brady enough time, he should be able to torch the secondary of the Dolphins.
Dolphins Players To Watch: WR Kenny Stills and S Reshad Jones
Wide receiver Kenny Stills has been one of the few bright spots and exciting players in Miami this year. Everyone was shocked when the Saints traded him away, and he’s proven that he can play in any system in the NFL without missing a beat. Stills leads the team with 588 yards and that is with 27 fewer receptions (40) than Jarvis Landry, who has 567 yards through the air. He’s small and fast and can get behind opposing defenses in the blink of an eye.
If there is anyone to be concerned about in the Dolphins secondary, it is veteran safety Reshad Jones, who is second on the team in total tackles with 68. He also has a half sack and leads Miami with two interceptions. Jones is all over the field in every game, with speed and the ability to make the big hit when a play calls for it.
While every AFC East match-up is one that could be quite unpredictable, it is difficult to look at the season of the Dolphins so far and think they can keep pace with the Patriots. Tom Brady and company are simply too explosive for the defense of the Dolphins, and things aren’t any better for Miami on offense. Barring a complete and total breakdown, New England should have no problem picking up their seventh win in a row while delivering the Dolphins their straight fifth loss.