There is really no better way to open the season than on Monday Night Football against the New England Patriots. It will be a difficult challenge for the Dolphins to say the least, but with a great challenge comes a great opportunity.
Nobody is taking the Dolphins seriously this season. I’ve seen power rankings listing them at 29th, predictions suggesting they’ll only win three games, and overall just a very bleak picture being painted by the media.
That would change in a hurry if the Dolphins are able to knock off the Pats on primetime TV in front of the whole nation. What better way to start the year?
Here’s how I see the Dolphins matching up against Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and the Patriots:
Dolphins’ pass defense vs. Patriots’ passing attack
Going up against the best quarterback in football, maybe the best quarterback of all time is certainly no easy task to kick off the year. Vontae Davis’ claims that he makes up the league’s top cornerback tandem with Sean Smith will certainly be put the test. But that should be the least of the Dolphins’ concerns.
Containing the likes of Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, and Danny Woodhead should be priority number one in my opinion. That responsibility will fall in the hands of Karlos Dansby, Kevin Burnett, and Benny Sapp.
The Dolphins are much more capable of handling that challenge with the Burnett upgrade over Channing Crowder, but few defenses in football actually slow Brady down.
One thing is for sure, though, they won’t stand a chance if they aren’t able to get pressure on him. That’s been their Achilles heel in the Brady-Belichick era. We saw the Jets get the best of them twice last year by doing so and most recently the Lions getting after Brady this preseason.
The Dolphins will stay in the game and maybe even pull off the upset if they can get consistent pressure on Brady throughout the game. Cameron Wake needs to be his unblockable self, while any assistance from Jason Taylor, Koa Misi, and Mike Nolan’s exotic blitz packages will go a long way.
Dolphins’ ground attack vs. Patriots’ run defense
This is one aspect of the game I don’t see much hope for the Dolphins. Not just against New England, but against the majority of front sevens they’ll face.
The offensive line appears to be in that poor of shape and the Daniel Thomas/ Reggie Bush running back duo has yet to prove they can pick up the slack of where Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams left off.
If there is any hope on the interior offensive line, it’s Mike Pouncey. The Dolphins’ first-round pick appears capable of big things, but he’ll sure get tested on Monday night, lining up against the best nose tackle in the league in Vince Wilfork.
If the Dolphins can somehow manage anywhere near the 4.0 yards-per-carry benchmark they’ll be able to take some pressure off of Chad Henne. But that’s something I’ll have to see before I believe.
Dolphins’ passing attack vs. Patriots’ pass defense
Here’s an area where I definitely think the Dolphins can exploit the Patriots some. New England was 30th against the pass a year ago and they lack in the pass rush department. I expect Henne to get sufficient time and have open options down field. But he must protect the football.
If you remember back to the home game against New England last year, Henne had no problem carving up the secondary. But the three picks he threw killed promising drives and prevented the Dolphins from competing in that game.
The Patriots will likely bend on defense this season, but give them credit, they force takeaways. If Henne protects the football, though, I see him generating enough offense for the Dolphins to at least keep things close.
Dolphins’ run defense vs. Patriots’ ground attack
The Patriots have a unique running game that’s difficult to prepare for. They feature a running game by committee with BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead, and promising rookies Steven Ridley and Shane Vereen. They do more running out of shotgun sets as well, catching defenses in the nickel instead of their base defense.
With that said, the Dolphins have the potential to be a top three defense against the run this season. They have one of the game’s most dominant 3-4 defensive lines and a deep rotation that keeps everybody fresh.
I’ll give the edge to Miami, but I don’t expect them to dominate like they will for the majority of the year. I see the Patriots accounting for some productive runs on Monday night.