After 14 weeks of an NFL season, a team sitting at 10-3, with their divisional title all but wrapped up, could generally consider themselves to be sitting pretty. However, for New England Patriots fans, Monday night’s defeat at Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium will present some questions they’ll be apprehensive about answering.
If the Pats win at Pittsburgh and improve to 11-3, they’ll be set fair for the #1 ranking in the AFC, securing them home field advantage right through to the conference championship game, and another Super Bowl appearance all but glued on. At that stage, 32 Red Sport would be pushed to find good odds on them to win it all again. However, a handy defeat to a Dolphins team that has been anaemic under Adam Gase for most of the season suddenly makes winning at the Steelers a very big if.
Should they lose in Pittsburgh, the Patriots will fall to 10-4, and Bill Belichick’s men would be in a dogfight with Jacksonville to get #2 ranking, let alone anything better.
Brady’s Woes In Miami Continue
Tom Brady’s career record in games on the road is 81-29; an astounding level of success. However, nine of those 29 losses have come against Miami, a team that has been mediocre going on atrocious for the bulk of Brady’s career. There is a feeling that, on Monday night, Brady and Belichick were looking past Miami to the big game in Pittsburgh– but in losing to the Dolphins, they handed the Steelers a chance to all-but secure the #1 ranking if they can win next week.
For whatever reason, the Patriots struggle to win in Miami; they’d be advised to remember that in future before taking a W for granted.
Jay Cutler Is No Ben Roethlisberger
Dolphins’ QB Jay Cutler was expecting to spend this season as a studio pundit for Fox Sports, having hung up his cleats after an undistinguished career. Then Adam Gase, his former quarterbacks coach in Denver, gave him a call when Dolphins starter Ryan Tannehill tore knee ligaments in pre-season.
Cutler returned to the NFL arena, only to play like someone who had been retired for much longer than six months. Behind a patchwork offensive line, he has struggled this season. Against New England, he connected on three touchdown passes and looked better than he has all season. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, have Ben Roethlisberger at QB, and he’s coming off a 500-yard game. So good luck with that, Patriots.
Is Brady Playing Hurt?
A banged-up Tom Brady is better than most fully-fit NFL quarterbacks, but the sense in their latest loss was that Belichick was calling conservative plays to protect Brady’s health. In the second half, as New England tried to reel in a 17-point deficit, Brady needed more time to pass. He didn’t get it, was sacked twice, and knocked down a further four times against Miami’s struggling, injury-depleted defense. Against the Steelers, who will blitz early and often, it could get ugly if Brady again needs to chase the game.
Trading away Jimmy Garoppolo mid-season to be replaced by journeyman Brian Hoyer as their backup quarterback could yet be New England’s undoing, and a rare misstep by the franchise. Having the younger, better Garoppolo in Hoyer’s place would certainly make the next few weeks a lot easier for Brady, Belichick and the Patriots.
The Patriots loss in Miami has certainly shaken up their entire season; it’ll be interesting to see how they handle the pressure of needing an immediate recovery.Read next
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