New England Patriots @ Miami Dolphins: Home side to run rings round uninspired Pats

Miami running into play-off form
Miami are running into play-off form

Neil Harvey takes a look at Sunday's NFL clash between the top two in the AFC East, where's he's predicting Miami to emerge victorious over New England.

"The Patriots are the better team, with the better players. But at present, they are banged-up, lacking motivation, and will be playing on the road. And all that makes Miami, although an inferior team, start to look like a very tempting bet"

Miami to win at Full Time @ 2.02


New England Patriots @ Miami Dolphins
Sunday December 15,  18:00
Live on Sky Sports 2

Miami, at 7-6, still have a chance of catching New England (10-3) in the AFC East. It would need the Dolphins to win this game, and then win their remaining two matches, with New England having to lose both their final two games as well. 

It's a very unlikely scenario. But it's the danger of complacency creeping in to the Patriots' game that makes me want to oppose them. With their play-off spot seemingly all but sewn-up, New England's Head Coach, Bill Belichick, will be keen to avoid more injuries to key players, such as the torn ACL which just robbed the Pats of their game-changing tight end, Rob Gronkowski.  Miami, on the other hand, have all the motivation in the world. They might not win the division, but they are still very much in the hunt for a wildcard place.

The odds on who'll win this game are almost even-stevens. And that probably tells us a lot. Because clearly the Patriots are the better team, with the better players. But at present, they are banged-up, lacking motivation, and will be playing on the road. And all that makes Miami, although an inferior team, start to look like a very tempting bet.

Another boost for Miami's hopes of winning this fixture, is the match-up in the running game. Because, while New England have the stronger ground game of the two teams, it's their totally inability to stop the run that gives Miami the slight upper hand. The Patriots rank 31st out of 32 teams at run-defense. Yes, the Patriots have Shane Vereen, who should see a lot of the ball, both running and catching in this game. And he'll face a mediocre-at-best Miami defensive line. But the edge here has to go to the Dolphins, for whom Daniel Thomas and Lamar Millar are likely to lead the way, against a Patriots D-line that gave-up more than 200 hundred yards to Denver's Knowshon Moreno three weeks ago.

A key piece of evidence though, has to be the Week Eight game played between these sides. The Patriots won that match 27-17. But remember that they had home-advantage, as well as Gronkowski. And they also surrendered a sizeable 89 rushing yards to Miami's Lamar Miller. With no Gronkowski playing, New England's 8th ranked pass-offense suddenly starts looking a lot less threatenting. Especially when you consider that Miami rank 13th in the NFL at stopping the pass, and that they've already seen-off the likes of Matt Ryan and Philip Rivers, to record wins at home to Atlanta and San Diego respectively.

The Sun Life stadium might not be the most hostile of venues to go to. Indeed, it probably makes a pleasant change for teams, temperature-wise. But to the Dolphins, it's home. Their 3-3 record there is nothing special. But what it does reveal, is that Miami have tended to lose to teams that focus on running the ball, but won against the passing teams. That's information that is unlikely to have been missed by the Patriots' coaching staff, and so once again, expect to see the ball being placed time and time again into the hands of Vereen.

And, say what you like about Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill, but he has been going about his job quietly and effectively in recent weeks, especially when posting back-to-back 300 yard games in Weeks 12 and 13. Of course, he's no match for his opposite number Tom Brady but he can do a job for the Dolphins.

The bottom line is, Miami aren't flash but they won't need to be to win this game. With more to motivate them, the Dolphins should come out fast in this game. I fancy them to lead this contest from start to finish, something that you don't see done to the Patriots very often. And once behind, I doubt Brady and co, will have the stomach required to make a fight of things.

Recommended Bets
Miami to win at Half Time @ 2.02
Miami to win at Full Time @ 2.02
Back Shane Vereen to score a touchdown anytime @ 1.91 (Sportsbook)


 

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