By: Colby Guy
With the AFC Playoff Picture coming down to the wire, the Miami Dolphins have a must-win game against the New England Patriots on Sunday.
The Dolphins currently sit at 8-5 and hold the newly-added seventh seed in the AFC. With the Baltimore Ravens currently tied with Miami for the final playoff spot in the conference, this game is essentially game one of the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Buffalo Bills officially clinched the AFC East title with a win over the Denver Broncos on Saturday, so all focus is on maintaining pace for a wildcard spot now. With that being said, here are three keys for the Dolphins that need to happen for them in what is quite possibly one of the most important games of the season.
Tua’s Continued Success
Despite taking a loss courtesy of the Kansas City Chiefs last Sunday, Tua Tagovailoa had the best game of his young career thus far; going 28-48 with a career-high 315 yards, as well as a combined three touchdowns and one interception. The rookie gunslinger looked legit. Now, Tua finds himself in one of the biggest games of his young career, facing off against a 6-7 New England Patriots team that is looking to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Tua looked confident last week, making passes in small windows and throwing the deep balls we all saw him throw at Alabama. He was doing this with an injured cast of weapons as well, as Mike Gesicki, Devante Parker, and Jakeem Grant all left the game with injuries. All three of them listed are questionable for today’s game. If Tagovailoa was able to have success throwing the ball to the likes of Lynn Bowden Jr. and Mack Hollins, he should be able to continue that success if at least one or two of those three weapons dresses for this game.
Which Version of Cam Newton Do We See?
Cam Newton has had a roller coaster of a season for the New England Patriots. He comes into this game with 2,172 passing yards, five passing touchdowns, and ten touchdowns. He also has 451 rushing yards and 11 tushing touchdowns on 113 attempts. Newton has been particularly abysmal in the last three games, despite winning two of those three games, throwing for a combined 272 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions. With both of those wins being granted off of mistakes from the other team, Cam has his work cut out for him this week, as the Dolphins haven’t been one for making many mistakes.
The Miami Dolphins are tied for second in the entire NFL in turnover differential, so if the Patriots want to make this a game, they have to see the good side of Newton. The last time these two teams matched up, Cam didn’t throw a single interception, rushed for two touchdowns, and had 230 total yards in a Week 1 win against Miami. This entire game hinges on if Newton can come to play like Week 1 or if the Dolphins are able to hold off Newton like the teams he has faced the last three weeks.
Can the Dolphins Finally Establish the Run?
The Miami Dolphins have the sixth-least rushing yards this season with 1,238, and for good reason. The Dolphins have had a lot of inconsistency at the running back position, with all three of Matt Breida, Myles Gaskin, and Salvon Ahmed in-and-out of the lineup, but the Dolphins will have at least one of those three back for tomorrow’s game.
Matt Breida was taken off of the COVID-19 list, so he will definitely be back for Sunday’s game. However, Ahmed is listed as questionable after being a limited participant in practice all week, and Gaskin will be out as he is still on the COVID-19 list. With that being said, Breida seems like the man who will be looking to turn around the Dolphins’ rushing woes in this week’s game. He has 168 yards on 47 attempts and has failed to register a rushing touchdown all year, so this may be an uphill battle for him.
The Miami Dolphins will be in action against the New England Patriots today at 1:00 p.m. at Hard Rock Stadium. You can catch the game on CBS.