Who has the edge?
Undefeated Miami stands good chance to end 10-year drought in Foxborough
DAVIE — The undefeated, AFC East-leading Dolphins will visit the 1-2 Patriots in Week 4 of the NFL season on Sunday at 1 p.m. in Gillette Stadium. Win or lose against the Patriots, the Dolphins (3-0) will still be atop the division. History may not be on Miami’s side, with the Dolphins looking to win their first game at New England in 10 years. But a three-game lead in the AFC East plus a tiebreaker over New England would be a handsome reward if the Dolphins are able to beat the Patriots.
When the Dolphins pass: Thanks to two short shovel passes to Jakeem Grant and Albert Wilson that led to lengthy touchdowns, Ryan Tannehill has one of the highest NFL passer ratings at 121.8, ranked fourth behind Patrick Mahomes, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Drew Brees. Of all the starting quarterbacks in the league, Tannehill has thrown the fewest passes (54 of 74, 73 percent). Dolphins coach Adam Gase has dialed up several big plays over the first three weeks of the season, leading to the 3-0 start. Miami will have to sustain a drive or two in New England to keep the ball out of Tom Brady’s hands, but will continue to rely on its big-play potential to put points up on the board in a hostile environment. Expect the Dolphins to take advantage of the Patriots defense, which ranks fifth-to-last in the league, giving up 406.3 yards per game this season. Edge: Dolphins
When the Patriots pass: Tom Brady, even at
41 years old, still demands the respect of being one of the greatest quarterbacks in league history. Brady has a quarterback rating of 93.9 through three games. Brady played his best game of the season in the opener, throwing for
277 yards with three touchdowns, but has only three short touchdown passes in the last two games. His longest throw of the season was a
30-yard pass. Brady simply does not have enough weapons outside of tight end Rob Gronkowski, but embattled receiver Josh Gordon could make his team debut this week. Still, Brady is
21-10 all-time against the Dolphins, completing 60 percent of his passes with a 91.2 passer rating. If anyone is going to get the Patriots out of their 1-2 start, it’s him. Edge: Patriots
When the Dolphins run: The Raiders defense was able to limit Frank Gore and Kenyan Drake to just 15 yards last week, but expect that to be an anomaly for the Dolphins this season. The Raiders had nearly double the number of offensive snaps last week, before the Dolphins capitalized late with running plays that were credited as passing touchdowns for Ryan Tannehill. This game should be a breakout game for Drake, Miami’s starter in his third season, with Gore also getting his fair share of runs up the middle and short passes out of the backfield. New England is second-to-last in the NFL, surrendering 143.3 yards per game on the ground, making it an ideal offensive game plan for Dolphins coach Adam Gase to capitalize on. Edge: Dolphins
When the Patriots run: The Patriots had to place running back Rex Burkhead on injured reserve this week with a neck injury, a move that could set the stage for Sony Michel in his rookie season. Michel, the heralded standout who graduated from Plantation’s American Heritage, has just 24 carries for 84 yards in the last two games. Tom Brady also loves to utilize running back James White — a St. Thomas Aquinas graduate — as a receiving target out of the backfield, as White has a team-high 14 receptions for 125 yards with two touchdowns. Simply put, the Patriots are not going to take the ball out of Brady’s hands much, especially with a rookie in the backfield, especially against Miami’s defense, which ranks seventh
giving up less than 90 rushing yards per game. Edge: Dolphins
Special Teams: Dolphins kick returner Jakeem Grant could break free for another kickoff return touchdown at any point, while Patriots returner Cordarrelle Patterson has five kickoff return touchdowns in his six-year career. Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski has made 5 of 6 field goals, and made all six of his extra-point kicks, while Dolphins rookie kicker Jason Sanders hasn’t kicked a field goal in two weeks but has made 9 of 10 extra-point kicks this season. Patriots punter Ryan Allen is averaging 48 yards per punt this season with just 4 of his 15 punts landing inside the 20, while Dolphins punter Matt Haack had eight of his last 12 punts land inside the 20, setting Miami’s defense up with ideal field position. This point could be the difference in the game. Edge: Dolphins
Intangibles: The Dolphins are off to a 3-0 start for the first time in five years, and fourth in the last 20 years. Adam Gase has his quarterback in Ryan Tannehill back in the fold, and players on offense that have helped the Dolphins gain early success this season. … The Dolphins’ 13 points allowed in the first half, and
31 points scored in the fourth quarter are both second in the NFL. … The Patriots are off to a
1-2 start, after consecutive road losses at Jacksonville and Detroit. While their slow start is not ideal, history is not on Miami’s side. The last time the Dolphins won in New England was in 2008 — a game Tom Brady did not play in. The Patriots also have a 35-17 advantage as the home team in the all-time matchup, with Bill Belichick owning a 23-13 edge against the Dolphins since he has been Patriots coach. The Dolphins are on a roll, but are going up against two NFL greats in Brady and Belichick. Edge: Patriots.
Prediction: Dolphins 28, Patriots 24
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady throws during the first half of a game against the Detroit Lions. At right, Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) looks to pass against the Tennessee Titans. The Patriots have won nine straight at home in the series.