Finish Strong. It’s that simple. After dropping back to back games to cap off last season against the all too familiar Jets and Dolphins, our Pats are looking to do just the opposite this year. With a 41-3 mutilation of the Jets last weekend, a three-phase romping, Belichick and co. seem to be peaking at the right time. Now comes the real test: a date with the sizzling hot (9-1 in their last 10) Dolphins, in the sizzling hot Miami heat. The Pats lost last year in Miami, and if you don’t remember correctly, lost the year before there as well. Yes, the Super Bowl year. Road game, playoff team, AFC East foe. Circle the wagons, call to arms, pedal to the medal. Lock up the #1 seed and play ball.
Let’s take it around the table and see what the BBS Staff thinks of this divisional showdown for our last regular season preview of the year…
Tom Brady: Over/Under 300 yards passing?
Niko: Assuming Brady goes close to the entire way (with human victory cigar Jimmy G hopefully logging the last few snaps), I’ll go with OVER on this one. In limited fashion last week, TB looked in playoff form, and Tyrod Taylor just threw for 329 yards on this defense.
Pete: OVER, as well. If Tom Brady wants to really stick it to the league, I would love to see him sling the ball four 350 yards and four touchdowns to further cement his MVP award.
Jordan: UNDER. Simply put, I don't think Brady plays most of the second half. I don't think BB risks his quarterback like that. Remember when Welker messed his knee up back in, I believe, 2011? Don't want that to happen to TB12. He'll be solid while he's out there.
James White: Over/Under 39 yards receiving?
Niko: Slightly UNDER here for James, who has only hit this mark twice in the last six games. After that horrific drop, it was good to see Tom go back to him for the touchdown before the half.
Pete: OVER. I think he will break off a long one on a check-down pass that may get him to 39 yards in one play.
Jordan: I'm going to agree with Pete here. I'll go OVER for White as well. He's likely to break off at least one big one.
Who has more yards rushing: Dion Lewis or LeGarrette Blount?
Niko: With a 16/20 (Dion/LG) carries split last week, and an 18/17 (Dion/LG) split the week prior, the tandem’s workload looks like it’s going to be 50/50 moving forward. As good as Blount has been, Dion just has a bit more big play ability, and I could see him breaking a long one. I’ll take Lewis, but both should get a heavy share of volume and production.
Pete: I will go with Legarrette Blount here. I think the Patriots would be wise to utilize Blount in the running game and not risk an injury to Dion Lewis.
Jordan: If there is one thing we have absolutely learned about Dion Lewis since his arrival to New England, it's that he's unreal when healthy... but he's made of glass. So for that, I think the hoodie plays it safe with Dion and goes towards the more durable LB29 more often. Blount has had a pro bowl caliber season, making me eat my words along the way. I say he even finds the end zone 2 more times.
Julian Edelman: Over/Under 7.5 receptions, 72 receiving yards?
Niko: Edelman’s workload has been managed over the last few weeks (trailed both Mitchell and Hogan in snaps vs. Jets), but his production has not. Still (by far) Brady’s favorite target, I’ll go with OVER on both for JE11.
Pete: OVER on receptions, UNDER on yards. Edelman has been Brady's security blanket all season when the going gets tough, and I will Brady will reward Edelman, as he is closing in on 100 receptions for the season.
Jordan: The Pats have been limiting JE's snap count in recent weeks, in hopes of keeping him as close to 100% as possible for the playoffs. But when he's out there, you know who Brady is throwing at. OVER on both.
Martellus Bennett: Over/Under 3.5 receptions, 55 yards receiving?
Niko: Going to go with OVER on both for Marty, who crushed Miami the first time around (5/114). It’ll be good to see him bounce back, in what has been a statistical quiet end of the season for the big target.
Pete: OVER on both for Bennett. He hasn't looked right since injuring that ankle in week five, but, like Niko mentioned, the last time these two teams met, Bennett was on fire.
Jordan: OVER/UNDER. I see Bennett getting enough targets to surpass the reception mark, but I almost feel like most of them will be in short yardage situations. This is going to likely sound idiotic, but I'm the king of the worst hot takes alive: wouldn't be surprised to see some Matt Lengel.
Matt Moore: Over/Under 235 yards passing?
Niko: OVER. I think the defensive onus will be on stopping the run and the veteran Moore will be leaned on to make big throws. He’ll make enough to hit this mark.
Pete: UNDER. While Moore isn't a rookie, he has not played for than three games since the 2011 season. I truly believe game reps are the only thing that can prepare you for the New England Patriots, and even that is still questionable. The Patriots will try to confuse Moore, and I think he will struggle all day.
Jordan: OVER. The Pats main focus will be on stopping recent stud, Jay Ajayi, from having a massive game. If the 'Phins are relying on Matt Moore to win it for them? The Pats already won.
Jay Ajayi: Over/Under 89 yards rushing?
Niko: UNDER. See my bold prediction below. Belichick/Patricia will game-plan/dedicate extra resources towards Ajayi/Miami’s ground game.
Pete: UNDER for me too. Ajayi has been battling an injury that has kept him out of practice a few times, and I don't think he will fair well against the likes of Alan Branch and Malcom Brown in the interior.
Jordan: UNDER as well. Like Pete said, he's been nursing an injury. And let's be real, Branch and Brown are a threat to every team's O-Line (@Jacob), and until proven otherwise, I can't see a big game for anybody against this front.
Jarvis Landry: Over/Under 5.5 receptions, 69 receiving yards?
Niko: Landry is a stud, one of the more talented receivers in the league, and a legitimate threat to take a 7-yard slant to the house. With that said, Malcolm Butler will be lined up against him on Sunday. Butler is playing his very best ball of the season (Pro Football Focus has him as the #1 CB in all of football) and will be competitive on every single throw. Plus, Landry hasn’t been able to form the chemistry with Moore that he’s had with Tannehill. UNDER on both.
Pete: UNDER on both, but just barely. I agree with Niko, Malcolm Butler has turned into one of the best cornerbacks in the entire game. The Patriots better not fool around with Butler and somehow lose him this year or next...
Jordan: Malcolm Butler is an absolute stud. He's even giving Hightower a run for his money as a potential leader on the defense. Not saying he's the captain, just saying. Any way, as for this matchup, Butler does struggle at times with big, strong receivers. Landry is among those types of guys. However, Butler has been on a tear lately, and it's tough to see him getting torched any time soon. Laser-focused. UNDER on both.
DeVante Parker: Over/Under 4.5 receptions, 49 receiving yards?
Niko: The 6’3 215 pound 2015 first rounder is extremely talented and has had a great deal of success against the Pats throughout his young career. With 6/106 week 17 last season, and 8/106 week 2 this year, he’s given the secondary fits. OVER on both.
Pete: OVER. Someone has to have a good game, right?
Jordan: OVER. I'm pretty sure it was Parker who crushed the Pats in Week 17 last year.
Kenny Stills: Over/Under 45 receiving yards?
Niko: UNDER. Stills is strictly a straight-line, “big-play” receiver, and the Pats don’t give up many of them.
Pete: UNDER. Like Niko mentioned, Stills is pretty one-dimensional. If Logan Ryan gets the nod, he will almost certainly have help over the top from Devin McCourty, who is playing some of the best football of his career.
Jordan: UNDER. I like Stills, think he's a very talented receiver. But... he's got bricks for hands. He was the one who dropped the wide open TD against the Seahawks earlier this year. Assuming Logan Ryan is covering him, expect the Pats to shadow Stills with either McCourty or Chung over the top.
Niko: Suddenly unbeatable Right Tackle Marcus Cannon vs. unblockable Defensive End Cameron Wake, who has 11.5 sacks on the season and one in three straight games. Something has to give. If Cannon can continue his solid play and keep Wake off #12, you have to feel good about the offense’s ability to get rolling.
Pete: Patriots vs. The Injury Bug. There is no reason for the Patriots to play balls to the wall in this game. Sure, I would like for them to have home field-advantage throughout the playoffs, but I think the Patriots can go to Oakland and still beat that team pretty easily. I want the Pats to play hard for the first half, but if they are up by a score or two, its Jimmy G time.
Jordan: Bill Belichick vs. his ego. We all know that the hoodie loves to find different ways to win games. He'll pull some random strategy out of his bag of tricks and use it in a pretty important game. Belichick needs to do everything in his power to protect his guys. Because even if Oakland somehow gets the 1 seed, who the hell is afraid of McGloin? No one.Keep your guys healthy.
Niko: Patriots hold Jay Ajayi, fresh off a 206-yard performance at Buffalo, to under 70 yards rushing. Belichick/Patricia’s defenses are known for taking away what the opposition does best. They’ll dare the veteran Moore to consistently beat the secondary.
Pete: I will say Devin McCourty gets an INT and a couple passes defended. He has been playing a phenomenal safety this year and has laid down some impressive hits.
Jordan: Brady only plays the first quarter and we see Jimmy G go out and put on an absolute show for the final 3. Who do the Pats need to win a Super Bowl? A serviceable backup, or Tom Brady? Obviously it's Brady. Keep him healthy. Remember when Brady got smoked last year in week 17 and injured his leg? Scary stuff. Jimmy G throws for 250+ and 2 TDs in 3/4 quarters. And just for fun, I'll say one of those TDs goes to Lengel, other one goes to Floyd.
Game Total: Over/Under 44.5 points?
Niko: I’m going to roll with OVER here. Miami just gave up 279 yards on the ground to Buffalo’s McCoy, Gillislee, Taylor trio. The Pats should have their way on the ground, and in turn, play-action.
Pete: OVER for me too. The Patriots should be able to score in the 30s, as the Miami secondary is easily picked apart. I hope to see a lot of short, quick throws by Brady to move the football and get the hell out of Miami.
Jordan: OVER for me too. I expect both teams to score at least 20 points in this one, and we all know the Pats can put up 30, regardless of who is at QB.
Final Prediction (New England -9.5):
Niko: 34-17 Pats. After dropping games to the Jets and ‘Phins to end last season, the Pats right the ship this time around and sweep the divisional foes on the quest for “one for the finger.” We’re onto the playoffs.
Pete: The Patriots aren't messing around anymore. 37-10 Pats.
Jordan: Pats roll in this one, with a garbage time TD to make it look more respectable. 35-20 Pats.