On Sunday, the New England Patriots will be playing the Miami Dolphins in their final game of the regular season. Here are five predictions for the game.
The New England Patriots travel down to South Beach for their final regular season game of the 2016 season this Sunday. A win would officially secure the number one seed, however, they would also secure it if they and Oakland both lose.
Chances are they will try and take care of business while they can against a Dolphins team that is ecstatic with their first playoff appearance since their 2008 AFC East title when Tom Brady missed the season with a knee injury. Here are five predictions about what will happen between 1:00pm and 4:20pm on Sunday afternoon.
1 – Brady and the Starters Start the Game, But Don’t Finish It
Last week served as a stark reminder about how quickly a team’s fortunes can change when Oakland and Tennessee lost their quarterbacks to serious injuries in the span of three hours. A look back through history can also serve as a reminder that resting starters going into week 17 can have adverse effect on the team’s fortunes as well with many early 2000’s Colts teams coming into the playoffs rusty.
With that in mind the Patriots will stick to playing their starters, including Tom Brady past halftime before turning things over to Jimmy Garoppolo, preferably with the game in hand. Add in the fact Brady had to sit the first four games of this season, it will be nearly impossible to sell him on the idea of sitting out another game.
Currently sitting on 90 catches for 955 yards on the season, expect Edelman to get a decent number of targets in this game. Having started off the season slowly and still not quite looking like his pre-foot injury self, getting to that statistical milestone is a big achievement for him. While the team may say publicly they do not care about individual statistics and achievements, behind closed doors they will certainly have that in mind.
3 – Hightower Sits Out Again
It would not be a Dont’a Hightower season if he did not miss four games and having played twelve already, it is only appropriate that he sits out this week to keep his streak alive. That and the fact he is battling injuries, it is more important that he is ready for the divisional round game as opposed to this one.
4 – Gostkowski Continues Encouraging Streak
For most of this season, Patriots fans have had the unusual experience of being on edge when their kicker takes the field. Stephen Gostkowski has been less than his usual automatic self but in recent weeks he appears to have overcome those struggles. Since the Buffalo game in week eight, he has missed one field goal and one extra point. Since then he is 24/25 on extra points and 16/17 on field goal attempts. In the South Florida weather, expect him to continue his streak and continue rebuilding his confidence. Of course, having brought that stat up, if he goes on to miss three kicks you as the reader know exactly where to go for blame.
With their team all but locked into the sixth seed, expect Miami to have their primary focus on entering Wild Card Weekend in the best condition possible. They would love to sneak their way into the fifth seed with a win and a Chiefs loss but they will look at the numbers and opt to prioritize health over winning at all costs. That’s not to say they will run the ball on every down to try and get out of there in one piece but much like the Patriots in this game last year, if they are down 10 with five minutes to play, do not be surprised if they opt to pack it in.