New England Patriots need a W in Miami to keep pace for AFC’s top seed

FOXBORO, MA - NOVEMBER 26: Jonathan Jones
FOXBORO, MA - NOVEMBER 26: Jonathan Jones /

The New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers are on a collision course for the #1 seed in the AFC, and a win is needed on Monday night if Brady and co. want to keep pace.

The Pittsburgh Steelers found a way to beat the Ravens last night to keep control of the top seed in the AFC East. Now, the New England Patriots will have to win their Monday night matchup with the Dolphins in order to keep pace before the two top teams meet next Sunday.

The Patriots and Dolphins met just two weeks ago, with New England earning a 35-17 win. New England’s defense has been on a roll lately, and they’ll look for that to continue. In the previous matchup, Jarvis Landry was limited to 8 catches for 70 yards. He never found the end zone, and that’s a trend that the Patriots would love to keep going.

In the last game against Miami, the Pats defense only gave up 10 points. The other 7 Dolphins points came on a fumble recovery after a terrible snap to Tom Brady. Jarvis Landry was limited, and in the second half, they couldn’t get anything going. That continued into last week’s game, as the defense only allowed the Bills to score 3 points. Tyrod Taylor and Nathan Peterman combined for just 115 yards in the air. LeSean McCoy, Travaris Cadet, and Joe Webb did combine for 183 rushing yards on 26 carries, but the Patriots bend but don’t break mold held true. The Bills had chances to score, but the Patriots put the pressure on when it matters most. Eric Lee, a previously unknown player, has thrust himself into the New England spotlight as well. Last week he had 1.5 sacks and an interception. He should continue to see an increase in his playing time for the Pats.

New England also had a huge day on the ground two weeks ago, and that will again be an emphasis this week. Patriots running backs combined for 196 rushing yards and a score, with Dion Lewis’ 112-yards leading the way. Lewis, Rex Burkhead, and James White will have to come up big once again as Tom Brady will be without his top target.

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Rob Gronkowski is suspended for this game against the Dolphins. He made a stupid decision to jump on Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White after a play last week, which resulted in a concussion. In week 12 Gronk had 82 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Dolphins. That production will now have to come from somewhere else for the Patriots offense. Dwayne Allen will start in place of Gronkowski, but don’t expect a ton of targets in his direction. New England will likely aim to utilize their versatile running backs in the passing game, and Brady will, of course, look to find Brandin Cooks on some long balls.

Receiver Chris Hogan may also be an option for Brady on Monday night, as he made the trip to Miami with the team. He missed the last four games with a shoulder injury, but with Gronkowski out his return could be huge. In 8 games played this season, Hogan has 33 receptions for 438 yards and 5 touchdowns. Brady can usually count on him for 4-5 receptions and 60 yards per game. That would be huge against this Dolphins squad.

Next: Patriots defense has been the catalyst for 8 straight

The Patriots and Dolphins will kick things off on ESPN’s Monday Night Football at 8:30 PM tonight. New England will look to improve to 11-2, although they’d have AFC East control even with a loss. The true race for New England is the one with Pittsburgh for the AFC’s top seed. At 11-2, the Steelers have the edge, but a win here for the Patriots would set up a winner-take-all match next Sunday.