Reassessing the New England Patriots final six games of the season

Christian Barmore #90 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Christian Barmore #90 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /
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New England Patriots
New England Patriots tight end Jonnu Smith (81) Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports /

New England Patriots Week 18 opponent: Miami Dolphins

The New England Patriots first ever Week 18 contest will come against the same team they opened their season against, the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins beat the Patriots 17-16, with Damien Harris fumbling the ball inside the Dolphins 10 yard line with three minutes left to go. That feels like a long time ago now, doesn’t it?

Since then, these two teams have gone in completely different directions. The Dolphins have struggled to stay healthy across the board all season long, and they only recently got their starting quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, back from injury. Either way, their season is most likely over considering they are already 3-7, although they did pull off a massive upset over the Baltimore Ravens last week.

The Dolphins usually get the best of the Pats once a season, and they already did that in Week 1. This game will be in Miami, and New England has a long list of woes playing in Florida, especially during the winter season, but that shouldn’t really matter in this one. The Patriots have improved drastically since Week 1, while the Dolphins are a virtually unrecognizable team.

On offense alone, Miami has nine players on injured reserve currently. Now, that’s not to say all those guys aren’t going to be active for the final game of the season, but it’s safe to assume a good portion of them will still be on the shelf. Among the key absences as DeVante Parker and Will Fuller V, two of Tagovailoa’s top wideouts.

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Miami’s calling card has been their secondary, led by Xavien Howard and Byron Jones, and while they did a good job slowing down Mac Jones in their prior matchup, things probably won’t follow a same route this time around. The Dolphins are right around the middle of the pack in rushing yards allowed per game, and you can bet New England is going to formulate a gameplan that revolves around their ground game considering they picked up 125 yards in their first meeting.

This game will likely only be competitive if the Dolphins get some of their key players like Parker and Fuller back in time for it, which isn’t exactly a given right now. Even then, New England’s offense has improved enough, while Miami’s has regressed enough, that there should be a pretty decent margin for error here. If the New England Patriots can pick up four or five wins over their final six games, they will be in very good shape heading into the playoffs.