A game that will have significant ramifications at the bottom of the AFC playoff picture takes place on Sunday, as the New England Patriots will host the Miami Dolphins. The Patriots were not able to come away with a victory in Week 16, as they fell at Gillette Stadium to the Cincinnati Bengals by a final score of 22-18. The Dolphins also lost last weekend, as they were defeated by the Green Bay Packers 26-20.
This is the second meeting of the season between these two teams. They opened the campaign against one another way back in Week 1, which resulted in a 20-7 Dolphins victory.
Here are three things we’ll be looking out for in Sunday’s rematch.
Miami’s Change Under Center
The Dolphins will be without starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa on Sunday, who suffered his second documented concussion last week. Miami will turn to reserve signal caller Teddy Bridgewater to lead the offense, and it’ll be interesting to see if head coach Mike McDaniel alters the offense at all with a different player at the helm.
Bridgewater has dealt with injuries of his own this season, but has been pressed into duty early on in the year. He started one game against the Minnesota Vikings in October, where he threw for 329 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. While the execution may look a little different, Bridgewater can be expected to funnel targets to speedy weapons Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle to make his life a little easier.
Defense Turning Into Offense
The Patriots have had a difficult time getting things going on offense this season. They curiously decided to let a career-defensive coach call plays, and the experiment has been suspect at best. It doesn’t seem like quarterback Mac Jones and de facto offensive coordinator Matt Patricia have been able to find a rhythm with one another this year, and it’s caused frustrating stagnation for an offense that was expected to take a step forward in 2022.
Instead, New England has been forced to rely on their defense, which has largely been up to the task. Since the offensive production has been inconsistent at best, it might be key for the Patriots defensive unit to reach the endzone themselves via a fumble or interception.
Over the course of the year, it’s been clear that Rhamondre Stevenson brings a little more playmaking ability to New England’s backfield than anyone else they can deploy. With increased responsibility and opportunity, Stevenson has had a breakout season, and should be a fixture with the Patriots for the next couple of years.
However, he’s had a difficult couple of weeks, as his actions have led to New England dropping two close games. Stevenson’s decision to lateral the ball back to wide receiver Jakobi Meyers in Week 15 against the Las Vegas Raiders started a chain reaction that resulted in arguably the worst loss in NFL history. The feature back also coughed up the football during a pivotal fourth quarter drive last week against Cincinnati. It’ll be intriguing to see whether he receives less work this week because of those two errors.