It's time to see what these Miami Dolphins are made of. The talent is there; the desire is there. There's no doubt about that. But can the Dolphins overcome the Patriots to put themselves firmly on the playoff map?
In the last match-up between these two teams, Miami were on a three-game losing run and low in confidence. The Dolphins went on to lose that game in Foxborough to extend that losing streak. This game will be different. In their last six games, Miami are 4-2 and riding on a huge wave of confidence. That winning mentality has returned and, suddenly, the fanbase are starting to believe that the playoffs are a distinct possibility.
For the Patriots, the loss of Rob Gronkowski puts a massive dent in their postseason aspirations. New England will have to rely on the wizardry of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick to make the most of their wide receivers and running backs.
On the flipside of the coin, Charles Clay is having a season to remember with 6 touchdowns from 60 receptions and 678 yards. A model of consistency, Clay has the ability to bulldoze past defenders in the open field. The way Clay made future Hall of Famer Troy Polamalu look like a rookie by breaking two tackles on his way to a touchdown to give Miami the lead against Pittsburgh will live long in the memory. If Clay has a big game, Miami can really make life difficult for New England.
While New England may not have the talent that Miami has on their roster, the Patriots have retained that winning mentality this season to make them incredibly difficult to beat. Tom Brady is a special player who can turn average players into good players, and good players into Pro Bowlers. If Miami are to beat the Patriots, they're going to have to go onto that football field and score points. They have to intend to win the game, rather than resort to damage-limitations. The minute any team tries to keep the game close, New England will inevitably pull it out of the bag to win the game, as evidenced against the Cleveland Browns. That's why New England are so dangerous and have been a force in this league for well over a decade. Ryan Tannehill has been able to connect with both Mike Wallace and Charles Clay in recent games, and must do more of the same against the Patriots.
New England Patriots 24 - 31 Miami Dolphins