One main difference this time around is that Rob Gronkowski will miss the game due to a one-game suspension for his personal foul during last week’s 23-3 victory over the Buffalo Bills.
While the Patriots have plenty of talent to carry them while Gronkowski is out, his production will still be missed Monday night as he recorded five catches for 82 yards and two touchdowns a couple weeks ago against the Dolphins.
Miami gave its fans a welcomed change last week, posting a season-high in points, with a 35-9 win over the Denver Broncos. The win puts their record at 5-7 with games again the Patriots, Bills – twice, and Chiefs remaining.
With this week’s game being a must win if there is any chance left of earing a wild-card berth, here are five players to watch this week on Monday Night Football.
Due to both performance and injury to Damien Williams, Drake has been the featured running back in Miami since trading Jay Ajayi to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Drake has recorded a touchdown in three of the team’s last four games and ran for 120 yards and a touchdown in last week’s win over the Broncos. His 23 carries last week were also a career high as Drake was quoted after the game saying he couldn’t remember running the ball that much in a single game.
He’ll have to improve from his 20-yard rushing performance a couple of weeks ago against New England, but if the Dolphins can be effective running the ball and keep Tom Brady and the Patriots’ offense off the field, they may find themselves with an opportunity to still be in contention to win late in the fourth quarter.
Howard recorded his first career interception last week and proceeded to finish the game against the Broncos with two interceptions and a touchdown.
In the first meeting against the Patriots this year the defense allowed Brandin Cooks 83 yards and a touchdown as Cooks and an array of additional pass catchers were running free in the Dolphins’ secondary for the majority of the game as Brady connected on four touchdown passes.
This week will be a great test for Howard to see if he can carry over the momentum created from last week and back up his two-interception performance against one of the best that’s ever played the game.
Cutler was spared the embarrassment from playing in the game the last time these two teams met, but it wasn’t a very fun day for Matt Moore who started at quarterback in the first meeting against the Patriots as he finished with two interceptions while being sacked seven times.
The Dolphins’ offense was able to score two touchdowns through the air against Denver’s fourth-ranked pass defense last week, but Cutler did throw another two interceptions bringing his season total to 11.
One weakness of the Patriots has been their performance against opposing team’s quarterbacks, ranking 29th in the NFL in pass yards allowed per game, so it will be important for Cutler to connect on some shots down the field while also keeping his season interception total at 11 to have a chance against New England.
Burkhead has been on a bit of a heater recently posting five touchdowns in the Patriots’ last four games. Dolphins’ fans should remember a couple of those touchdowns as he scored both on the ground and through the air against Miami a couple weeks ago.
Receiving more action in the ground game recently with double-digit carries in three of their last four games, Burkhead has formed a solid pairing with fellow runningback, Dion Lewis, who has been the main ball carrier with the demotion of Mike Gillislee.
There’s no guarantee that Flowers plays in this game since he’s still wearing the questionable tag after missing last week’s game against the Bills, but if he does, the Dolphins will have to do a much better job containing him on Monday night if they want to be successful on offense.
Flowers posted two sacks and three and a half tackles for a loss in the first meeting against Miami, and has totaled six sacks and two forced fumble on the season.
Keeping Cutler upright may once again be a challenge for the Dolphins’ make shift offensive line, but it’s highly unlikely the Dolphins find themselves competitive in this game if Cutler gets tossed around like Moore did back in week 12.