Banged-up Dolphins get second crack at Patriots
The Miami Dolphins, trying to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2016, are set to play host to the New England Patriots on Sunday afternoon.
However, the Dolphins (8-5) are suffering through injury issues. Starting tight end Mike Gesicki did not practice on Wednesday due to a shoulder injury. He was injured in last Sunday’s 33-27 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
“I got a chance to see Mike after the game, and he’s really hurting,” Dolphins rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa said.
Other Dolphins starters who are questionable due to injury are wide receiver DeVante Parker (hamstring), guard Ereck Flowers (ankle), linebackers Elandon Roberts (chest) and Kyle Van Noy (hip) and safety Bobby McCain (ankle). McCain also missed Wednesday’s practice.
New England (6-7), staring at what likely is its first non-playoff season since 2008, beat Miami 21-11 in the season opener. But the Patriots have failed to win more than two consecutive games all season.
Miami has improved greatly since the opener — especially on defense — which explains why the Dolphins are 2.5-point favorites on Sunday. The improvement was also evident last season, the first for Miami’s Brian Flores as a head coach. The Patriots beat the Dolphins 43-0 in Week 2, but Miami won at New England 27-24 in the regular-season finale.
Flores, of course, was an assistant on the staff of Patriots coach Bill Belichick from 2008 to 2018.
Patriots quarterback Cam Newton — a former league MVP in 2015 — is 6-6 as a starter this season, throwing just five TD passes while getting intercepted 10 times.
Newton has done most of his damage on the ground, where he is second on the team in rushing (451 yards) and first in touchdowns (11). Newton previously had an abdomen injury, but he is not on this week’s injury report.
The Patriots are lacking in weapons, especially since wide receiver Julian Edelman has been injured much of the season. After catching 100 passes for 1,117 yards last season, Edelman, who has just 21 grabs in six games this season, returned to practice Wednesday and is “day to day,” Belichick said.
Defensively, J.C. Jackson has had a big year with seven interceptions, leading the Patriots in that category. The undrafted third-year player 15 picks in 42 games (19 starts).
Jackson (knee) is one of 11 Patriots players who was limited in practice this week, a list that also includes starters such as running back James White (foot), guard Shaq Mason (calf) and defensive lineman Lawrence Guy (shoulder).
For the Dolphins, all eyes are on Tagovailoa, the No. 5 overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft. Tagovailoa passed for a season-high 316 yards against the Chiefs.
Despite a lack of healthy, front-line starters at running back, receiver, tight end or on the offensive line, Tagovailoa is 4-2 as a starter, tossing nine TD passes with just one interception. However Tagovailoa was a bystander in the first meeting between the teams. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 191 yards and three INTs.
Much of the credit for Miami’s improvement from last season’s 5-11 record must go to its defense, which ranks second to the Pittsburgh Steelers in fewest points (245) allowed in the NFL this season. Defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah leads Miami with eight sacks, Van Noy has six and linebacker Jerome Baker has five while also leading the team with 89 tackles.
Cornerback Xavien Howard leads the NFL with nine interceptions. He also led the league in interceptions in 2018 (seven) and this looks like his second Pro Bowl season in three years.
–Field Level Media