The Miami Dolphins are on a tear since firing Joe Philbin and installing Dan Campbell as the interim coach, but can they stand up to the mighty, undefeated New England Patriots? Don Banks makes his pick for Week 8 Thursday Night Football below.
• Last week: 10–4; Season: 69–36 (.657).
• Best pick in Week 7: Washington 23, Tampa Bay 20 (Actual score: Washington 31–30).
• Worst pick in Week 7: Pittsburgh 27, Kansas City 13 (Actual score: Chiefs 23–13).
Interim Dolphins coach Dan Campbell likes to talk about his plan to “wake the sleeping giant” in Miami, and so far he’s done just that, going 2–0 with what had been a lethargic and losing team under the deposed Joe Philbin. But I wonder how Campbell will fare in his first crack at slaying the giant, because that’s what a trip to New England represents for any AFC East opponent: A chance to knock off a Patriots team that has thoroughly dominated the division for going on 15 years now.
Miami trouncing the Titans and Texans by a combined score of 82–36 has grabbed everyone’s attention, and squared the Dolphins’ record at 3–3, but let’s be honest, beating up on the AFC South this season is akin to competing in the Cupcake Division. The wins are sweet, but not really all that sustaining.
That’s why Miami’s real turnaround work starts now, against a Patriots team that just toughed out a 30–23 win at home against the vastly-improved Jets, and stands 6–0 for the first time since its near-perfect Super Bowl season of 2007. If the Dolphins want to make a statement about their new, more aggressive persona, nothing would speak louder than going into Foxboro and upsetting a New England team that has lost once in its past 22 home games, including the playoffs.
The Dolphins have often given the Patriots fits in South Florida, but it has been a while since they were truly competitive at Gillette Stadium. Miami has lost six in a row and 12 of 14 in Foxboro, being routed by a combined 96–30 in the past three seasons, with Philbin in charge. Maybe Miami has truly closed that gap almost overnight and will finally take a confident team into Gillette under Campbell, but we’re going to have to see it once to fully believe it. Better than any team in the league, the Patriots know how to stay patient in a game and let an upset-minded opponent over-play its hand. Then, when the game is there to be won, New England usually makes the decisive plays.
I love what we’ve heard and seen from Campbell, and he has the Dolphins playing with more emotion and energy than anybody has been able to coax out of them in years and years. But the past two games hardly tell the whole story. We’ll know much more about Miami soon enough though, because tonight’s game starts a span of playing four of its next five games on the road, including all three of the Dolphins’ division away games. If Campbell’s team really is a giant-in-the-making, we’ll see a massive growth spurt take place between now and the start of December.