Despite the New England Patriots heading into their regular season finale against the lowly-Miami Dolphins with a playoff berth clinched, they are still treating their Week 17 matchup like a playoff game. That is why bringing their A-game against former Patriot Brian Flores and the Dolphins will be important if New England wants to notch their 13th win of the season.
Let's go over the three keys that will help the Patriots come out with a victory in Week 17.
1) The letdown factor
The Dolphins are 4-11 on the season, but they have been a tough team to play in the last few weeks. They beat the Cincinnati Bengals last week with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing four touchdowns. This week, Flores would love nothing more than to play spoiler against his former team.
New England is a veteran-filled team led by a coach and a quarterback that will not let players take any game for granted. The Patriots know how important getting a first-round playoff bye is for their postseason success, as they have never made a Super Bowl while having to play on Wild Card weekend.
It is tough to see New England coming out flat in such an important game after such a big win last week vs. Buffalo.
2) Tom Brady and the offense
The offense had their best game of the season last week against Buffalo. The running game controlled the clock and Tom Brady had more time in the pocket than he has had all season.
While one week of success on offense was nice, the Patriots need to prove that one good week of offensive play was not a fluke. Putting together back-to-back strong performances can give the team and the fan base much more confidence heading into the playoffs.
Look for New England to continue putting more emphasis on the run game. Getting Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead going can help sustain long drives and can help control the clock against future playoff opponents.
3) Getting Healthy
The Patriots had six players on the injury report this week who only practiced with limited participation. Linebackers Ja’Whaun Bentley and Jamie Collins have knee and shoulder issues respectively, offensive tackle Marcus Cannon is battling an ankle injury, and cornerbacks Jonathan Jones and Jason McCourty both have groin injuries. Julian Edelman has both knee and shoulder injuries.
All those players could use an extra week of rest but possibly none more than Julian Edelman. No other player in the NFL takes as much of a pounding than Edelman who has arguably been New England’s team MVP this season.
The NFL is a war of attrition and usually the team that is healthier is the last team standing. A healthy roster is key to the Patriots Super Bowl prospects.