This week's Monday Night Football match up will pin the New England Patriots up against the Miami Dolphins in their first of two meetings for the 2010 season.
Both teams are coming off of divisional games, the Patriots defeated the Bills in an unlikely nail-biter, and the Dolphins fell to the Jets in a heartbreaker.
The last time the Dolphins and Patriots faced off in prime time, Miami shocked the eventual Super Bowl Champion Pats in a 2004 Monday Night game. Can the Dolphins conjure that magic again? Here are 10 things to watch for on Monday night.
New England Patriots future first ballot hall of fame wide receiver Randy Moss is a beast. He is not a member of Homo sapien sapien species. And Moss' alien appetite includes Miami Dolphin defensive backs. Look at his last few outings against the 'Fins:
2009, Week 12: 2 receptions, 66 yards, 1 TD
2009, Week 8: 6 receptions, 147 yards, 1 TD
2008, Week 11: 8 receptions, 125 yards, 3 TD
2007, Week 15: 5 receptions, 50 yards, 2 TD
2007, Week 7: 4 receptions, 122 yards, 2 TD
Moss took the Dolphins duo of rookie cornerbacks to school last year, but this year he will face a vastly improved Vontae Davis. Fingers crossed, Dolfans.
Anchored by the likes of A.J. Feeley, Sammy Morris, Derrius Thompson, Randy McMichael, Morlon Greenwood, and Sammy Knight (Okay, Zach Thomas, Jason Taylor, Patrick Surtain, and Chris Chambers were there too), the 2004 Dolphins squared off against the New England Patriots on a Monday Night match up in Miami. The Dolphins had recently fired Dave Wannstedt, and were under the direction of interim head coach Jim Bates.
Miami, donning their mystical Orange uniforms, sat at a dismal 2-11, directly contrasting with the Patriots' 11-2 record. Long story short, the Dolphins shocked the Pats, who would eventually capture their third Super Bowl championship later that season.
Today, Miami and New England are relatively on par with each other, but after a heartbreaking loss to Gang Green, might the Dolphins conjure this magic once again?
Dustin Keller's out-of-body performance against the Dolphins on Sunday night should have come as no surprise. The Dolphins flat out cannot contain opposing tight ends. It is well documented.
Last season, Miami surrendered huge games to Dallas Clark (7 receptions, 183 yards, 1 TD), Jeremy Shockey (4 receptions, 85 yards), Tony Gonzalez (5 receptions, 73 yards, 1 TD) and Kellen Winslow (7 receptions, 102 yards).
Despite their troubling struggles with tight ends, Miami has already surrendered a 6 reception, 86 yard game to Vikings tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, and a 6 reception, 98 yard, two touchdown game to Jets tight end Dustin Keller.
The Patriots pack a double dose of dangerous tight ends in rookies Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, and they present serious problems for this Dolphins defense.
Finally, finally, finally.
After two weeks of cringe-worthy conservative play calling, the Dolphins, trailing 14-0 in the second quarter, were forced to let Chad Henne throw the ball. And it paid dividends.
Henne completed 26 of 44 passes for 363 yards, tossing two touchdowns and one interception (last play of the game) in the process. Nobody, besides seemingly the Dolphins themselves, doubt that Henne can be a very productive quarterback in this league, especially with Brandon Marshall in his arsenal.
Next week, Miami faces the Patriots' 25th ranked pass defense. New England will score points early and often, so let's hope the Dolphins do not wait for a deficit to build before opening up the passing game.
Pundits nationwide repeatedly brought up Brandon Marshall's 2008, 18 catch game against Antonio Cromartie and the San Diego Chargers in the days leading up to Sunday night's game. Marshall did not quite replicate that performance, but he did grab 10 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown, his first in a Dolphin uniform.
This week, things look even better for Marshall. He and the Dolphins are matched up against the New England Patriots' 25th ranked pass defense.
The Beast's mouth is watering, and you can bet on him going bananas.
His name has been seldom called by announcers, but Dolphins sophomore cornerback Sean Smith might have a chance to reclaim his role in Miami's secondary on Monday night.
Everybody needs to calm down. Yes, Jason Allen was demoralized by Braylon Edwards, but Allen cannot be expected to shut down such dominant receivers. He has been tremendous this season, and will continue to be a main contributor and starting cornerback for this team.
But the Dolphins drafted Sean Smith for games like this, where they would be matched up with tall Randy Moss-esque receivers. After last week, it will be difficult for Tony Sparano to trust Jason Allen on Randy Moss, and Sean Smith might get his best chance at redemption yet.
Nifty third down back Kevin Faulk is out for the season with a torn ACL, and the Patriots may miss feature back Fred Taylor for the second straight week.
Taylor is not exactly a game-breaker, but the fewer running backs the Dolphins have to prepare for, the better.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, a.k.a The Law Firm, will likely assume the bulk of the Patriots carries if Taylor misses another game with a lingering toe injury.
Over the past two seasons, the New England Patriots have served as guinea pigs for the Dolphins latest offensive concoctions.
Miami debuted the Wildcat on the Patriots in 2008, and last year, let Pat White run a pseudo-spread offense which featured a handful of successful speed option plays (And was instrumental in Miami's win).
A few weeks ago, rumors circulated that Tyler Thigpen would be activated as Miami's second quarterback. Obviously, if Chad Henne were to go down with injury, Chad Pennington would get the call from the bullpen; however, Thigpen is a very nifty, speedy quarterback who could make for a deadly Wildcat personnel. And if there was ever a time for the Dolphins to unveil some new formation, Monday night might be that time.
Throughout the Preseason, the Dolphins were slaughtered on kickoff returns and special teams as a whole. They allowed multiple punt blocks, and big kick and punt returns to various players.
Buffalo's Roscoe Parrish return a punt for 19 yards against the Dolphins in Week 1, but up until Sunday night, that was the biggest, and quite frankly, the only big play Miami's special teams had yielded.
However, despite two weeks of relative smooth sailing, this special teams unit imploded against the Jets. Dan Carpenter booted a kickoff out of bounds, the Jets blocked a punt, and Brad Smith returned a kick for 54 yards.
These mistakes played an instrumental role in the Dolphins' loss, and may have ultimately cost them the game. Miami must correct their special teams mishaps, and they must do it now.
Since the Tom Brady era began in New England in 2001, the Patriots have captured three Super Bowl titles and a perfect regular season record. Brady's Achilles' heel, however, is playing Miami. He is a career 3-5 at Pro Player/Dolphin/Dolphins/LandShark/Sun Life stadium, and two of those victories came in very tight games.
There's no science behind Brady and the Pats' struggles, but for one reason or another, Miami always seems to have his number.
Like match ups with the Jets, when the Dolphins and Patriots meet up, great games always seem to transpire.