For the New England Patriots, Sunday Is Do or Die

Ryan BurnsAnalyst INovember 19, 2008

For the Patriots to make the playoffs in this topsy-turvy NFL season, they need to treat Sunday's game versus the resurgent Dolphins as a playoff game.

After losing a heartbreaker at home last Thursday to the New York Jets, the Patriots are now tied for second place in the division with the Miami Wildcats, I mean Dolphins, setting up a huge game in Florida on Sunday.

Sure, the Pats are 6-4 and playing well enough to make the playoffs, but due to their 2-2 record in the division and tiebreaking losses to the Fish and the Colts, the Pats would be watching the playoffs if they were to start today.

So how can the Patriots stop the Dolphins, considering Miami destroyed them in September?

Control the ball.

This Patriots team is a far better team than they were in Week Three, but that being said, so is Miami. Matt Cassel had a record setting game against the Jets, which may have been what he needed headed into this match up. 

He is clearly more comfortable in the offense and has made better throws as the season progresses. The Patriots will need to control the clock to keep them in this game, as their suspect defense has let them down time and time again this season.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Pats need to do a better job in long yardage situations, as giving up a first down on 3rd-and-15 last week was simply inexcusable. 

Injuries have ravaged the team as Terrence Wheatley was the latest player to go down. Ty Warren's status is still uncertain as the Patriots are expected to release more information as we get closer to game time.

Much has been made of Miami's wildcat offense, but in recent weeks, it has produced diminishing results, as teams are now more apt to shut down whatever play they choose to run. Coach Belichick has undoubtedly gone over the tapes from their game in September, giving the Pats extra preparation for the Fins. 

The Patriots simply must win this game in order to get some sort of momentum back.  The last thing that this team needs is another division loss, which would not only hurt their playoff chances but would also make every game from here on out as important as a playoff game.

Let's face it, the Patriots have been here before and know what is at stake. Bill simply will not lose to the same team twice in a season, and thanks to the extra preparation, the Patriots should win this one, helping their playoff chances in the process.