Patriots vs. Dolphins Monday Night: Will Miami Even Keep the Score Close?
The Patriots had a dominating regular season in 2010, going 14-2. However, they were one-and-done against another division foe in the New York Jets.
New England restructured their defensive line and added Chad Ochocinco on offense to help get them over the hump in 2011.
The Dolphins have seen their fair share of roster moves as well. They lost Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, replacing them with rookie Daniel Thomas and Reggie Bush.
Most experts and fans will be taking the Patriots tonight, some by a landslide.
Here are four reasons that Miami will struggle to even keep this one close.
Lack of a Running Game
Over the past few years, Miami has had a more-than-respectable running game with the duo of Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. They balanced each other out and gave the Dolphins great versatility in the backfield.
Now, with both of those backs gone, they have to turn to alternative options. They drafted Daniel Thomas out of Kansas State in hopes that he could be the feature back of the future. Unfortunately, Thomas is questionable heading in to Monday night with a hamstring.
The Dolphins have brought back training camp pick-up Larry Johnson with the likelihood of Thomas being unavailable for Monday night.
Miami also added former Saint Reggie Bush in hopes of adding a third down and receiving option.
Regardless of who gets the majority of the touches, it will be tough for Miami to establish a run game. Larry Johnson's best carries are behind him. There is a reason he was available for Miami to pick up heading in to the weekend.
Bush has yet to prove that he can be anything more than a specialist. He is not the type of back to hammer the ball between the tackles 20 to 25 times a game.
If the Dolphins can't establish some sort of run threat, it will make for a very long night.
Lack of a Passing Game
Even though their running game is in very poor shape, the Dolphins passing game may be even worse.
Chad Henne is heading in to his fourth NFL season. He has yet to prove that he can be a big time quarterback at the NFL level. He holds the job simply because of lack of competition. His backup is Matt Moore, who is another career backup besides a short stint as the Panthers starter.
Things were so bad that there were even rumors that the Dolphins were considering Brett Favre as an option at quarterback. While those rumors were quickly shot down by both the Dolphins and Favre, it shows where things stand for Henne.
Henne has limited options on offense. His best target is Brandon Marshall, but their chemistry has been less than impressive. As I mentioned previously, their running game isn't going to be opening up the secondary for the former Michigan Wolverine.
I expect that the Dolphins are going to be playing from behind for most of the game. It will be Henne's responsibility to keep the game close.
I just don't believe he has it in him.
Bill Belichick's Game Planning
Bill Belichick has earned the reputation of being the master strategist. He will watch hours of film on the Dolphins and target their best weapons. Once he has identified them, he will do everything he can to take them out of the game.
Luckily for Patriots fans, Belichick isn't going to have too many weapons to worry about. The Dolphins offense has minimal options that can really take over the game against New England.
Belichick is going to throw a variety of looks at Henne to keep him guessing as well as apply large amounts of pressure with their new found pass rushers.
Brandon Marshall is going to be blanketed by Devin McCourty the entire game along with safety help over the top.
The toughest part for Miami is that even if they are able to surprise the Patriots in the first half, Belichick makes some of the best halftime adjustments of any coach in the NFL.
The Dolphins just don't have enough offensively to counter the Patriots defense and Belichick's system.
The Patriots Offense
One bright spot on the Miami Dolphins team is their defense. They have an above-average defense as well as some legitimate stars. The defense has been known to give even the best offenses in the league trouble.
However, they are matching up against one of the best offenses in the NFL.
Tom Brady and the New England Patriots offense have a variety of weapons that will keep any defense guessing. There is no reason to think that the Patriots offense won't be just as good as last year if not better.
As talented as the Dolphins defense is, I don't believe that they have enough talent to stop all of the Patriots weapons.
If the Dolphins offense struggles as expected, it will be an endless assault on the Dolphins defense. Eventually, Brady and the Patriots offense will find the holes and put up points.
Be sure to not miss kickoff because this game could get out of hand very quickly.