Saturday, December 29, 2012 Analysis - Foxboro Freeeze

Friday, December 28, 2012

Foxboro Freeeze to Slow Down Dolphins and Patriots: Anyone Got A Snow Blower?

After a relatively mild winter up to now but this past midweek snowstorm completely engulfed the East Coast and left it a winter wonderland. So Sunday when the New England Patriots host the Miami Dolphins in Foxboro, frigid winter weather conditions will be in full effect. forecasts a 30% chance of precipitation with snow expected in the morning and likely later on in the day. The high temperature will max out around 32 and a Northeastern wind is expected to swirling between 10 and 16 mph. So which will the Dolphins struggle to handle with the most, Mother Nature or the league’s top offense?

To be frank, the ‘Phins typically struggle in December and January; especially when they play the Pats where they’re 1-6 since Tom Brady took over the reigns. And according to the Historical Analytics, Miami is 2-3 in their recent December away games while the Pats are 7-1 at home in the wintery month.

Even though the Jacksonville Jaguars nearly tripped up New England a week ago, with a potential first round bye still in the picture it’s unlikely Bill Belichick will let that coveted week off slip away, especially given all the defensive lapses his team has faced in recent weeks, injury related or not. But after surging to the forefront of the AFC title race and passing the eye test of a genuine Super Bowl contender, the 49ers made the long haul from San Francisco and took a 31-10 lead into the fourth quarter while mercilessly ripping through the suspect Pats’ defense in a damp and dense fog. The weather was a factor then and it stunted the entire offense and there’s a good chance of repeating.

Despite being the NFL’s best in yards and total points, the New England offense hasn’t looked it recently. Much has to do with a struggling offensive that’s getting Brady roughed up and forcing him into poor passing decisions. For the first time in seemingly forever has Brady thrown multiple picks in back-to-back games. A suspect o-line and a windy snowstorm should keep the Pats offensive game plan pretty grounded. With Brady under constant pressure and the natural elements likely to have an obvious effect of play calling, it’s up to Stevan Ridley and Danny Woodhead to find seams in the Miami defense.

However, the Dolphins can contain the run relatively well. Ranked 10th in the league holding their opposition to under 105 rushing yards per game and tied for tops in the league giving up 67 first downs from the run. With bad weather impacting the Pats’ high-octane aerial assault, they’ll desperately want to extend drives by grinding it out between the tackles and a stout Dolphins front seven could keep that New England offense in a funk. 

But one offense that has been noticeably improving and a young quarterback who’s evolving into a leader has been the ‘Phins and rookie Ryan Tannehill. Not having thrown an interception since late November, he’s making the right decisions and avoiding forcing the ball just to get rid of it. Given, this week’s weather conditions will compel the game plan to revolve around Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas but Tannehill will be called upon to convert crucial first downs. If he can avoid costly turnovers, especially in their own end of the field, Miami might be able to pull off what the Jaguars couldn’t.

Swirling winds in the frozen air will be a piercing feeling for players and fans alike. Even though the Dolphins don’t have many opportunities to play in the snow, this is a golden opportunity to deny their rivals a much needed week off. Even though the postseason is out of the question, an upset in snowy Foxboro would be coal in the stocking for Brady and company.

Will Strome Columnist
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