The Miami Dolphins (3-3) did not look the part of a playoff contender by losing at home to Thad Lewis and the Buffalo Bills today, bringing their losing streak to three. The New England Patriots (5-2) were similarly killed by major mistakes from the quarterback position in dropping an overtime thriller against the New York Jets. The passers possess far different resumes but both have questions to answer this week.
NFL Week 8 Matchup: Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots (1 p.m. ET Sunday)
Predicted Spread: Patriots by 6 (Early Spread: Patriots by 6.5)
After dealing with frustrating rookies and Danny Amendola injuries for six weeks, Tom Brady finally got Rob Gronkowski back in Week 7 — while intriguing receivers like Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson enter the season’s second leg with early experience for a couple rookies, each showing gradual improvement. However, Brady must improve his own performance for the Pats offense to finally find its form. It could prove quite necessary given the spate of injuries hitting Aqib Talib, Vince Wilkfork, Jerod Mayo and the defensive corps.
Miami really ran through a gauntlet before hitting their Week 6 bye: winning at the Indianapolis Colts, getting overwhelmed at the New Orleans Saints and playing the Baltimore Ravens to the wire. Going 1-2 and playing most of that slate tough was impressive but some horrible mistakes and turnovers by Ryan Tannehill today still keep the jury out on the quarterback being a worthy top-10 selection. They also must get Lamar Miller going more consistently for this team has a shot in the AFC East.
Key Matchup: Rob Gronkowski vs. Dolphins LBs/Secondary
The Gronk makes this offense go. Literally the ultimate non-QB X-factor, this offense’s ceiling raises dramatically when he’s on-field and involved. The Dolphins’ safety pairing of Chris Clemons and Reshad Jones are following a strong 2012 with a rather uneven year, and this secondary’s been roasted by Gronkowski before. It will also be interesting to see how much (or little) work Philip Wheeler and the ‘Fins backers get against this matchup nightmare.