Patriots vs. Dolphins NFL Week 18 Picks and Predictions

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Kristian Wilkerson #17 of the New England Patriots celebrates with teammates. Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images/AFP.

The New England Patriots end their season in Miami against their division rivals, the Dolphins. Miami has been eliminated from the playoffs, while New England is still playing for their playoff seeding. The Patriots have more to play for but are they the right NFL pick?

New England Patriots vs. Miami Dolphins

Sunday, January 09, 2022 – 04:25 PM EST at Hard Rock Stadium

New England Patriots

After a week 16 loss to the Buffalo Bills, the Patriots took out their frustrations against the Jacksonville Jaguars in week 17. The Patriots ran up the score winning 50-10. The game was complete and total domination and was essentially decided at the end of the first quarter.

Patriots quarterback Mac Jones has been playing well and is a serious contender for Rookie of the Year. He threw for three touchdown passes against the Jaguars and continued his penchant for avoiding turnovers. The three touchdowns set a franchise record for touchdown passes by a rookie with 21 touchdowns on the year.

One concern for the Patriots, however, had to be running back Damien Harris leaving the Jaguars game with a hamstring injury. Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson form a terrific tandem in the backfield for New England. Patriots like to establish the run to keep the pressure off their young quarterback. They have done a great job in utilizing the run game to put Jones in a position to succeed.

The true plaudits for the Patriots' success have to be from the defense though. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is known for his innovative defensive schemes which give opponents multiple looks. Oftentimes in just one play before the snap at the line of scrimmage. The ability to confuse opposing quarterbacks has led the Patriots to have the best OPPG (opponent point-per-game) in the NFL at 16.9. In contrast, the Miami Dolphins are close to 5 points higher at 21.8. The Patriots are an old-fashioned football team. They like to run the ball and play great defense.

Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins had a rollercoaster of a season. The Dolphins started the season 1-7 and then reeled off seven wins in a row to get to 8-7 and keep them in the playoff hunt. The resurgence ended in Tennessee last Sunday as the Titans thoroughly defeated them 34-3.

The Dolphins prefer the style of play employed by the Patriots and Bill Belichick. This is because Dolphins head coach Brian Flores learned the game under Belichick. Flores previously was successful as the New England Patriots defensive coordinator. These two coaches know each other well and teach the same strategies.

With the Dolphins' season ending, they will need to make some tough decisions going into next year. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is currently one of the most controversial player evaluations in the NFL. Once ranked the top QB prospect in the NFL draft, Tua has not set the NFL on fire. Tua has compiled strong statistics, especially a gaudy completion percentage. Tua is 7th in the NFL with a completion percentage of 67.8%. Still, many observers doubt his ability to get it done against the top teams in the NFL. This doubt was confirmed when he essentially was a no-show in the game against the Titans, and the offense looked anemic.

So while many think the Dolphins will not be motivated for this game, it is a great opportunity for many players such as Tua Tagovailoa to prove they belong in the NFL. Many on the Dolphins offense will see this as an audition for future NFL work, whether or not it be on the Dolphins. A good game against the top defense in the NFL could help to convince the team to bring him back as the number one quarterback this season.

Key Matchup

Patriots Defensive Line vs. Dolphins Offensive Line

Supporters of Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa will point to the fact that he has one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. It is hard to be successful with defensive ends constantly in your face pressuring for sacks. Many quarterbacks have looked much better once the offensive line play in front of them has improved.

If the Dolphins want to have a chance to compete in this game they're going to need to stop the pressure coming from the Patriots' elite defensive line. If the Patriots are able to pressure Tua consistently, they will once again shut down their opposing team's offense and cruise to an easy victory. If Dolphins head coach Brian Flores can help develop an offensive blocking scheme to mitigate the Patriots pass rush, the Dolphins have a good chance to pull off the season-ending upset.

Best Bet

Unfortunately for Dolphins fans, I do not believe that the Dolphins blocking scheme will be able to get it done against the Patriots. It's already tough to run on the Patriots, and if the Dolphins don't give the quarterback a lot of time, he will not be able to make the big plays necessary to keep this competitive.

The Patriots' defense is just too good, and with something to play for, it means trouble for their division rivals. The best bet for this game is the New England Patriots - 7.

NFL Pick: New England Patriots - 7 (-110) at BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review)

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New England Patriots - 7 (-110)
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