Despite the reports of their demise, the New England Patriots are doing fine and well, thank you. At least it seemed that way Sunday in the Meadowlands as the Pats took care of the Jets 19-10 with backup now starter Matt Cassel playing the role of quarterback. He was calm and cool, and didn’t throw a pick or make many bad mistakes that put the Pats in a bad position. Now things should be a little easier for Cassel and the Pats, as they play host Sunday to the 0-2 Dolphins.
Miami is much improved over the 1-15 product that was the NFL’s whipping boy last year, but let’s face it, they still have a long way to go. They are still a work in progress on offense, as they allowed the Cardinals to lead 14-0 less than 10 minutes into the game Sunday, and against the Jets in the opener, they trailed 20-7 1:08 into the third quarter. This forced offensive coordinator Dan Henning to abandon the running game that wasn’t working anyway.
It also put the pressure on QB Chad Pennington, who was not able to get the team to turn the corner. He was pulled in the Cardinals game, but coach Tony Sparano has said he will start against New England. If the Fins want to pull the upset, they have to start better, and that means the running game of Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown, who have averaged just 2.6 yards per carry after two games, have to play better.
It will be up to the Dolphins defense to finally step up as well. Versus the Cardinals, they did little to stop the passing game of Kurt Warner throwing to targets Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald. Cassel still has Randy Moss and Wes Welker, and will use them a lot if the Fins secondary allows it. Look for Miami to try and put pressure on Cassel to try and force them to turn to the running game.
The Pats D played well vs the Jets, and should have similar success vs Miami. They kept Brett Favre off guard, and will likely do that to Pennington with blitzes and then zone coverages that will allow nothing to get past them. Favre made some costly mistakes that allowed the Pats to build a lead, and they will look for Pennington to turn the ball over as well and give the Pats easy scoring chances.
This game sets up perfect for New England, as it again allows Cassel and the offense to take steps forward against a team that is better, but still not in the class of the AFC Champs. Look for Miami to keep it close early, but by the third quarter the Pats will have more than enough to put the game and Miami away.