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Miami Dolphins

Gamenight – Dolphins out to prove they are ready for prime time

Roy Cummings

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David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

What: Miami Dolphins (5-7) vs. New England Patriots (10-2)

Where: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens

When: 8:30 p.m.

Latest line/Over-under: Dolphins +11.5/48.5

 

Why you should watch

 Forget about Dan Akroyd Chevy Chase and John Belushi. The real Not Ready for Prime Time Players are the Miami Dolphins. They are 0-3 in the prime time games they’ve played already this year, which begs the question, who ever thought they were worthy of so much prime time exposure in the first place? Sure, the Dolphins made the playoffs last year but only as a wild card team that got knocked out in the first round. It’s apparent that someone envisioned this game being a key battle in the fight for the AFC title, and it might have been had Ryan Tannehill stayed healthy, Hurricane Irma not struck Florida and Lawrence Timmons not gone off the reservation. All that contributed to a horrid start for a Dolphins team that has never recovered, but this game is sort of like their playoff game. This is a chance for the Dolphins to deal a bit of a blow to the Patriots hopes of securing home-field advantage and prove they still have it in them to go toe to toe with one of the league’s heavyweights. Don’t be surprised, though, if like a lot of the sketches you see on Saturday Night Live these days, they fall flat.

 

Key on: Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard.

 NFL types will tell you that takeaways come in bunches and Howard can certainly attest to that. After going 19 games across two seasons without picking off a pass, Howard snared a pair of them against the Broncos last week. If he can keep up the pace against the Patriots tonight it will be a sign Howard may indeed have what it takes to be the No. 1 corner the Dolphins drafted him to be. A second-round pick out of Baylor in 2016, Howard still has a lot of flaws in his game and Tom Brady will expose them if Howard isn’t on so this is a good test for a young player who is starting to show signs of substantial growth. The Dolphins may very well be without fellow corner Cordrea Tankersley tonight and if they are a lot of the responsibility for keeping the Patriots contained will fall to Howard. How he responds will say a lot about whether the Dolphins are on the right track in the secondary.

 

Statistically speaking

The Dolphins would be wise to lean hard on Jarvis Landry in their passing game tonight. For starters, the fact that five of the last 16 passes Dolphins quarterbacks have thrown to DeVante Parker have wound up in their opponent’s hands should be enough to scare them off throwing Parker’s way. But there is also the fact that in the first meeting between these two teams, Landry had a very successful day working from the slot, catching five of six passes passes for 46 yards. Not only that, but Landry currently ranks 14th overall among slot receivers in catch rate (75.4), according to Pro Football Focus. Landry will likely be matched again against cornerback Jonathan Jones, who ranks 12th in passer rating allowed in the slot with an 81.7 mark, but Landry has already proved he can win a matchup between the two and he very well may prove it again.

Roy Cummings is a native of Chicago, Illinois who grew up in the suburb of Lombard. He and his family later moved to Lakeland, Florida, where Roy attended high school at Kathleen High. He graduated from the University of South Florida with a Bachelor's Degree in Mass Communications in 1983 and immediately went to work for the Tampa Tribune. After five years working in a Polk County bureau covering everything from high school sports to college football to the Orlando Magic of the NBA, Roy moved back to Tampa and became the Tribune's first beat writer for the Tampa Bay Lightning, covering the team from its inception through the first eight years on the ice. He was then moved to the Buccaneers beat, where he stayed until the paper was folded in May, 2016. A two-time Florida Sports Writer of the Year, Roy has extensive experience covering all Tampa professional sports teams, including the Tampa Bay Rays.

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