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Three Keys

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Three Keys | John Congemi Previews Dolphins at Patriots

1) Match Patriots' intensity

New England is still fighting for that elusive second seed and a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs. There is zero doubt in my mind that the Patriots will come out focused and fast, poised to put the game out of reach early in the first half. Miami must find a way to lock-in and match that energy and execute early in the game, against arguably the best overall talent in the AFC. If the Dolphins can withstand that initial rush of tempo by quarterback Tom Brady's passing attack, or on offense convert their first third down opportunity to take the crowd out of the game, that's the start they'll need to stay competitive early in the game.

2) Erase Edelman

The combination of Tom Brady to Julian Edelman is the match-up the Miami defense must find a way to alter. Edelman has a knack for exploiting man to man coverage with his quickness and body control. He can also be a beast verses zone coverage because he can find the small creases with his crafty route running. The huge task will be to make Brady look elsewhere to make others beat you. Sometimes it's a win on defense when Brady checks it down to running back James White and Rex Burkhead. New England has been able to run the ball better, especially in last week's win over the Bills rushing for 143 yards, so that might also be a high priority for the Patriots this week. If the Patriot plan is to use Edelman sparingly, that's great news for the defense. Miami must prepare to slow down Edelman, and adjust accordingly if game plan is to grind it out against the Dolphins defense.

3) Win turnover margin

It's a tall task to win in all three phases against a complete team like New England. Their offense has scored 24 plus points in each of their last two games and the defense is allowing just 13.2 points per game. Those numbers tell me that Miami must protect the ball on offense and find ways to take it away on defense. The Dolphins have been very good over the last eight games in protecting the football, losing the turnover margin only twice over the last two months. Starting field position will be important early in the game, especially for the Dolphins offense. The last thing you want to see on Sunday is Tom Brady setting up shop first and ten around mid-field to start an offensive drive. It will also be paramount for the Miami offense to generate a first down or two when backed up inside their own twenty yard line. Losing field position usually leads to easy points for Brady and company.

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