Dolphins vs Patriots live stream: A little early paranoia is nothing new to the Patriots.It was just last year that New England started 2-2 and many ruminated whether the AFC’s longtime standard bearer was finally bound to fall from its perch atop the conference. The questions were even louder for Bill Belichick and Co.Watch free now
Yet this year’s sluggish 1-2 start has something of a different feel after the franchise’s first consecutive double-digit losses since 2002. A third consecutive defeat Sunday might be legitimate cause for alarm, as it would open a three-game lead in the division for the unbeaten Dolphins.
The primary source for the Patriots’ offensive struggles has been the depleted receiving corps’ inability to provide a secondary threat next to Rob Gronkowski. Tom Brady has averaged just 5.5 yards per pass attempt to his wide receivers, according to ESPN, with a 57% completion rate on throws targeting them. While Julian Edelman’s return next week from a four-game suspension should boost the unit, New England needs to find a way to establish a threat on the outside against Miami. Josh Gordon could provide a much-needed deep threat if he makes his Patriots debut, but he’s listed as questionable with a hamstring injury and would be hard-pressed to become a consistent contributor in a complex offense.
The Dolphins’ defense also has ample reason for confidence against the Patriots after it held the attack to its second-lowest point total of the season in a 27-20 win last December. Cornerback Xavien Howard, who had two interceptions in the last meeting and is one of the league’s burgeoning shutdown defenders, could give Brady even stronger pause in looking to get things going with his receivers.
But the Dolphins still must formulate a game plan for containing Gronkowski, their longtime tormentor who missed the last matchup while serving a one-game suspension. Safety Reshad Jones noted the need to deny the tight end a free release. Handling the four-time all-pro should be a group effort.
Establishing pressure with just four rushers, long seen as the common thread for keeping Brady under wraps, will be paramount for the Dolphins. While Robert Quinn and Cameron Wake can be disruptive off the edge, Miami has little depth after William Hayes suffered a torn ACL and Andre Branch was ruled out for the week. Second-year defensive end Charles Harris will be counted on to provide pressure in a rotational role.
Third downs could also be a proving ground for the Dolphins. Miami didn’t allow New England to convert any of its 11 attempts in last season’s win but has come up short on 43.2% of third-down scenarios so far this season. Running backs James White and Sony Michel can create mismatches in the passing game against the Dolphins’ linebackers, though rookie Jerome Baker has fared well in coverage.
Here are four more matchups that could define Week 4 in the NFL:
Steelers WRs Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster vs. Ravens CBs Marlon Humphrey and Brandon Carr
Baltimore has allowed the second-fewest passing yards of any team this season, but the Ravens need no reminder of what their AFC North rival’s passing attack is capable of. With Smith sidelined by a torn Achilles last December, Brown broke out for 11 catches and 213 yards in a 39-38 win that sealed the division for Pittsburgh.
Ben Roethlisberger acknowledged he hasn’t been forcing the ball to Brown at the same level as in past seasons, though the four-time all-pro still has the second-most targets (42) of any player through three games. Don’t mistake the shift in balance, however, for a drop in efficiency. Roethlisberger has surpassed 300 yards in every contest this season thanks in part to the performance of Smith-Schuster, who leads the team with 27 catches and 356 receiving yards.
The Ravens are likely to give Humphrey the bulk of the work against Brown after he took over for Carr and allowed just two catches for seven yards against the Steelers star, according to Pro Football Focus. But Roethlisberger also might be content to look to Smith-Schuster and again pick on Carr, who allowed eight catches for 141 yards on 13 catches in last December’s meeting. Safeties Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson could play critical roles in providing additional help.
After ending the Browns’ 19-game winless streak last week against the Jets and taking over the starting role from Tyrod Taylor, Mayfield is already outpacing expectations from within the organization in his rookie season. As he becomes Cleveland’s 30th different starting quarterback since 1999 with his first start Sunday, the No. 1 overall pick will be asked to spark the offense despite working almost exclusively with the team’s backups to this point.
Mayfield won’t be catching anyone by surprise this week, including his teammates. But wide receiver Jarvis Landry said he and the rest of the team’s pass catchers were still adjusting to the velocity of the rookie’s passes; three of Mayfield’s six incompletions against the Jets were drops. Though he demonstrated a penchant for extending plays and creating on his own, his ability to handle pressure in the pocket remains a wild card.