3 keys to victory for Patriots in Week 8 matchup against Dolphins

The New England Patriots improved to 2-5 after surprisingly controlling the game and beating the Buffalo Bills last week.

Not only did the Patriots finally win a game when the defense gave up more than 24 points, but they also beat an opponent with a winning record and a quality starting quarterback. With that victory, the Patriots were able to keep their season alive.

As mentioned in the past, teams that start out with a 1-4 record, and in this case, 1-5, have less than a three percent chance of making the playoffs. The Patriots will need a miracle stretch of performances and consistency on the offensive side of the ball, if they wish to prove that statistic wrong.

They’ll need to take things one week at a time.

This week, New England will be playing an explosive offense that has beat up on some bad teams, including the Patriots in Week 2. But Dolphins have lost their matchups against winning teams. This is a real opportunity for the Patriots to improve to 3-5 before a favorable stretch of opponents.

Here are the keys to the game for the Patriots ahead of Sunday’s matchup:

Offensive line continuity

Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports
Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

Fans have been calling for Mike Onwenu to start at right tackle since training camp due to the lack of real tackle talent on the roster. Last week, the Patriots finally changed the lineup and put Onwenu outside, while starting Sidy Sow in his place at right guard.

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that they looked the best they have all season.

If the Patriots wish to win this game, they’ll need to remain healthy on the line and keep that starting five from the week prior. Sow had one of the best games of any interior lineman last week.

His PFF grade was 86.4 overall, with a 85.5 run-block grade and a 74.9 pass-blocking grade on the week. But the Patriots’ offensive line as a whole was very good with only seven pressures, one quarterback hit and no sacks against the Bills’ front-seven.

Perhaps the offensive line unit is finally hitting its stride, but hopefully, it’s not too late.

Turnover-free football

Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots’ offensive line played very well, and Mac Jones was near perfect with an 83 percent completion rate.

Even so, Jones needs to continue to prove he’s the same highly-accurate passer he was in college and in his first year in the pros, by playing turnover-free football for a second straight week.

Another element to ball security will be winning the time of possession. The Patriots will need to keep the ball for long, sustained drives, if they want to slow down the Miami offense. Their defense needs a break, and the offense has another chance at controlling and winning the game for them. But it starts with possession time and playing mistake-free football.

Any free chances, and the Miami offense will pick them apart.

Control the WR/CB matchups all game

Billie Weiss/Getty Images
Billie Weiss/Getty Images

With Christian Gonzalez out, the Patriots will need to rely on J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones and Jack Jones to slow down Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle.

However, on the flip side, the Dolphins are expected to have Jalen Ramsey in the defensive backfield for the first time since suffering a knee injury in training camp. Ramsey and fellow Dolphins Pro Bowl cornerback Xavien Howard could truly throw a wrench in the plan for the Patriots to play turnover-free football.

The duo will be going up against Demario “Pop” Douglas and Kendrick Bourne as the Patriots’ top-two receiver options. So the Patriots’ receivers will have a tough task this week. The offensive line will also be tested in their ability to give Mac Jones the time he needs to make the right throws with a crowded airspace.

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Story originally appeared on Patriots Wire