« Hartline: Beat New England, turn attention to Buffalo | Main | Keys to the game: Dolphins vs. Patriots »

Clearing out the notebook: Friday edition

The Dolphins have two home games remaining and that should be a big deal because Baltimore, for example, plays only one more home game. And playing at home is supposed to be better than playing on the road.

Except this year the Dolphins haven't exactly done a great job of protecting their house. They're 3-3 in six games at home and would have to win their final two games at home to merely tie the 5-3 home mark they posted last year.

So how would coach Joe Philbin grade Miami's play at home this year?

"About 3-3.  Seriously, we have to play better," Philbin said. "I think the fans have gotten their money’s worth in terms of excitement in relation to the games have gone down to, literally all six games have been almost to the last play of the game if I’m not mistaken.  We have to do better, we have to do better."

----------

Do you recall the 2011 season-opener? The Patriots threw for 500 yards. They had a 99-yard pass play from Tom Brady to Wes Welker. They won the game 38-24.

Nolan Carroll remembers that game.

I talked to Carroll about that game this week. If you recall, both Vontae Davis and Sean Smith suffered cramps that night. Carroll had to substitute in for both players.

And as if on cue, the moment he came in the game, Tom Brady went to work on him. Three consecutive passes to Carroll's side went for completions including a TD pass. I asked Carroll if he agreed that he got picked on that night?

"Yes," he said.

Well, earlier this year, the Dolphins managed Dimitri Patterson's groin injury in such a way that he was able to start the October game at New England. And Patterson played well. But he had to come out in the second half for a series and when that happened, Carroll came in the game.

Carroll had started five previous games in Patterson's place but, again, as soon as he entered the game, Tom Brady went after him. And the Patriots connected on a 14-yard touchdown pass in which Brady went to Aaron Dobson who was matched out left against ... Nolan Carroll.

Carroll is a starting cornerback the rest of the season apparently with Patterson now on injured reserve. Is he worried Brady is going to be picking on him Sunday as has happened in the past?

"That doesn't worry me," Carroll said. "What happened years ago has no affect on me. I'm a different player than I was then. This is a new game."

Carroll better be ready because the Patriots seemingly always know where he is.

----------

The Dolphins had no answer for covering Darren Sproles out of the backfield the fourth week of the season when they played New Orleans.

Well, on Sunday they face Shane Vereen (who missed the first meeting between Miami and New England due to his wrist injury) and he is a defacto wide receiver coming out of the backfield -- a matchup nightmare for linebackers.

Vereen has been active only five games but already he leads all NFL running backs with 74.6 yard per game receiving average. He has 40 catches for 373 yards. Last week he caught 12 passes for 153 yards against Cleveland.

Phillip Wheeler or Jimmy Wilson better bring their A-game on Sunday.

----------

I hate doing playoff projections, but I feel the need to clear up some confusion that Thursday night's San Diego victory over the Denver Broncos may have caused.

Multiple people on my twitter timeline (Follow me @ArmandoSalguero) were saying that if the Dolphins, Ravens and Chargers all end up with the same record, the fact the Chargers enter the scenario and turn it into a three-team race erases Baltimore's current edge over Miami built by a head-to-head victory.

Not necessarily true.

If for example, the three teams finish 9-7 and are tied for the sixth and final playoff seed, the Ravens would still be the qualifying team if the one loss they suffer is this weekend to NFC opponent Detroit. In other words, the Ravens could lose to Detroit but if they beat two AFC opponents -- New England and Cincinnati -- they would still be the 9-7 team getting in the playoffs.

If, however, the Ravens beat Detroit but lose to either New England or the Bengals, they would be 9-7 but the 9-7 Dolphins would be getting in the playoffs ahead of them, assuming the Chargers are also 9-7. (If the Chargers drop off, the Ravens again win out over Miami based on head-to-head meetings).

Bottom line: The Ravens can obviously build a seemingly hefty lead in the playoff chase against the Dolphins and Chargers if they win this weekend while the Dolphins lose to the Patriots. But if the Dolphins recover the final two weeks of the season, and the Chargers keep winning, and the Ravens stumble in one of their two remaining games against AFC opponents, the Dolphins would jump ahead of Baltimore.

If we're talking teams going 8-8 that's a whole different formula that might involve other teams and it's too early for that now. 

Glad I made that totally clear for you.

----------

The Dolphins have lost seven in a row to the Patriots. I picked Miami to win on Sunday. I think the loss of Rob Gronkowski is devestating to New England's offense. But looking at the last meeting, Gronkowski caught only two passes for 27 yards. I worry that Aqib Talib did not play and Brady threw for only 116 yards, had a 69.5 QB rating and the Patriots still won by 10 points.

Comments