A month ago, it looked like the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots would be unstoppable. Both teams were at 3-0, holding convincing wins over good teams. The month of October has been unkind to both sides, resulting in a combined record of 1-5 in the last three game. Both need to get back on track, but pundits don't have a lot of faith in the Dolphins after losses to Buffalo and Baltimore.
Seven analysts from ESPN are predicting a Patriots win, and nobody is siding with Miami. The return of Rob Gronkowski has given New England a new lease on life offensively, now that Tom Brady isn't relied on to make plays without the assistance of a veteran supporting cast.
The Dolphins have been inconsistent at stopping tight ends in 2013. Tony Gonzalez of the Falcons gained just 24 yards against their defense, but Cameron Jordan had a huge day for the Browns, finishing with more than 100 yards receiving and a touchdown when the teams met.
A lack of offensive line talent could mean a big day for pass rusher Chandler Jones, giving New England a significant edge. CBS Sports also believes in the Patriots, and all eight experts are picking a win for Bill Belichick.
Ryan Van Bibber of SB Nation is picking the Dolphins in an upset against the spread.
Miami has a new offensive tackle, Bryant McKinnie. If he can resolve himself not to be caught off guard by New England defenders talking up South Beach strip joints, it should be an improvement in pass protection for Ryan Tannehill.
The Patriots are 2-1 against the spread at home this season. But the way things are going with this team, a full touchdown feels generous, especially with a group of receivers liable to drop at least two TD passes every week. That should actually be a standing prop bet for the 2013 Patriots, the number of dropped touchdown throws.
I think Miami will cover this one.
The pick: Dolphins
The Patriots are poised to keep control of the AFC East in a tough division, and it will be interesting to see if the Dolphins put up more of a fight than analysts are expecting.