Welcome to Season 2, Episode 8 of the Unconventional Preview, a serious-but-lighthearted, nostalgia-tinted look at the Patriots’ weekly matchup that usually runs right here every Friday around noon. The 5-2 Patriots, coming off a frustrating loss at the Jets that familiarized all of us with an obscure rule, host
Paul Warfield Nat Moore Duriel Harris Mark Duper Mark Clayton Mike Wallace and the 3-3 Dolphins. Kick it off, Gostkowski, and let’s get this thing started already …
THREE PLAYERS OTHER THAN TOM BRADY THAT I’LL BE WATCHING
1. Ryan Tannehill: The Dolphins quarterback’s quietly respectable rookie season was overshadowed by the star turns of fellow freshmen Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III, but there was enough there to expect him to further emerge as a dependable NFL starter. Tannehill got off to an encouraging start, completing 66.7 percent of his passes as the Dolphins won their first three games. But lately, as the cracks in the Dolphins’ line have turned to full-blown holes, he’s struggled, throwing five interceptions and completing 55.6 percent of his passes in three straight losses, including a crusher to the Bills last Sunday. Tannehill is yet to have a fond memory in Foxborough — he was sacked seven times in a 28-0 loss to the Patriots at Gillette Stadium last season.
2. Chandler Jones: The Dolphins have allowed a league-high 26 sacks this season. Their solution: Acquire 34-year-old Bryant McKinnie, who will totally be able to resist the temptations of South Beach. Having lost Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo for the season, the Patriots need Jones to develop into a consistent, reliable force on defense. The state of the left side of the Dolphins line should provide him a great opportunity to do so.
3. Rob Gronkowski: Brady targeted him 17 times last week. And you thought you were happy to see him out there.
GRIEVANCE OF THE WEEK Actually, it’s a grievance of the last 41 years. We’re almost halfway though the NFL season, and thanks to Peyton Manning‘s decision to go into Throat-Clutching Chipstrap-Yanking Postseason Mode during his Indianapolis homecoming last weekend, the only unbeaten team remaining in the NFL is … the Kansas City Chiefs? Yep, the Kansas City Chiefs. It’s a cute story, but it’s only a matter of time before the insufferable ’72 Dolphins pop up on a television near you to pop cheap champagne and pound cheaper Landshark Lager and celebrate the fall of the season’s last unbeaten team. One of the smaller leftover laments from the end of the Patriots’ 2007 season is the blown chance to make these guys go away once and for all.
HERE IS A VIDEO MONTAGE OF EVERY ONE OF DAN MARINO’S 48 TOUCHDOWN PASSES IN 1984:
The video runs 14 minutes and 41 seconds, which by my calculation is 6 hours 10 minutes and 9 seconds shorter than the montage of him yelling at his receivers after throwing an interception.
COMPLETELY RANDOM FOOTBALL CARD: Jensen, a product of the Boston University football program back when there was a Boston University football program, spent 12 years with the Dolphins after being chosen with the 291st overall pick in the 1981 NFL Draft. A quarterback for the Terriers, he became a jack-of-all-trades and master of more than one for the Dolphins, making his mark (and earning the nickname “Crash”) as a special-teams gunner before developing into a capable receiving threat who would end his career with 229 catches. In other words, he was everything Tim Tebow was imagined to be.
PREDICTION, OR IT’S TIME TO GET THINGS BACK TO NORMAL AROUND HERE Tom Brady has thrown for 300 yards in a game just once this season. The Patriots have surpassed 30 points just once this season. With Gronk back — and presumably, remembering he can use both hands to catch the ball this week — and Danny Amendola also expected to play, the Patriots’ quarterback should put up his best numbers of the season against Miami’s 25th-ranked pass defense, even with sore shoulder that landed him on the injury report for the first time this season. Patriots 31, Dolphins 17
(Last week’s prediction: Patriots 21, Jets 6.* Final score: Jets 30, Patriots 27. Season record: 3-4.)
* — No, the prediction wasn’t made here, since I was in baseball mode all weekend. But I did make it someplace. Pinterest, probably.