Patriots-Dolphins matchup of the day: Friday

Posted Dec. 31, 2010 @ 10:42 p.m.
Posted By Kevin Fishbain

Here's a matchup to watch in the Week 17 game between the Patriots and Dolphins:

Patriots RBs BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead vs. Dolphins' run defense

What has sometimes been overlooked but has been a huge catalyst in the Patriots' surge is the success of their running game behind a veteran offensive line. Green-Ellis and Woodhead were stellar against the Bills, combining for 197 yards on 32 carries, a 6.2-yard rushing average.

With the No. 1 seed locked up, it's up in the air how much the Patriots will allow Tom Brady to throw the ball. While he is very competitive and they will likely play to win, at least in the first half, the Dolphins have a fierce pass rush that may cause concerns, so expect the Pats to run the ball often.

They run very well off guard, especially behind Pro Bowl OLG Logan Mankins. TE Alge Crumpler is also a big part of the run blocking. Green-Ellis and Woodhead have both been revelations. In the teams' Week Four meeting, the two backs combined for 112 yards on 24 carries (4.7 average).

The Dolphins' defensive line has overachieved this season, with Tony McDaniel and Paul Soliai stepping in to have career years. They are sixth in the league in rushing defense and are third in the league in rushing yards allowed per carry, permitting an average of just 3.5 yards. Randy Starks and Kendall Langford man the ends, and Miami has Phillip Merling back, a big body who can clog running lanes.

While they are likely going to be missing usual starting ILB Karlos Dansby, both of their inside 'backers, Tim Dobbins and Channing Crowder, are good against the run.

The Dolphins have the front seven needed to slow down a Patriots rushing attack, and that could force the Pats into a game they don't want to play in Week 17.