Ben Volin of the Boston Globe wrote that the Patriots defensive problems are becoming more of a problem. He sited injuries to Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo, and Tommy Kelly as the obvious reason for their struggle, but also mentioned that their recent switch to zone coverage has led to a lot of yards for opposing offenses.
"One thing you notice is that the Patriots, who began the season almost strictly as a press-man coverage team, have played a lot more zone in recent weeks," said Volin.
Volin believes the switch to zone coverage is due to injuries in the secondary. With Aqib Talib, Alfonzo Dennard, and Kyle Arrington banged up, the Pats have gone away from press coverage because he say's zone coverage can "mask" the injuries.
This morning, Mike Reiss posted a breakdown of the Patriots defensive groupings from this last weeks game against the Cleveland Brown. The Patriots used their base defense in 39 of 76 snaps (51.3 percent) and were in sub packages for 32 plays (42.1 percent). These numbers are very different in comparison to the overall pattern this season. Over the course of 2013, the Pats have been in their base defense roughly 34 percent of the time and have used sub defenses in almost 64 percent of the snaps they've played (total of 950 snaps).
ESPN Boston's Field Yates listed a number of Patriots-Dolphins connections in an article he posted earlier today. Defensive end, Rob Ninkovich and reserve offensive guard, Chris Barker both spent time with Miami before signing with the Patriots. Additionally, Patriots Special Teams Coach, Scott O'Brien spent time in South Beach. He served as the football operations coordinator and assistant to the head coach under Nick Saban from 2005 to 2006.
This morning, Christopher Price of WEEI explored the possibility of Julien Edelman being the next receiver to develop into a great player late in his career. At the age of 27, Edelman is having his first season with more than 40 catches. He is on pace for more than 90 catches and nearly 1,000 yards receiving. Price referenced players like Roddy White, Vincent Jackson, Steve Smith, Reggie Wayne, and Wes Welker of being receivers that took a few years to develop into top offensive targets. He also mentioned retired receivers including Troy Brown, Donald Driver, and Joe horn who each had break-out seasons at age 27.
In this week's edition of Dan Graziano's MVP Watch, Tom Brady came in sixth place for the second straight week. In Graziano's list, Brady falls behind Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, LeSean McCoy, Drew Brees, and Peyton Manning. Despite having statistically-weak year in comparison to his past seasons, Brady is getting recognition for leading the Pats to a 10-3 record, despite an offensive group full of rookies and a roster littered with injuries.
In related news, Mike Florio of NBC's Pro Football Talk wrote that Tom Brady could steal the MVP award from Peyton Manning if the Pats can win out. After the Broncos loss to the Chargers last night, New England now has the ability to earn home field advantage throughout the playoffs if they win each of their last three games. Although statistically Manning is having a far superior season to Brady, Florio believes #12 has had a lot more obstacles to overcome and to this point, has conquered almost all of them.
"Brady has been dealing with injuries, inexperience, and at times incompetence," adds Florio.
Despite being favorites this week, people are picking against the Pats. Elliot Harrison of NFL.com has New England losing to Miami 26-24, while CBS's John Breech has the Phins pulling off a 27-24 upset. Sporting News listed the Patriots-Dolphins game as their "Game of the Week" but much like Harrison and Breech, they picked the Pats to lose 30-27 on Sunday.
Sidenote: If the New England is able to win on Sunday, the Patriots will become the first franchise to win 10 divsion titles in 11 years since the 1970 merger.