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Michael Taylor 5th Dec 2009 - 20:25

New England far from safe in AFC East

So much for Tom Brady's return refuelling the fire in New England because, as I see it, it turns out the Patriots just aren't all that great.

In a division with little quality you could easily have been forgiven for thinking the AFC East was a one horse race this year given Brady's return under centre.

Fair enough they should still win the division and progress to the play-offs but, after seeing their mauling in New Orleans last week, I would be very reluctant to place any faith in Bill Belichick's men.

They headed to Louisiana with a point to prove after a series of road losses against fellow play-off contenders but the only issue that was settled was the Saints painting themselves as the real deal.

New England, for the first time this year, were outplayed in every single area possible, the most alarming of which had to be Tom Brady's inability to throw for a single touchdown all game.

Everybody has an off-day, including Brady, but when you don't have a rush that can drag the offence back to its feet then you have to cast serious aspersions on their Super Bowl pedigree.

It all means this week's trip to Miami takes on huge significance.

How will they recover from a battering? Can they finally get something going away from Boston? Can the Dolphins' Wildcat cause the Pats defence problems?

First of all Wes Welker needs to get more involved after his least productive outing of the season.

Randy Moss and Welker continue to be two of the very best wide men in the NFL but the tandem works off each other, meaning both cogs need to be pulling in the right direction.

The Dolphins answer has to be getting a pass rush on and there is no better man for the job than the incredible Joey Porter.

Porter has eight sacks in his last four outings against the Pats, and you have to believe if Tony Sparano's men are to have any chance of big stops then it rests on Porter's considerable shoulders.

As for Miami they need to bounce back themselves after a pretty pathetic 31-14 loss to an extremely average Buffalo Bills side.

Their running game, even without Ronnie Brown, is still getting great success and this should continue against a defence that ranks middle of the pack at stopping the rush.

However, second year quarterback Chad Henne simply has to increase his production or else the Dolphins offence could once again be shown up to be far too one dimensional.

I personally think he has it in him though, and given the Patriots road trip woes, I find it impossible not to take the Dolphins' side of the 4.5 spread priced at 10/11, while their 9/5 money line price looks amazing value.

Elsewhere, the obvious game week 14 highlight is Brett Favre's Minnesota Vikings' trip to Kurt Warner's Arizona Cardinals.

Much has been made of Favre's startling form this season leading to the widespread question, is this the best year of his career?

It's a hard question to answer given he's playing alongside Adrian Peterson but one thing you can say is that the Vikes really do have the potential to go all the way.

So much for my pre-season doubts over Brad Childress' ability to successfully run a franchise, it seems he is understanding just what it takes to lead a team to the Super Bowl and I feel that'll be on display once again this week.

For the scrappy Cards, they should welcome Warner back after missing out with concussion related injuries last week, however they're nowhere near the NFC champs of last year.

Minnesota have been penalised by three points on the spread, but I have to say I'd be willing to take Favre's men with a far bigger handicap at 10/11.




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