MIAMI GARDENS -- With the Patriots running low on offensive weapons, it should make it easier for a defensive coordinator to zero in his focus on one player. And the one player who should be the focal point of Kevin Coyle’s defensive game plan is Shane Vereen. Vereen is assuming a role that goes beyond what Kevin Faulk and Danny Woodhead filled. It’s closer to what Marshall Faulk did for the Rams. And the way to deal with Marshall Faulk was to bang him, shove him, get under him, and bother him on every play.
* On the flip side, the Patriots will have to be attuned to Ryan Tannehill getting out of the pocket. The plodding nature of the New England linebackers makes them prime candidates for scrambles and Tannehill is selectively effective at it. He’s got 14 carries for 135 yards in the last four games and has taken off four, four, three and three in each game respectively.
* More linebacker issues for New England, trying to cover the tight end. Jordan Cameron caught all nine of the passes sent his way last week for 121 yards and a touchdown. Garrett Graham of the Texans caught three for 36 yards two weeks ago, but he was targeted 11 times. Jacob Tamme caught all five passes sent his way for 47 yards against Denver. Greg Olsen caught five of eight for 52 yards. Charles Clay has become a vital part of Ryan Tannehill’s progressions. Expect him to be targeted often.
* The Patriots didn’t have Aqib Talib the first time around. We’ll see how he impacts the matchup this time.
* Since taking six sacks in the first meeting between these teams, Tannehill has been doing a much better job getting the ball out.
* The Patriots clinch the AFC East with a win.