SERIES HISTORY: 101st regular-season meeting. Dolphins lead series, 52-48. Miami and New England have a rivalry that dates back to the days of the AFL. The Dolphins dominated large chunks of the matchups over the years in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. But of late New England has had the upper hand, especially in Foxborough. The Patriots have beaten the Dolphins eight straight times at Gillette Stadium and 10 of the last 11, though New England has been less successful in Miami, where the Dolphins have won three of the last four. New England won the last meeting, 35-14, in last year’s season finale in Miami.
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Patriots’ switch to Dion Lewis as a featured back has given the running game a boost. And now Lewis and backfield mates James White and Rex Burkhead face a Dolphins defense that surrendered 294 yards to Carolina two weeks ago.Now Miami, which has given up more than 35 points per game during a four-game losing streak, must contend with Tom Brady.
Brady, who completed 30 of 37 in last week’s win over Oakland, will look to capitalize on the rapport he has built with speedy wideout Brandin Cooks, who has 20 catches for 203 yards in the past two games.
With quarterback Jay Cutler still in the concussion protocol, Miami coach Adam Gase has yet to name a starter for Sunday.
The Dolphins are not a real threat to run the ball and will depend on the big-play ability of wide receivers Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills, who have combined for more than 1,100 yards.Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh are the only pass-rushing threats for a defense that was largely responsible for the Dolphins’ 4-2 start to the season. The two have combined for 9.5 sacks.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
–Dolphins RBs Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams vs. Patriots run defense. The Patriots have surrendered a run of at least 20 yards in each of the last four games. If the Dolphins could get a couple of long runs from these guys, it would help greatly. In the past three games, they’ve had runs of 42, 66 and 69 yards. New England gave up an 87-yard run to Chargers RB Melvin Gordon.–Patriots QB Tom Brady vs. Dolphins pass defense. Brady, who has 22 touchdowns and two interceptions, has been hot all season and there’s no reason to think he’ll slow down in a home game. TE Rob Gronkowski is an especially big threat to a team that has been burned by tight ends this season. Miami’s linebackers and defensive backs will be under extreme pressure to make plays all day. It’ll be a high-stress environment, for sure.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Dolphins WR Kenny Stills. He’s quietly having an outstanding season, with 40 receptions for 588 yards (14.7 yards per reception) and five touchdowns. Stills could threaten his career bests in receptions (63), yards (931) and TDs (9). He represents a big-play threat in the passing game, which is what Miami will need at New England. Stills has shown he’s not a one-trick pony, getting open on short and intermediate routes, but if the Dolphins want to strike quickly, this seems the best option.
FAST FACTS: Miami QB Jay Cutler had 227 passing yards and three touchdowns in his last game vs. New England (2014 with Chicago). … RB Damien Williams had 102 yards from scrimmage last week. … RB Kenyan Drake has 90 yards from scrimmage in two of past three games. … WR Jarvis Landry has six touchdowns since Week 5, third most in the NFL. He has 211 receiving yards and a TD catch in his past two vs. New England. … WR Kenny Stills had a career-high 180 receiving yards and a TD last week. Is one of five NFL players with 200 catches (204) and 16 yards per catch (16.3) since 2012. He has five TD catches in his past five vs. the AFC East. He aims for a third in a row vs. New England with a receiving touchdown. … WR DeVante Parker has 100 receiving yards in two of the past three vs. New England. … S Reshad Jones has eight-plus tackles in two of the past three meetings. He is one of two active safeties (Harrison Smith) with 15 interceptions (18) and eight sacks (9.5) since 2010. … LB Kiko Alonso has 42 tackles (8.4 per game), two fumble recoveries and a forced fumble in five career games vs. New England. … DE Cameron Wake has nine sacks in the past seven games vs. the division. He has four sacks and two forced fumbles in past five meetings. … DT Ndamukong Suh had a career-high 12 tackles in his last road meeting. … Patriots QB Tom Brady completed 30 of 37 (81.1 percent) for 339 yards and three touchdowns last week. He aims for a third in a row with three touchdowns. He has 1,267 pass yards (316.8 per game) with 10 touchdowns in his past four at home. He has seven touchdowns in his past three vs. Miami. … RB Dion Lewis has 164 yards from scrimmage and a receiving touchdown in the past two vs. Miami. He had a touchdown catch in Week 11. … RB James White is tied for second among AFC RBs with 46 catches. … WR Brandin Cooks had 149 receiving yards with a touchdown last week. He has nine games with 100 yards and a touchdown catch since 2015, tied for third most in the NFL. He has three receiving touchdowns in the past four games at home. … TE Rob Gronkowski has three receiving touchdowns in his past two games vs. AFC East opponents. He aims for a third game in a row at home vs. Miami with a touchdown catch. … WR Danny Amendola had two receiving touchdowns in his last game vs. Miami. … S Duron Harmon had an interception in Week 11. He has four interceptions in four career home meetings. … DE Trey Flowers had a fumble recovery in the last home meeting. … K Stephen Gostkowski kicked a franchise-record 62-yard field goal in Week 11.
PREDICTION: This is a matchup of teams headed in opposite directions. With Tom Brady playing like, well, Tom Brady, and the Patriots’ early-season defensive struggles seemingly fixed, it looks like a rout.