The New England Patriots went a full 11 weeks without playing the Miami Dolphins. Now, they’ll see their AFC East rivals twice in 16 days.
First up is a divisional clash Sunday at Gillette Stadium between the 8-2 Patriots, who are riding a six-game winning streak, and the 4-6 Dolphins, who have lost four in a row. The teams will meet again Monday, Dec. 4 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami.
Here’s a quick rundown of what to watch for in Sunday’s tilt:
The Patriots again will be missing two-fifths of their starting offensive line, as right tackle Marcus Cannon and center David Andrews both have been ruled out for the second consecutive game. LaAdrian Waddle and Ted Karras, who both played well in last week’s rout of the Oakland Raiders, will start in their respective spots.
Wide receiver Chris Hogan also has been ruled out as he continues to recover from a shoulder injury. Tight end Martellus Bennett is listed as doubtful with shoulder and hamstring injuries, and five other Patriots are questionable, including safety Patrick Chung, defensive tackle Malcom Brown and special-teamer Matthew Slater.
Quarterback Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski both are good to go and will play after missing practice earlier this week.
The Dolphins, meanwhile, will start Matt Moore at quarterback, as Jay Cutler was unable to clear concussion protocol.
PATRIOTS’ OFFENSE VS. DOLPHINS’ DEFENSE
New England’s offense has been nearly unstoppable since the Patriots’ bye week, totaling 74 points in blowout wins over the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders. Dion Lewis has emerged as the Pats’ top running back and is playing at a level not seen since before his 2015 ACL tear, and Brady continues to put up MVP-caliber numbers.
The Dolphins’ defense, on the other hand, has struggled mightily of late. Miami is tied for 26th in the NFL in points allowed this season and has surrendered 27 or more in each of its last four games, including 40 in a shutout loss to the Baltimore Ravens and 45 to the Carolina Panthers in another blowout defeat.
Miami’s point differential of minus-97 is third-worst in the league, and the Dolphins are tied for 26th in team sacks tied for 30th in interceptions.
Waddle and Karras will have tough matchups against Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh, respectively, but if the Patriots are able to contain those two veterans, they should be fine. Expect Brady to pick on Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard, who has been one of the worst players in the league at his position this season, according to Pro Football Focus.
PATRIOTS’ DEFENSE VS. DOLPHINS’ OFFENSE
The Dolphins rank near the bottom of the league in nearly every offensive category. They’re 31st in points per game, 30th in total yards per game, 20th in passing yards per game and 29th in rushing yards per game. Not great!
Moore isn’t a significant downgrade from Cutler, though, and he has an excellent trio of receivers to throw to in Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills. Expect to see a ton of three-receiver sets from Miami, meaning more work for Patriots nickel cornerback Jonathan Jones.
Damien Williams and Kenyan Drake have split carries in the wake of the Jay Ajayi trade, with Drake taking the lead in the first two games post-trade and the roles reversing last Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Thumbnail photo via Reinhold Matay/USA TODAY Sports Images