For the third time in three weeks, the New England Patriots are preparing to face a team that’s trending in the wrong direction.
The Miami Dolphins, an 11-5 playoff team last season, currently sit at 4-6 after losing each of their last four games. Two of those defeats were by more than 20 points — including a 40-0 thrashing at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens in Week 8 — another came after the Dolphins rallied from 13 points down in the third quarter only to lose to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on a last-minute field goal.
History also won’t be on Miami’s side when it rolls into Gillette Stadium on Sunday afternoon. The Dolphins have won in Foxboro just twice since 2001, and Tom Brady played a total of two series in those two games (Week 17 in 2005 and Week 3 in 2008).
The Patriots, meanwhile, have won six straight and currently are pegged as massive 17-point favorites over the Dolphins — the largest NFL point spread so far this season. Here’s a look at what to expect from Miami:
— The Dolphins could be without their starting quarterback on Sunday — and they might actually be better off that way.
Jay Cutler was dreadful against the Buccaneers this past weekend, throwing three interceptions in 12 pass attempts before leaving the game with a concussion. Longtime backup Matt Moore played well in relief (17-of-28, 282 yards, one touchdown, zero interceptions in one half), and although Moore was brutal in the blowout loss to the Ravens, the offense can’t be any worse with him at the helm than it was with Cutler.
Head coach Adam Gase did tell reporters this week, though, that Cutler will start if he’s healthy.
— Miami does boast an extremely talented receiving corps. Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills all are legit playmakers.
Landry ranks third in the NFL in both catches (67) and targets (107) and tied for fourth in touchdowns (six), but Stills has been the most efficient this season, catching 40 passes on 67 targets for a team-high 588 yards and five scores.
— Damien Williams and Kenyan Drake have split carries at running back since Miami traded Jay Ajayi to the Philadelphia Eagles. Drake was the more productive ball-carrier in the first two games post-trade, but the roles switched Sunday, with Williams rushing for 78 yards on 10 carries against the Bucs and Drake being held to 4 yards on seven carries.
— 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.
— The Dolphins are a middle-of-the-road defense in terms of yards allowed, but they’re giving up 25.4 points per game (tied with the Arizona Cardinals for 25th in the league) and have surrendered 27 or more in each of their last five games, including 40 in one loss and 45 in another.
— Veteran Cameron Wake has been Miami’s best pass rusher this season, leading the team in sacks (six), quarterback hits (16; no other Dolphins player has more than seven) and tackles for loss (eight).
As a team, the Dolphins have struggled rushing the passer, tying for 26th in the league with just 17 sacks. They’ve also failed to force turnovers, ranking second-to-last in interceptions with three and third-to-last in total takeaways with eight.
Only two teams have worse turnover ratios than Miami’s minus-9.
— Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh is putting together another strong season, boasting a 90.7 overall player grade on Pro Football Focus (tied for fourth among interior defenders) and a 92.0 mark against the run (second behind Damon Harrison). He also remains a controversial figure after grabbing Ravens quarterback Ryan Mallett by the throat last month.
Suh was up to his old tricks when these teams last met on New Year’s Day, prompting then-Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount to blast him in a postgame interview.
— Safety Reshad Jones has been the Dolphins’ most productive defensive back this season, tallying two interceptions, three pass breakups, two fumble recoveries and half a sack while also ranking second on the team with 68 tackles.
PFF considers Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard one of the worst players in the entire NFL at his position. His miserable 34.5 player grade ranks 117th out of 118 qualifying corners.
Thumbnail photo via Reinhold Matay/USA TODAY Sports Images