The New England Patriots wiped the floor with the Miami Dolphins back in Week 4, rolling to a 38-7 victory in what still stands out as their most complete performance of the season.
Now, can they recreate that success down in Miami, where the Dolphins are 5-1 this season and where New England has won just once since 2012? We’ll find out this Sunday.
Time: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
Location: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, Fla.
The 9-3 Patriots currently are pegged as eight-point road favorites over the 6-6 Dolphins, who have dropped six of nine after beginning the season 3-0. Miami is 5-1 in their home stadium, however, and New England always seems to struggle in South Florida.
The Patriots are just 1-4 in their last five road games against the Dolphins (including a 27-20 loss to Jay Cutler in Week 14 last season), and quarterback Tom Brady’s career record in Miami record is a mediocre 7-9.
A win or tie Sunday would give the Patriots their 10th consecutive AFC East title and their 15th in the last 16 years. The only outlier during that span was the Matt Cassel season in 2008, during which New England missed the playoffs despite finishing 11-5.
The Patriots also are battling with the Kansas City Chiefs, Houston Texans and Pittsburgh Steelers for playoff positioning in the AFC. The Chiefs sit atop the conference at 10-2, followed by the Patriots, Texans (9-3) and Steelers (7-4-1), with the 9-3 Los Angeles Chargers looking like a very dangerous wild-card team.
The Dolphins, meanwhile, remain alive in the playoff hunt despite losing twice as many games as they’ve won since late September. They’re one of four teams that entered this week with a 6-6 record, just one game back of the 7-5 Baltimore Ravens for the second and final wild-card spot.
Cornerback Stephon Gilmore (ankle) and tight end Dwayne Allen (knee) both are listed as questionable for the Patriots.
Gilmore, who’s started every game this season, was added to the injury report after being limited in practice Friday. Allen hasn’t played since injuring his knee in New England’s Week 10 loss to the Tennessee Titans, but he participated in all three practices this week.
Over on Miami’s side, the Dolphins will be without NFL interceptions leader Xavien Howard, who has been ruled out with a knee injury. Howard struggled in these teams’ first meeting put dominated when the Patriots visited Miami last season, erasing Brandin Cooks and intercepting two Brady passes.
Former Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola is listed as questionable for Miami with a knee injury.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Josh Gordon, Patriots wide receiver
Gordon’s playing time and target totals have dropped in recent weeks, but his efficiency has improved. He’s caught all eight passes thrown his way over New England’s past two games after hauling in just 42.9 percent of his targets (9 of 21) in the previous two. Howard likely would have been assigned to stick with Gordon throughout Sunday’s game, but with him out, that job could fall to Minkah Fitzpatrick, Miami’s versatile rookie defensive back.
Danny Amendola, Dolphins wide receiver
Amendola desperately wants to play in this game, and he seemed to be trending in the right direction this week, according to reports out of Miami. The veteran slot man has been the leading receiver this season for a Dolphins team that’s lost wideouts Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant to season-ending injuries. If Amendola does play, it will be interesting to see who covers him for New England. The Patriots’ setup of Gilmore and J.C. Jackson on the outside and Jason McCourty in the slot worked wonders against the Minnesota Vikings. This also could be a good week to get rookie Duke Dawson the first regular-season reps of his NFL career.
Kyle Van Noy, Patriots linebacker
One of the Patriots’ most underrated players, the versatile Van Noy has excelled in multiple roles this season, leading the team in tackles through 12 games while playing 88.9 percent of defensive snaps. Dolphins coach Adam Gase on Wednesday called Van Noy “a nightmare” to play against. “If we ever try to run the ball to the edge,” Gase said, “it’s getting to the point where it’s kind of pointless. He shuts down the run to his side.”
Cameron Wake, Dolphins defensive end
The Dolphins’ ageless wonder still is making life difficult for quarterbacks at age 36. Wake leads all Dolphins defenders in sacks, QB hits, hurries and total pressures this season, and he’s always given Brady and the Patriots trouble, tallying 10 1/2 sacks, nine tackles for loss and 35 QB hits in 18 career meetings. He had a QB hit and three hurries against Patriots right tackle Marcus Cannon in Week 4.
Thumbnail photo via Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports Images