The 12-3 New England Patriots face off against the disappointing 5-10 Miami Dolphins on Sunday afternoon to close out the regular season. The Patriots enter the game having long since locked up the AFC East and with a bye during Wild Card Weekend already secured. For the Patriots, if they win against the Dolphins then they lock up the number one seed in the AFC and home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
The Dolphins are limping to the end of the regular season after another season wasting the talents of quarterback Ryan Tannehill, exciting young wide receiver Jarvis Landry, running back Lamar Miller, superstar (and perennially underrated as shown by his inexplicable Pro Bowl snub) safety Reshad Jones, defensive end Cameron Wake (out for the season after seven games), 3-time Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes, and giant free agent acquisition Ndamukong Suh. The Dolphins fired head coach Joe Philbin after a 1-3 start and also jettisoned their offensive and defensive coordinators during the season.
For the Dolphins, the game is a chance to potentially force their hated divisional rivals onto the road in the AFC Championship round (if the Patriots and Broncos get there). The 2013 Dolphins did the same when they knocked off an undermanned Patriots team 24-20 in week 15 as Danny Amendola dropped a game winning touchdown catch with 27 seconds to play. A final fourth down attempt to Austin Collie (yes, that team had a depleted receiving group as well) was intercepted and the Patriots had to go to Denver in January for the AFC Championship Game and lost 26-16.
Having lost three of their last five games, the Patriots need to end their season with a win. The question is whether it is win at any cost as they have a number of injuries to deal with on both sides of the ball. With a number of key players likely not to play on Sunday, the Patriots’ depth will be tested again as the regular season ends.
As always, you can jump on Twitter and follow my live tweets and in-game analysis during all New England Patriots games at @halbent01 on Twitter. Since the Patriots are focusing on the game on the field, let’s do the same and investigate both teams and what to watch for on Sunday and the game score prediction at the end of the analysis:
Next: When the Dolphins Run the Ball