The 13-2 New England Patriots travel to South Florida on Sunday to face the surprising 10-5 Miami Dolphins.
Much like the New York Jets last season, the Dolphins are the latest AFC East rival to rise up and challenge the Patriots.
New England needs a team to challenge them in the division so they are battle-tested in the regular season and stronger in the playoffs. This season it appears that it is the Dolphins who are in good shape to be that team going forward.
Clearly, the best offseason move in Miami was the hiring of head coach Adam Gase. An offensive genius–he orchestrated the Denver Broncos offenses that maximized and aging Peyton Manning and he even made Jay Cutler look like a competent NFL quarterback–Gase has been better than advertised as a leader of both sides of the ball and in the locker room.
The Patriots need to win in Miami (where they have lost three straight games) in order to clinch the number one seed and have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Miami is trying to keep the momentum of having won nine of their last ten going into the playoffs. The Dolphins will likely have a tough path in the playoffs likely having to go to Pittsburgh in the first round as a wild card team.
With an important game in week 17, the Patriots and Dolphins face-off to kick-off 2017 on Sunday under the sun of South Florida. Here are the top five matchups to watch on Sunday which will determine who goes into the playoffs on a winning streak: