In an odd scheduling quirk, the Miami Dolphins (5-6) and New England Patriots (8-3) waited until December before their first matchup of the season, which will take place Sunday at Sun Life Stadium in Miami. Tom Brady and the Patriots have been steamrolling all comers lately, while the Dolphins hope to keep their playoff hopes mathematically alive by upsetting the division leader.
With a victory, the Patriots will clinch the AFC East title for the fourth consecutive year. (photo right: Jeffrey Beall, Flickr)
Keep Brady upright. Despite preseason concerns about the offensive line, the Patriots have done a fantastic job protecting their star quarterback, giving up the second-fewest sacks in the league. Getting pressure on Brady is and always has been the best way to defeat New England, so the line must do a good job against Cameron Wake and the rest of Miami's pass rushers.
Create turnovers. Few teams generate takeaways as well as the Patriots, with their plus-24 turnover margin being far-and-away the best in the league. If New England can force turnover-prone rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill into a couple of early mistakes, this one could be over by halftime.
Tempo. A focus for the Dolphins this season has been to increase the tempo of their offense, but the last thing the team will want is to get in a track meet with the Patriots' offense. Brady and his arsenal of targets can score nearly at will, so in order for Miami to have a chance to win it's offense must control the pace of the game and limit New England's possessions. (photo above: photo-gator, Flickr)
A week in Dolphins and Patriots links at AFCEastDaily.com: