The New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins will be traveling in similar circles over the next few weeks despite squarely heading in opposite directions in the standings. The AFC East rivals will play the first of two encounters in a three-week stretch on Sunday when they meet in Foxborough, Mass.
“I think you prepare for this game the best you can and give yourself the best opportunity to perform well and win, and then worry about next week, next week,” coach Bill Belichick said. The one-game-at-a-time approach has been a familiar refrain for Belichick and the Patriots, who breezed to their sixth straight win last week after dismantling Oakland 33-8 in Mexico City. A visit to New England hardly is comforting news for Miami, which hasn’t walked out of Gillette Stadium with a victory since debuting the “Wildcat” offense in 2008. The reeling Dolphins are in need of a few more tricks up their sleeve as their once-sturdy defense has sprung a significant leak, with the team being outscored 142-65 during its four-game losing skid.
TV: 1 p.m. ET, CBS. LINE: Patriots -16.5. O/U: 47.5
ABOUT THE DOLPHINS (4-6): Last Sunday originally was scheduled to be Miami’s bye week, and the club certainly looked like it took the week off as Jay Cutler tossed three interceptions in the first two quarters of Sunday’s 30-20 loss to Tampa Bay. Cutler was removed from the contest and is questionable to play this Sunday after being placed in concussion protocol, with Matt Moore completing 17 of 28 passes for 282 yards and a touchdown in relief. Jarvis Landry scored a touchdown for the third straight week and sixth time in seven outings, but the 24-year-old may get an earful from the New England faithful after saying in April that the Patriots would be swept by the Dolphins this season and “they’re not our big brother anymore.”
ABOUT THE PATRIOTS (8-2): Tom Brady completed a season-high 81.1 percent of his passes versus the Raiders and threw for three touchdowns for the second straight outing. Offseason acquisition Brandin Cooks reeled in six receptions for a season-best 149 yards with a touchdown last week and faces a Dolphins’ secondary that has struggled in coverage. Rob Gronkowski saw both his production (three catches, 36 yards) and snaps (53) take a hit last week, with fellow tight end Martellus Bennett getting back up to speed in his second stint with the Patriots. Dion Lewis has assumed the reins in the crowded backfield by averaging 15 touches and 65.7 scrimmage yards over the last three games, with Super Bowl hero James White seeing both his role and playing time diminish in that stretch.
1. New England, which is averaging an NFL fourth-best 29.0 points per game, has outscored opponents 126-58 in the second quarter this season.
2. Dolphins WR Kenny Stills, who erupted for seven catches for 180 yards and a touchdown last week, had a scoring reception in both contests versus the Patriots last season.
3. New England has an NFL-least five turnovers and is tied for third with a plus-8 differential, while Miami is 29th with a minus-9 turnover differential (eight takeaways, 17 giveaways).
PREDICTION: Patriots 37, Dolphins 10