The New England Patriots have already swept their way through two divisional foes in Buffalo and New York. Now they're headed to South Beach with their sights set on their last remaining division rival—the Miami Dolphins.
The Dolphins have improved since the departure of former coach Tony Sparano, with first-year coach Joe Philbin guiding them to a respectable 5-6 record.
Still, despite the progress Miami has made, it should be no match for the 8-3 Pats.
The Dolphins offense is ranked just 23rd in the league in DVOA, a stat that evaluates unit success rates based on situational context and adjusts for strength of schedule and league averages (DVOA is fully explained here).
Miami's defense is above-average—it's the 12th-ranked unit in DVOA—but that's largely the product of its fourth-ranked run D. It's a defense that can be beaten through the air.
Still, New England should not overlook the home squad. After all, the Pats are just 5-5 in Miami with Tom Brady as their QB.
If New England wants to keep its hopes of a first-round bye alive, it'll need to leave Sun Life Stadium with a victory. Let's take a look at five things that must happen if the Pats hope to do just that.