The New England Patriots face off this afternoon against their AFC East rival, the Miami Dolphins. This game has huge playoff implications for both teams. The Patriots can clinch the division with a win today, while Miami looks to at least remain tied for the final playoff spot in the AFC.
Tom Brady and the Pats face a stiff challenge today. In their first meeting with the Dolphins, New England overcame a 17-3 halftime deficit for a 27-17 victory. The road to victory in Sun Life Stadium appears to be more difficult than the first meeting.
The Dolphins defense has been playing solid football as of late and their offense is clicking as well. Rob Gronkowski was instrumental in the Patriots comeback last time they faced the Dolphins, he won't be available today after tearing his ACL last week.
With Gronkowski not available, the task for the Dolphins linebackers is not nearly as complex as it could have been. Ryan Tannehill has been playing his best ball as of late and his chemistry with Mike Wallace seems to have finally surfaced. If New England expects to win this game they will have to contain Wallace and Charles Clay, who has emerged as a major weapon for the Dolphins. For a pass defense that ranks in the bottom half of the NFL, that will be no easy task.
The social media world has had a field day with these two teams. From the Dolphins offensive line scandal to Aaron Hernandez and Gronk, the twittersphere has not been at a loss for words over this contest.
Media picking Dolphins en masse. Pats have surprised all year...can they do it again? http://t.co/2pmpeHGyWE— Bob Snowdon (@SnowdonBob) December 15, 2013
Dolphins have chance to show this year's team is different http://t.co/5aaFkaSTiH— Omar Kelly (@OmarKelly) December 15, 2013
Pats after 5th straight AFC East title & 8th in row over Dolphins, who try to show they're progressing. Column: http://t.co/WHqkFBztY2— Dave Hyde (@davehydesports) December 15, 2013
RT if you have the @MiamiDolphins at home beating the Patriots tomorrow.— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) December 14, 2013
Nolan Carroll says Dolphins don't have a mental block about Pats. "We know we can match up with this team," he says: http://t.co/LeWahaWsl8— Armando Salguero (@ArmandoSalguero) December 11, 2013
Ok, time to get serious. GO @MiamiDolphins !!!! Beat those Patriots!!— C.C. Chapman (@cc_chapman) December 15, 2013
We haven't beat the patriots in almost 4 years. Come on boys @MiamiDolphins— Joey Tate (@joey_tate) December 15, 2013
Though New England could clinch the AFC East today, this game is way bigger for the Dolphins, who are fighting for their playoff lives. That's why I'm giving a slight edge to Miami today.
I expect a hard fought game that comes down to the final possession. Brady and the Pats are still the big dog in the East and will eventually clinch the division, it just won't be today. The loss of Gronkowski combined with playing a road game against a team playing its best ball of the season will be too much to overcome. Dolphins will win this game, but it is gonna be close.
All stats courtesy of NFL.com