NOW OR NEVER

The Dolphins have won three in a row, but haven't been able to make up any ground in the AFC East because New England is on an eight-game winning streak of its own. But they get their chance this Sunday in a must-game if they hope to win their division title since 2000.

A loss Sunday would eliminate the Dolphins from the division race and would clinch the title for the Patriots.

The Dolphins have lost two in a row at Foxboro, but did beat the Patriots in the 2000 regular season to clinch the AFC East that year.

They sure don't want New England to be able to clinch against them this year.

What follows is a preview of the Dolphins-Patriots matchup.

WHO: Miami Dolphins (8-4) vs. New England Patriots (10-2)

WHEN: Sunday, 4:15 p.m. ET

WHERE: Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, Mass.

TV: CBS (Kevin Harlan, play-by-play; Randy Cross, analysis)

LINE: Patriots by 3

NFL RANKINGS: Dolphins — 26th in the NFL in total offense, 16th in rushing offense, 26th in passing offense, 13th in total defense, 4th in rushing defense, 26th in passing defense

Patriots — 16th in the NFL in total offense, 24th in rushing offense, 8th in passing offense, 8th in total defense, 5th in rushing defense, 15th in passing defense

COACHES: Dolphins, Dave Wannstedt (4th year with team); Patriots, Bill Belichick (4th year with team)

SERIES RECORD: The Dolphins lead 45-31

LAST FIVE MEETINGS: 2003 at Miami, Patriots, 19, Dolphins 13 (OT); 2002 at New England, Patriots 27, Dolphins 24 (OT); 2002 at Miami, Dolphins 26, Patriots 13; 2001 at New England, Patriots 20, Dolphins 13; 2001 at Miami, Dolphins 30, Patriots 10

INJURIES: Dolphins — CB Jamar Fletcher (arm) is out/IR; DE Rob Burnett (knee/ankle) is doubtful; DT Tim Bowens (calf), LB Junior Seau (shoulder) and LB Zach Thomas (hip) are questionable; FB Obafemi Ayanbadejo (knee), DT Larry Chester (quad), S Brock Marion (finger), G Todd Perry (elbow), CB Patrick Surtain (ankle), DE Jason Taylor (shoulder), WR Derrius Thompson (oblique), RB Ricky Williams (shoulder) and DT Jeff Zgonina (calf) are probable.

Patriots — S Chris Akins (leg), WR Troy Brown (leg) and LB Mike Vrabel (illness) are questionable; DT Dan Klecko (hand) is probable.


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