Predicting the outcome

The Dolphins-Patriots matchup on Monday night looked pretty good when the schedule was released in early April, but instead it's another late-season mismatch nightmare for the folks at ABC. With 10 victories separating the two teams, it's expected that the Patriots will just roll over the Dolphins. A victory for Miami, on the other hand, would just about make their season. Here's how we think the game will unfold.

The biggest thing that separates the Dolphins and Patriots -- and has for the last couple of years, really -- is the ability to win close games by making the big plays in the fourth quarter.

Having said that, the difference between these two teams isn't nearly as big as the records might indicate.

Still, it's difficult to envision the Dolphins winning this game simply because ... well, because they always find a way to lose and New England always finds a way to win.

But those who think the Patriots are in for a cakewalk might be in for a surprise.

The Dolphins have played hard all season and will do so again Monday night. They gave New England a battle in a 24-10 loss at Foxboro in October, losing primarily because three turnovers led to three short touchdown drives for New England.

But Tom Brady was totally shut down that day, as he threw for a paltry 76 yards, his worst showing ever as a starter.

Defensive end Jason Taylor and Co. could make things difficult on the Pats offense Monday night, but only if they find a way to shut down Corey Dillon and the New England running game.

The Dolphins were gashed to the tune of 196 yards by Denver last week, and things won't be easy against New England with Zach Thomas probably out of the lineup again.

The Dolphins will need their defense to come up with a big game Monday night because the offense doesn't figure to have much success against the tough New England defense.

First and foremost, as interim head coach Jim Bates said last week, the Dolphins need to avoid turnovers.

But they also will have to make some plays in the passing game, which is do-able against a depleted Patriots secondary.

The Dolphins would have a better chance at an upset if they have a kick returner with big-play ability, but that's not the case. In fact, it's New England that has the big-play ability in the return game.

It's just one more reason New England will win this game.

It won't be a blowout, but the Dolphins just don't have the ammo to pull off the shocker in this one.

The call: Patriots 20, Dolphins 10.

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