Game Preview: New England at Miami

The Dolphins begin a stretch of three consecutive games against AFC East opponents when they take on the New England Patriots Sunday at Dolphin Stadium. Here's a complete look at the matchup.

New England Patriots (9-3) at Miami Dolphins (5-7)

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

SITE: Dolphin Stadium

SURFACE: Grass

TV: CBS, Dick Enberg, Randy Cross

SERIES: 83rd meeting. The Dolphins have an all-time lead of 47-35, with New England posting a 20-10 home victory when both teams played in October. The Patriots scored all of their points off Dolphins turnovers and a blocked Olindo Mare field goal.

2006 RANKINGS: Patriots: offense 6th (12th rush, 10th pass); defense 9th (3rd rush, 18th pass). Dolphins: offense 17th (27th rush, 11th pass); defense 6th (7th rush, 5th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: RB Ronnie Brown will miss his second consecutive game with a broken hand, but the Dolphins received a strong effort from backup Sammy Morris last weekend. Miami needs to run the ball effectively because even though the offense has improved with QB Joey Harrington, he proved last week that he is still prone to making a few critical mistakes per game. The Patriots will devise new looks to throw his way and the Dolphins don't have the margin for error to overcome losing the turnover battle. But Miami's defense was strong in the first meeting, holding the Patriots to 213 yards of total offense and not allowing a play of longer than 15 yards. New England needs a better effort out of QB Tom Brady, who threw for just 140 yards against Miami at home. If the Dolphins have a defensive weakness, it's a vulnerability to big pass plays, and Brady is far more in tune with his receiving corps than he was in Week 5.

FAST FACTS: Patriots: RB Corey Dillon has 36 touchdowns in 39 games with the team. ... Will clinch the AFC East with a victory and a loss by the Jets. Dolphins: LB Zach Thomas has posted double digits in tackles in 34 of his past 43 games, including six this season. ... WR Chris Chambers has a touchdown reception in nine of his past 10 home games against NFC East teams.

PERSONNEL NEWS

Patriots:

-- RB Laurence Maroney (back) was looking fine at Thursday's practice. He has now practiced the past two days. The running back missed most of last week's game after leaving in the first quarter. Maroney is listed as questionable for Sunday's game.

-- S Rodney Harrison (shoulder) was the lone player not present for the media-access portion of Thursday's practice. Harrison is out for this week's game.

-- TE Daniel Graham (ankle) is listed as questionable for Sunday. Graham was on the Patriots' injury report last week as well but started against the Lions.

-- WR Chad Jackson is questionable for Sunday. Jackson missed last week's game with a groin injury and has also battled a bad hamstring for most of the season.

-- OT Ryan O'Callaghan (neck) is listed as questionable on the Patriots' injury report. O'Callaghan was inactive last week for the Lions game.

Dolphins:

-- DE Jason Taylor earned AFC Defensive Player of the Month honors for his outstanding play in four victories in November. Taylor had two interceptions returned for touchdowns, two sacks, three forced fumbles and six passes defensed in picking up his third such honor in 10 seasons.

-- LG Jeno James returned to practice for the first time since undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery last month but will still miss his fourth consecutive game.

-- RB Ronnie Brown had his cast exchanged for a smaller, more flexible version, but he will miss his second consecutive game while his surgically repaired left hand continues to heal.

-- RB Sammy Morris will get his second start of the season in place of RB Ronnie Brown (hand), and it doesn't get any easier, as the Dolphins face the Patriots' third-ranked rushing defense. The Jaguars were ranked fifth, and they held Morris to 47 yards on 12 carries. Morris will play with a sore ankle.

-- TE Randy McMichael needs four catches to become the third Dolphin to have at least 50 receptions this year. Marty Booker needs seven more. The last time the Dolphins had four players with at least 50 catches was in 1995, when O.J. McDuffie, Keith Byars, Irving Fryar and Terry Kirby did it. Two of those players -- Byars and Kirby -- were running backs.

-- WR Wes Welker, the Dolphins' leading receiver, is nursing a sore shoulder but isn't expected to be hindered Sunday.


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