Game Preview: New England at Miami

The Dolphins will be playing their biggest game in five years Sunday when they take on the New England Patriots in a game with serious playoff implications. The Dolphins will be going for their first season sweep of the Patriots since 2000, as well as looking to extend their winning streak to five games. Here's a complete look at the matchup.

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

SURFACE: Grass

TV: CBS (Greg Gumbel, Dan Dierdorf)

SERIES: 84th regular-season meeting. Dolphins lead series, 48-35, and won earlier this season in Foxborough. The Patriots have won 10 of their last 15 games against Miami, but the Dolphins hold a significant edge at home with a 32-10 record. The Patriots swept last year's season series for the first time since 2003, but suffered late-season losses at Miami in 2004 and 2006.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Patriots QB Matt Cassel has evolved significantly since losing his first career start against the Dolphins in Week 3. He is still struggling with the deep ball, which was such a crucial part of New England's record-setting offense with WR Randy Moss last year. But Cassel is reading defenses better and using his feet to complement the pedestrian ground game. Coach Bill Belichick insists the full playbook is at Cassel's disposal, and he'll need to be productive because Miami is far more vulnerable through the air. ... The Dolphins won't catch the Patriots off-guard again like they did with the debut of the Wildcat formation in Week 3. But Miami will still hammer away with the ground game because the Dolphins are 6-0 when they win time of possession. They also struggle in third-and-long situations, but look for QB Chad Pennington to target OLB Pierre Woods, who struggled in coverage last week in place of injured Adalius Thomas.

KEY INJURIES:

Patriots: RB LaMont Jordan (calf) is likely out; Thomas (broken arm) is out.

Dolphins: None.

NEED TO KNOW: With one touchdown catch, Patriot WR Randy Moss will tie Cris Carter (130) for the third-most in NFL history. ... Dolphins OLB Joey Porter has a career-high 13.5 sacks.

PERSONNEL NEWS

Patriots:

-- LB Tedy Bruschi was limited in Thursday's practice due to a knee injury, but his status for Sunday's game is unknown at this time. Bruschi is no longer an every-down player, but the Patriots can ill afford to lose any more defenders at his position.

-- RB LaMont Jordan missed another practice Thursday with a calf injury and will likely miss Sunday's game in Miami. Jordan does not appear to be on track for a return anytime soon.

-- NT Vince Wilfork missed Thursday's practice, but his absence was not injury-related, so, barring any unforeseen circumstances, he should be ready for Sunday.

-- S Ray Ventrone practiced Thursday despite a concussion sustained in last week's loss to the Jets and should be ready to go this weekend. Ventrone is an important part of the team's kick return coverage unit.

-- LB Eric Alexander missed another practice Thursday with a hamstring injury and has not played since Week 1. There is no timetable on his return.

Dolphins:

-- TEs David Martin and Anthony Fasano have 20 and 22 catches, respectively, for a combined 568 yards after eight games. That's 18 yards shy of former Dolphins TE Randy McMichael's 586 after eight games of the 2004 season.

-- OLB Joey Porter leads the NFL with 13.5 sacks, and is one sack shy of the Dolphins record by a linebacker, held by Bryan Cox in 1992. Porter sacked Patriots QB Matt Cassel four times in the first meeting this season, and Cassel has gone down 32 times.

-- Rookie LB Erik Walden was signed off waivers from Kansas City Thursday to the 53-man roster to help bolster special teams. He had 10 special teams tackles in nine games with the Chiefs. The 6-2, 245-pound Walden was a sixth-round pick out of Middle Tennessee State, who holds the all-time school record with 22.5 sacks.

-- ILB Rob Ninkovich was released to make room for LB Erik Walden. Ninkovich was just promoted off the practice squad last week and played his only game of the season against Oakland.

-- Former Patriots RB Patrick Cobbs gained 5 yards on three attempts in the first meeting between these two teams, but has since been a major factor in the passing game with 16 catches for 256 yards and two touchdowns. He's usually on the field when the Dolphins use the Wildcat formation, mostly as a blocker. He scored a big touchdown against the Raiders last week when he took a misdirection handoff for a 10-yard score.

-- RB Ronnie Brown had one of the greatest games in NFL history the last time these two teams met with four rushing touchdowns and a 19-yard TD pass to TE Anthony Fasano. He became the second player in NFL history to score four TDs and throw for one in the same game, dating back to 1923 when Paddy Driscoll did it for the Chicago Cardinals.

INSIDE THE CAMPS

Patriots:

They say you never forget your first win. You probably don't forget your first loss either.

Matt Cassel will be reminded of the latter this week as the New England Patriots prepare for their long-awaited rematch against the Miami Dolphins, who beat Cassel at Gillette Stadium in just his second NFL start in Week 3.

"I feel like I have grown up a little bit," Cassel said Thursday. "What is this, my ninth or 10th start now? I have seen a little bit more and know my role a little bit better. I feel like I am a little bit more confident in what I am doing."

The tape from that game almost seems foreign to Cassel, who is a much better quarterback now than he was two months ago. He hit his peak in November with four consecutive solid performances, culminating with a 400-yard effort in last week's loss to the Jets -- nothing like his first game against Miami.

"There were a little bit of missed plays here and there," Cassel said. "I don't think we played well as an offensive unit that day and I am sure the team felt that we didn't put on our best performance that day. We are working hard this week to get that corrected and go down there and put out a better performance on Sunday."

From the Patriots' perspective, it's a good thing they'll have the new-and-improved Cassel behind center this weekend because the rematch is much more pivotal than the first game in Week 3. The Patriots will face long odds to win the AFC East if they drop Sunday's game and might even be in jeopardy of missing out on a wild-card spot.

"Every week is a must win for us," Cassel said. "From Week 1 to right now, we always have a sense of urgency about ourselves. Would it have been nice to get that win against the Jets? Of course, but we know that each game going out is a big game especially this time of year."

Cassel, despite the newfound confidence, considers himself the same quarterback in terms of his approach. Nothing has changed on that front -- only the circumstances. He's more advanced and this game means much more the second time around.

"You are able to go back and really review what occurred in the first game and make the corrections that you need to make," Cassel said. "Also, you are a little bit more familiar with their personnel and how they played you the first game and we will see if that plays out in this next game. You just study the film and now you have 10 or 11 games to go off versus when we played them in Week 3."

Dolphins:

Greg Camarillo will not be a one-catch wonder.

The Dolphins signed the lanky receiver to a three-year deal worth approximately $6 million, according to a source cited by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Camarillo, a walk-on punter at Stanford who toiled on San Diego's practice squad before landing with the Dolphins last year where he made a name for himself with a game-winning 64-yard touchdown catch in overtime to help Miami win its only game of the season, against the Ravens, leads the team with a career-high 49 catches and 538 yards. Last year's Dolphins leader in receptions was Marty Booker with 50.

Camarillo was fighting for the fourth receiver's spot in training camp with NFL vagabond David Kircus, and as the preseason went on, he played himself into a starting role.

"He goes a million miles an hour. It's only one speed. Camarillo, I'm sure would tell you this, he practices every day like he's one step away from losing his job, which gives him a little bit of an edge," said Dolphins coach Tony Sparano.

Camarillo has been Chad Pennington's go-to guy. The former Jet quarterback compared Camarillo to Wayne Chrebet, his favorite target who had 41 career touchdowns before retiring.

"Greg is a quarterback-friendly receiver," Pennington said. "He knows what the defense is going to do and where the ball is going to be placed. He reminds me of Wayne. Even their mannerisms are similar.

"Nothing was ever given to him. He's had to work for everything he got."

Camarillo has seven first-down receptions and is averaging 11.0 yards per game.

Camarillo, who said team VP Bill Parcells told him that he's earned his respect before negotiations of his contract started a few weeks ago, said that the new deal won't change his work ethic.

"I've always been a guy that has to come out there and prove himself every day and that's just who I am, and that won't change," he said.


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