Game Preview: Miami at New England

The Dolphins face an division opponent on the road for a second consecutive weekend, and a victory Sunday over the New England Patriots would put them clearly in the thick of the AFC East race. Here's a breakdown of the matchup at Gillette Stadium.

WHO: Miami Dolphins (3-4) at New England Patriots (5-2)

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

SITE: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass.


TV: CBS (Greg Gumbel, Dan Dierdorf)

SERIES: 85th regular season meeting. Dolphins lead series 48-36, not including 1-2 mark in the postseason. The Patriots have won 10 of the last 15 meetings but last year Miami snapped New England's 21-game regular-season winning streak with a 38-13 victory in Foxboro when they unleashed the Wildcat on an unsuspecting Patriots' defense and gained 461 yards. The Patriots won the rematch in Miami 48-28 with Matt Cassel throwing for 415 yards and 3 TDs.

PREDICTION: Patriots 30-21

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Dolphins will start three rookies in their secondary against the league's second-ranked passing attack. That means a whole lot of RBs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams on offense. As it is, Miami has a run-heavy approach while attempting to take pressure off first-year starting QB Chad Henne. The Patriots are thin along their defensive line and give up 4.5 yards per carry, so it's essential to the Dolphins to keep the game close so Brown and Williams remain major factors. Facing so much youth, look for Patriots QB Tom Brady to spread the field with plenty of three- and four-receiver formations and let his veteran receivers take advantage of mismatches.

FAST FACTS: Miami has tied a franchise record from 1987 by scoring 30-plus points in four consecutive games. ... Brady has 26 career 300-yard passing games, one shy of Drew Bledsoe's franchise record.


Miami Dolphins:

-- OLB Jason Taylor has seven career interceptions, three coming against the Patriots, who pursued Taylor in the offseason after he severed ties with the Redskins.

"We were aware that was a possibility in that, on my end, I am starting to add up, Adalius Thomas, Jason Taylor and some of those guys over there," coach Tony Sparano said of the offseason chase. "That is something I think you give consideration to certainly. But at the end of the whole thing it is really how that particular player fits you. You don't just want to take him because somebody else is going to take him. You have to have vision for him and I think that this offseason we clearly had a vision for him and a role defined here."

-- FB Lousaka Polite is 6-for-6 when asked to convert a 3rd-and-1 situation for a first down. He has helped fill the void in the Wildcat package left by the season-ending injury to Patrick Cobbs a few weeks ago.

-- RB Ronnie Brown scored four of his 10 rushing touchdowns last season in the early rout of the Patriots, during which they unveiled the Wildcat formation, but he has gained just 75 yards on 27 carries in the last two games.

-- MLB Channing Crowder, who missed last week's game against the Jets with a shoulder injury, is listed as doubtful for Sunday's game.

-- NT Jason Ferguson, who practiced on a limited basis during the week and also is listed as doubtful.

-- CB Nate Jones has brought veteran leadership to a secondary that is starting three rookie defensive backs since CB Will Allen was lost for the season with a knee injury. He is the nickel cornerback and can also play safety. He will be primarily responsible for covering elusive slot receiver Wes Welker this week.

-- WR/RS Ted Ginn Jr. returned kickoffs for 100- and 101-yard touchdowns last week and went from near the middle of the pack of kick returners to No. 1 in the NFL, ahead of Minnesota rookie Percy Harvin with a 34.9-yard average on 14 returns. Coach Tony Sparano said the demoted receiver can recapture his starting position if he gets more consistent during practice sessions.

New England Patriots:

-- WR Julian Edelman has been ruled out for Sunday's game against the Dolphins.

-- OL Matt Light is still nursing a knee injury and missed portions of Thursday's practice as a result, but he will likely be a game-time decision Sunday.

-- DL Ty Warren returned to practice Thursday after missing Wednesday's session, which is good news for the Patriots' defensive line. He should be ready for Sunday.

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