AFC East Preview: Monday Night Action

Week four closes with an important AFC East battle between the Dolphins and the Patriots. GWR's Nick St. Denis gives a preview of this game.

The Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots meet in South Beach Monday night for a critical AFC East matchup, as each have a loss to the Jets the past two weeks.

Both teams sit at 2-1 overall and 1-1 in the division having defeated the Buffalo Bills, who host the Jets Sunday. With a loss Monday, either the Patriots or Dolphins could be a game behind two teams in the division and two games back in divisional records if the Jets win.

The story for New England has been defense. As long as Tom Brady is calling signals with Randy Moss and Wes Welker running routes, the Patriots will have no problem offensively. The team ranks first in the NFL in scoring, averaging 30 points a game. However, New England is a dismal 28th in points-against, giving up an average of 27.3 points per game. The Patriots let the winless Bills put up 30 points in Foxboro, and Miami has a much more capable offense than Buffalo.

Emerging quarterback Chad Henne is making better use of his new all-world receiver in Brandon Marshall, and Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams have killed the Patriots on the ground in the past. New England will also have to account for second-year receiver Devone Bess, who does a lot of the same things the former Dolphin Welker does.

Miami's defense was stout the first two weeks of the season, but Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez handled it well last Sunday, throwing three touchdowns and no interceptions in the first of two-straight primetime games at Sun Life Stadium.

Tom Brady will not only look to Moss and Welker to make plays, but also to rookie tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski. The two first-year Patriots have combined for 269 yards and two touchdowns in the team's first three games. Sanchez exposed what good pass-catching tight ends can do against Miami with Dustin Keller's two-touchdown performance in which he totaled 98 yards on six receptions.

The gut tells me to go with Miami here. The Dolphins are home, they're coming off a primetime loss to the Jets, they are more balanced overall than the Patriots and New England's defense is just that bad. But I'm going with New England, 31-27.

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