Dolphins, Patriots square off with playoff chances at stake

MIAMI (8-7) at NEW ENGLAND (7-8)

Sunday, 1 p.m. EST, CBS

FANDUEL SPORTSBOOK NFL LINE: Patriots by 3

AGAINST THE SPREAD: Dolphins 7-8; Patriots 7-7-1

SERIES RECORD: Miami leads 59-52

LAST MEETING: Dolphins won 20-7 on Sept. 11 in Miami.

LAST WEEK: Dolphins lost to Packers 26-20; Patriots lost to Bengals 22-18

DOLPHINS OFFENSE: OVERALL (5), RUSH (27), PASS (2), SCORING (9T)

DOLPHINS DEFENSE: OVERALL (21), RUSH (10), PASS (28), SCORING (27)

PATRIOTS OFFENSE: OVERALL (24), RUSH (22), PASS (21), SCORING (16)

PATRIOTS DEFENSE: OVERALL (8), RUSH (9), PASS (14), SCORING (5)

TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Dolphins minus-5; Patriots plus-5

DOLPHINS PLAYER TO WATCH: Veteran QB Teddy Bridgewater will likely start his second game of the season with Tua Tagovailoa in the concussion protocols. Bridgewater’s experience will be needed as the Dolphins look to inch closer to a playoff berth. Bridgewater has thrown for 522 yards and three TDs with three interceptions in four appearances this season.

PATRIOTS PLAYERS TO WATCH: RB Rhamondre Stevenson and WR Kendrick Bourne. Stevenson has been one of the Patriots’ most dependable players this season, but his fumble inside the 10 with 1:05 left in a four-point game against Cincinnati cost New England a chance at a win. Bourne has spent much of the season in the coaches’ doghouse, but he had six catches for 100 yards and a 29-yard run last week, making it difficult for them to keep him on the sideline.

KEY MATCHUP: Patriots DBs vs. Miami WRs. In Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, the Dolphins have two of the top 10 receivers in the league. New England's Marcus Jones has excelled as an all-purpose contributor but, at 5-foot-8, can be exposed against taller receivers. He was also in the concussion protocol. The Patriots only have three healthy cornerbacks active — Jonathan Jones, Myles Bryant and Shaun Wade — with potential replacements on the practice squad.

KEY INJURIES: Tagovailoa is out indefinitely after sustaining his second concussion of the season. ... OL Liam Eichenberg (knee) was activated from IR this week. ... LB Bradley Chubb (ankle/hand) and FB Alec Ingold (thumb) did not practice Wednesday. ... Patriots tight ends Hunter Henry (knee) and Jonnu Smith (possible concussion) both left Saturday’s game, and erstwhile practice squad player Scotty Washington, who filled in for them and made his NFL debut, was placed on injured reserve on Tuesday. WR DeVante Parker (concussion) has missed two games and has not practiced since sustaining a concussion against Arizona on Dec. 12. Returner and DB Marcus Jones (concussion).

SERIES NOTES: A win would give the Dolphins a fifth straight win over the Patriots, their longest winning streak since 1999-2001. Miami won nine straight from 1989-93. The Dolphins would sweep the series for the second straight year. They did not sweep New England a single time from 2001-20.

STATS AND STUFF: The Dolphins would clinch their first playoff berth since 2016 with a win and a Jets loss at Seattle. ... Miami is going for its third consecutive winning season, a streak it has not accomplished since 2001-03. ... The Dolphins will play on New Year’s Day for just the fourth time in their history. They beat New England on New Year’s Day 2006 and the Jets in 2012 and lost to the Patriots on Jan. 1, 2017. ... Bridgewater is 41 yards short of 15,000 yards passing. ... Miami’s defense ranks 17th in yards per play, allowing 5.4. ... LB Jerome Baker has 495 tackles and needs five more to be the first Dolphins player since at least 2000 to have 500-plus tackles in his first five NFL seasons. ... DT Christian Wilkins leads all NFL defensive linemen with 86 total tackles this season. He is also tied for eighth among NFL defensive linemen with 14 tackles for loss this season and has a tackle for loss in 10 of his 15 games this season. ... The Patriots lead the NFL in non-offensive touchdowns, with seven (four interceptions, two fumbles and one punt). The team record is nine in 2010. They have scored a defensive touchdown in each of the past three games. ... The Patriots have an AFC-leading 50 sacks. ... DB Marcus Jones is second in the NFL with 900 total return yards. He is first in punt return average (13.0). ... Jones has scored on a punt return, interception return and as a receiver. He is the fourth player in NFL history to do so in one season and the first since 1947. According to NFL Research on Twitter, the only other player in the Super Bowl era to do that in his entire career was Hall of Famer Deion Sanders.

FANTASY TIP: Don’t give up on the Miami receivers just because Bridgewater is likely to play instead of Tagovailoa. When Bridgewater last started, in Week 6 against Minnesota, he threw for 329 yards and two touchdowns (also two interceptions). Hill had 12 catches for 177 yards, and Waddle caught six for 129 yards. Tight end Mike Gesicki was a favorite target in the red zone, with TD receptions of 3 and 4 yards.

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