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Patriots vs. Dolphins preview: 3 keys to the game, fun facts, prediction

Ryan Hannable
December 08, 2018 - 9:34 am
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Can the Patriots finally win in Miami?

This has been a big topic all week, as the Patriots have dropped four out of their last five meetings in South Florida against the Dolphins. Coincidentally, the only year in the last five when the Dolphins had a winning record, that was the Patriots' only win.

The game has a ton of meaning for both teams. Miami is 6-6 and fighting for its playoff lives, while the Patriots can clinch yet another AFC East title with a win.

Patriots vs. Dolphins
Sunday, December 9, 2018
1:00 p.m., CBS
Patriots -7.5, over/under 48

3 keys to the game

Get off to fast start

Yes, this is cliche, but it’s been a major issue for the Patriots on the road. In their six road games this season, the Patriots have failed to score first in five of them. Also, in their three losses they fell behind by double digits in the first quarter. This cannot happen again Sunday, especially given their recent record in South Florida. The Dolphins are a different team at home, as they are 5-1 on the year and opponents have only scored more than 20 points twice.

Take care of the ball

Overall, Miami’s defense is at the bottom the league. It is ranked 29th overall and 20th in points allowed, but it does have the ability to turn the ball over. The Dolphins have forced the third-most turnovers (25) and have the second-most interceptions (19). The Patriots will catch a break with the Dolphins’ best cornerback, Xavien Howard, missing the game due to a knee injury. The Patriots have been good with taking care of the ball of late, having just one turnover in their last five games.

Rely on Sony Michel

Miami’s defense has been terrible against stopping the run, having the second to worst run defense in the NFL. It has allowed over 190 yards rushing in four out of its last six games. Since its terrible performance in Tennessee (40 yards rushing), the Patriots offense has rebounded with 375 yards rushing total in its last two games. Michel had his first career 100-yard rushing game in the Week 4 meeting, so he can rely on past success Sunday.

Fun facts

1. With a win, the Patriots will tie the 49ers (1983-98) for the most consecutive seasons with at least 10 wins in NFL history with 16.

2. On third-and-1 this season, the Patriots have only converted 73 percent of the time.

3. The Patriots can clinch their 10th straight division title with a win or tie on Sunday. According to Elias (via ESPN's Mike Reiss), they would join the Atlanta Braves as the only franchises from the NFL, NBA, MLB or NHL to win at least 10 straight division titles.

4. If James White records four receptions, he will set the Patriots record for most receptions by a running back in a season. He currently has 74, trailing Tony Collins who had 77 in 1986.

5. In the regular season, the Patriots have won 20 straight games when scoring more than 20 points.

Prediction 

Patriots 24, Dolphins 17

While we like the Patriots to win, it likely will not be in blow out fashion. Miami will continue its trend of playing the Patriots tough, but the talent disparity between the two clubs is too big, especially with Howard being out. Keep an eye on how the game starts from a Patriots perspective. If they come out with a lot of emotion and passion, it should be a good afternoon for New England.

Related: Julian Edelman not thinking about reuniting with Danny Amendola Sunday in South Florida

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