FOXBOROUGH – Welcome to Gillette Stadium for the final time in the regular season. Obviously there’s nothing on the line in this game, but here are a few things to watch:
- Progress made by the young receivers: With Deion Branch and Wes Welker inactive, that means a lot of playing time for Brandon Tate, Matthew Slater, Julian Edelman and Taylor Price. Price is definitely worth watching since this is the first time he’s been active this season. Tate and Edelman could use a good showing for more confidence heading into the postseason.
- What’s Hoyer got?: Figure Tom Brady to play less than he normally does in a meaningless game – probably a little more than a quarter – so Brian Hoyer will get to strut his stuff against a very good defense.
- Dolphins free agents: Miami has a few potential free agents that the Patriots could have interest in starting with the two running backs, Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. With Fred Taylor likely done, the Patriots could use a compliment if not direction competition for BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who has been very good but he’s far from elite. Williams, thanks to his many suspensions/retirement, still has a lot of tread left on his tires. And Bill Belichick buddy Nick Saban loved Williams when he coached him. As for Brown, he was one of the few Dolphins players Belchick didn’t mention by name this week. Brown was Saban’s first draft choice. Also keep an eye on Dolphins DE Tony McDaniel, who had a pretty good season when given a chance.
- Green-Ellis for 1,000: The running back is 72 yards away from 1,000 yards. Belichick likes to give players a chance at those milestones. He needs to make hay in the first half in all likelihood.
Patriots 23, Dolphins 13: If Miami decides to pass, they’re in for a long day. QB Chad Henne is not good. Patriots could have a lot of trouble if the Dolphins stick to the ground, especially if Vince Wilfork goes out early.