These aren’t Don Shula’s Miami Dolphins just yet. But they’re not Tony Sparano’s bumbling bunch either.
Head coach Joe Philbin has the new-look Dolphins (5-6) in the hunt for a playoff spot, led by explosive running back Reggie Bush and rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill on offense and a defense that’s played tough when it’s had to this season.
With a win in Miami, the Patriots (8-3) can clinch a 10th AFC East title in the Bill Belichick era and keep their hopes alive for a first-round bye in the postseason and a possible home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Overall, the Patriots are 14-33 (.298) all-time in Miami, but they’ve won eight of the last 10 games against the Dolphins, including a sweep in the two meetings in 2010 and 2011. New England owns an NFL-best 41-5 record in the month of December since the 2001 season and is 19-0 in the second half of the season since 2010.
The Patriots have scored 190 points in the last four games (49, 52, 37, and 45). Miami has scored just one touchdown in its last 10 quarters. The Dolphins rank 26th in scoring.
In this week’s preview video above, the Globe’s Shalise Manza Young gives us her keys to the Week 13 showdown between the AFC contenders and looks into the Dolphins matchups with New England wide receiver Wes Welker and running back Stevan Ridley.
In nine career games against the Dolphins, Wes Welker has caught 75 passes for 981 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 8.3 catches and 109 receiving yards per game against his former club. Those averages are the best against any team Welker has faced more than once in his career.
Ridley needs 61 yards rushing to become the 12th Patriots player to gain 1,000 yards on the ground in a season.
“It’s a different scheme than what they’ve done in the past,” Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said regarding the Dolphins defense. “So I think part of what we’ve done the last three or four days is to understand what they do and how they do it, when they do well, why things are going well for them, and vice-versa, so it’s definitely a challenging scheme.”
Patriots defenders Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty weigh in on the Patriots’ staggering success in the turnover department. The Dolphins are minus-10 in turnover differential for the season, while the Patriots are a spectacular plus-24 on the season. We also hear from Pats wide receiver Brandon Lloyd on his approach to this weekend’s game with an AFC East title within reach.