The New England Patriots are in the postseason for a league-record 11th consecutive season but have plenty to play for in their bid to make their fourth straight appearance in the Super Bowl. After wrapping up the AFC East title last weekend, the Patriots can clinch a first-round bye in the playoffs by beating the visiting Miami Dolphins on Sunday.
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New England is a perfect 5-0 against its division rivals and steamrolled the Dolphins 43-0 in Miami in Week 2, but coach Bill Belichick left no doubt that his team is approaching this game with a purpose. "Look, this is very simple now. Miami is a playoff game," Belichick said. "If we beat Miami, then we get a bye. If we don't, then we'll be playing the next week. So, it's a playoff game." No one is more acutely aware of Belichick's mindset than Dolphins coach Brian Flores, in his first year with Miami after spending 15 seasons on the staff of the Patriots. "I know this about (Belichick): He's going to try to beat the heck out of us," Flores said. "And he knows this about me: We're going to do the same."
TV: 1 p.m. ET, CBS. LINE: Patriots -16 O/U: 45
ABOUT THE DOLPHINS (4-11): Miami has shown some moxie since its 0-7 start to the season, winning for the fourth time in eight games despite blowing a 23-point lead in the final 6 1/2 minutes of last week's 38-35 overtime win over Cincinnati. Ryan Fitzpatrick established season highs with 419 yards and four scoring passes in the win, but he finished 11 of 21 for only 89 yards and three interceptions in the Week 2 debacle against New England. While the running game has been almost non-existent, DeVante Parker has hauled in all nine of his touchdown catches over the past 12 games while eclipsing 100 yards in three of the past six. Defense, however, is an major issue, giving up at least 31 points in five of the last six contests.
ABOUT THE PATRIOTS (12-3): While New England has not been a world-beater since winning its first eight to open the season, Tom Brady compiled a triple-digit passer rating for the first time in 10 games with a 111.0 mark in last week's 24-17 victory over Buffalo -- his highest since Week 2 versus Miami. Julian Edelman has recorded at least five receptions in nine of his last 10 games and needs three more to reach 100 for the second time in his career. Second-year running back Sony Michel, who nearly ended his 100-yard drought with a season-high 96 yards on 21 carries last week, ran for 83 yards in a score in the first meeting. The Patriots, who had two pick-sixes in the first matchup, rank second against the pass (170.7 yards).
1. New England has won 10 in a row at home against the Dolphins.
2. Fitzpatrick is 291 passing yards shy of his third 3,500-yard season.
3. Brady needs one touchdown pass to move past Peyton Manning (539) and into sole possession of second place on the all-time list.
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Key Players to Watch
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Ledbetter is on the Injured Reserve Non-Football Injury list due to lingering ankle injury that caused him to miss the 2019 season. He is likely to miss the entire 2020 campaign.