MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) – The AFC playoff picture will get some clarity following a tough AFC East matchup.
The New England Patriots are one win away from another division title, while the Miami Dolphins are potentially one loss away from missing out on the playoffs yet again.
New England seeks its sixth straight AFC East crown and 12th in 14 seasons when it hosts the desperate Dolphins on Sunday.
The Patriots (10-3) held San Diego to 216 yards in a 23-14 victory last week, bouncing back from the previous week's 26-21 defeat at Green Bay in which they gave up a season-worst 478 yards. Their 12 straight 10-win seasons are the second most in NFL history behind San Francisco's 16 in a row from 1983-98.
New England can lock up the division with a win and would clinch a first-round bye with help from other teams. It can still secure a playoff spot if it loses, though that scenario involves losses or ties by at least four other teams.
The Patriots hold the advantage over Denver for home-field advantage by virtue of their 43-21 win against the Broncos on Nov. 2. They appear to have an easier schedule with next week's visit to the woeful New York Jets, against whom they have won seven of eight, and then a matchup with Buffalo at home, where they've taken 13 straight in that series.
Denver visits San Diego this week, Cincinnati the next and finishes at home against Oakland.
Coach Bill Belichick said the Patriots would probably discuss that material "in about 15 seconds" before moving on to Miami, which knocked off the Patriots in their opener.
"We need to talk about how to play offense, defense and special teams against the Dolphins a lot better than we did the last time we played them, which wouldn't take much," Belichick said. "That's what we'll be talking about this week: what to do and how to do it."
New England's 33-20 loss Sept. 7 gave the Dolphins two straight wins in this series for the first time since a five-game run Oct. 17, 1999-Oct. 7, 2001.
Tom Brady was 29 of 56 for 249 yards and lost two fumbles in the first meeting, but he's been at his best at home this year, throwing for 17 touchdowns and two interceptions while averaging 303.8 yards.
The Patriots, winners of eight of nine, are 52-9 in December under Belichick - nine more victories than any other team - and have won 11 of 13 at home against Miami. They're an NFL-best 59-6 at home in regular-season games since Nov. 26, 2006, and have gone 6-0 there this year with an average victory margin of 18.4.
The Dolphins (7-6) are seeking their first playoff berth since 2008 but have dropped three of five after Sunday's 28-13 loss to Baltimore. Even if they win out - like Ravens coach John Harbaugh predicted they would - they could be on the outside looking in with 10 other AFC teams at 7-6 or better, excluding New England.
"I have a lot of faith and confidence in these guys," coach Joe Philbin said. "We've got a huge challenge this week going up to New England. I told them in the locker room, we're going to find out a lot this week."
Miami has surrendered 407.7 yards per game in its last three after holding its first 10 opponents to 302.5. The Dolphins have been particularly vulnerable against the run, giving up 661 yards in the past three - the most they've ever allowed in a stretch of that length.
Defensive tackle Jared Odrick was seen shouting at Philbin on the sidelines in the final minutes of Sunday's loss, in which Miami gave up 447 yards. Odrick and coaches insisted no rift exists between the players and staff.
"Any time you don't play up to the standards we like to uphold, yeah, you're upset," Odrick said. "Everybody is upset."
Safety Louis Delmas' season ended Sunday when he suffered a right knee injury, though Miami will be bolstered by the return of Cortland Finnegan. The cornerback said he will play Sunday after missing four games with an ankle injury.
Miami had a season-high 191 rushing yards in the first meeting, though its running game has all but disappeared. The Dolphins have averaged 81.8 yards on the ground in their last five games after rushing for 137.3 in the first eight.
Julian Edelman, who caught eight passes for a career-high 141 yards against the Chargers, has 19 receptions for 234 yards and a touchdown over his last two meetings with Miami.
Watch Miami take on the New England Patriots this Sunday at 1 p.m. on CBS4, your official Dolphins station!
(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
for more features.