By Abraham Gutierrez
For the 104th time in their storied rivalry, the New England Patriots and the Miami Dolphins will collide, and unfortunately for the Fins, it's the first of two meeting in six weeks with the defending champs.
Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts will be filled to capacity as the Pats will try and win their seventh straight game and hand the Fins their fifth consecutive loss. Opening kickoff is slated for Sunday at 1 p.m. ET and it will be broadcast live on CBS.
Given that they reside in the same division, the last time these bitter foes met dates back to last season. In the 2016 NFL regular season finale, New England prevailed on the road against Miami, coming away with a 35-14 victory. Miami leads the overall series 53-50-0, but has lost two straight and four of its last five games against New England.
Patriots 2017 NFL Record: 8-2-0
The incomparable Bill Belichick is the only head coach in NFL history to win three Super Bowls during a four-year span. After hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy for the fifth time in his illustrious career, the 3-time NFL Coach of the Year is positioning himself to have a crack at his second repeat.
After losing two of the first four games of the 2017 NFL campaign, New England hit its stride and has taken the league by storm. Winners of six straight contests, the Patriots sit comfortably atop the AFC East and are poised to win an eighth consecutive divisional title—and 18th overall (19 division titles with the 1963 AFL East crown).
Patriots on Offense
On offense, it doesn't get much better than the Patriots, as this bunch is consistently among the very best units in the league, year-in and year-out. The 2017 NFL season is no exception and Tom Brady and the Pats are firing on all cylinders.
Entering Week 12, the Patriots offense ranks top in the National Football League in passing yards per game (304.5), second in total yards (410.5), fourth in points (29), and 16th in the league in rushing yards per contest (106).
Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Josh McDaniels is the man behind New England's high-power offense and has been at that position since 2012. Aside from Brady's brilliance, there are a few players whose contributions thus far this season cannot go unnoticed under McDaniels' system.
As far as aerial touchdowns go, everyone knows Brady's favorite target is tight end Rob Gronkowski. Gronk comes in with 41 receptions for 619 yards and 5 touchdowns, which has him tied for most scores on the team alongside wide receiver Chris Hogan (33 catches, 438 yards, 5 TDs).
Wideout Brandin Cooks has also been a solid option for Brady with 45 catches for 786 yards and 4 touchdowns, while running back James White leads the way in receptions with 46 grabs for 376 yards and two scores.
On the ground, the Patriots have gotten most of their production from a two-headed halfback combination. Mike Gillislee leads the pack with 98 rushes for 355 yards and four touchdowns, followed by Dion Lewis and his 82 carries for 386 yards and 3 touchdowns. However Gillislee has fallen out of Belichick's favor as of late, meaning the Dolphins can expect a lot of Lewis and Rex Burkhead (30 carries for 116 yards, 19 receptions for 176 yards and two touchdowns).
Patriots on Defense
For the past six seasons, Matt Patricia has done a remarkable job as the Patriots' defensive coordinator. With three Super Bowl rings --two as DC and one as assistant offensive line coach—to his credit, this Aeronautical Engineer could be pacing the sidelines as an NFL head coach in the not-so-distant future.
Thus far this season, New England's defense has had a couple of problem areas, but have managed to get by nonetheless. With 10 games in the books, the Patriots "D" ranks 12th in points per game (20.3), 25th in rushing yards (119.9) and last (32nd) total yards (401.9) and passing yards (282) allowed.
Defensive leaders in the Patriots locker room consist of free safety Devin McCourty with 62 tackles (54 solo, 8 assists), while there's a two-way tie between linebacker Kyle Van Noy and defensive end Trey Flowers for most sacks with four apiece.
Finally, strong safety and cornerback Duron Harmon and Malcolm Butler are also knotted up for team-highs in interceptions with each registering two picks.
Patriots Players to Watch: Tom Brady, Kyle Van Noy
Obviously, any time anyone goes up against the Pats, the offensive player to watch will be future first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterback, Tom Brady. At 40-years-young, the 5-time Super Bowl champ is showing no signs of slowing down. The consensus "G.O.A.T." comes into Week 12 having completed 261-of-380 pass attempts for a league-leading 3146 passing yards, is second in the NFL with 22 touchdowns and has only been picked off twice for a quarterback rating of 110.9.
On defense, New England's player to watch is outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy. In 10 starts this season, the fourth-year BYU product has registered 64 tackles, four sacks and a pass-defended.
Coming off a lackluster performance against the Bucs, NFL Week 12 oddsmakers believe the Dolphins will have an uphill battle against the defending Super Bowl champs. According to opening NFL point spreads, the Patriots (-17) are listed as huge betting favorites at home against the Dolphins (+17). The OVER/UNDER is set at a combined total of 48 points and straight-up money lines go as follows: Miami Dolphins (+1100) vs. New England Patriots (-2000).
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