The New England Patriots need one more win to secure home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs and they'll have to do it against a 5-10 Miami Dolphins team that could be without starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
The Pats were hit with the injury bug again against the Jets, losing left tackle Sebastian Vollmer. Vollmer is expected back for the playoffs, but with a number of walking wounded, the Patriots could choose to rest some key defenders like Dont'a Hightower, Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung.
But they also might choose to get wide receiver Julian Edelman a little bit of game action as well. Edelman's been practicing for a few weeks now and is due to a tune up before the bullets are real. It's the last game of the regular season!
New England at Miami
Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET (Sunday)
Spread: Patriots -9
Three Things to Watch
1. Edelman Back?
Julian Edelman has been practicing for a few weeks now and should see his first game action since being lost to a broken foot against the Giants in Week 10. The Patriots' offense has been a shadow of itself without Edelman (and Danny Amendola), and their Super Bowl hopes likely depend on how well Edelman can step back into action. This will be the first glimpse at where the valued wide receiver's recovery is at.
2. Steven Jackson Hammer Down?
Jackson showed a solid burst in his limited debut with the Patriots and figures to be the running game's closer in the playoffs, taking short-yardage and goal-line carries only. But what if he shows more against the Dolphins? Could he be ready for an expanded role after such a short time on the team? Either way, Jackson figures to be an important piece in the playoffs and a wild card for both opponents and the Pats themselves.
3. A Game Without an Injury?
It seems like the Patriots have had a major injury in just about every game since their Week 4 bye. Even last week Sebastian Vollmer, Rob Ninkovich, Jordan Richards and others were banged up and it seems like the team is just hanging by a thread from a truly catastrophic loss. Can they break the trend in their last game? They badly need to stop the bleeding and begin the healing.
The Patriots need this win and the Dolphins are looking forward to enjoying the offseason in Miami. The Patriots might protect some key pieces, but should still play sound enough football to pull out the win and pave the AFC's road to the Super Bowl through New England.