After constantly looking up at the New England Patriots in the standings for nearly two decades, the Miami Dolphins will have a golden opportunity to get back at their division rival on Sunday when the two teams meet in Foxborough, Mass.
Miami (8-7) has finished behind the Patriots (7-8) in the AFC East in 19 of the previous 21 seasons. It’s been a long, tumultuous road for the Dolphins, who, through their own doing and with a little bit of help, could lock down their first playoff berth since 2016 while sending New England into early hibernation.
A Miami victory paired with a Jets loss to the Seattle Seahawks would propel the Dolphins into the postseason. In losing, the Patriots would also be eliminated from playoff contention.
However, Miami will likely be without quarterback Tua Tagovailoa for the high-stakes matchup.
Tagovailoa entered concussion protocol one day after the Dolphins’ 26-20 loss to the Green Bay Packers last Sunday, and Miami coach Mike McDaniel said Teddy Bridgewater is in line to start after Tagovailoa was held out of practice on Wednesday.
“This is something that we have all of our fortunes ahead of us,” McDaniel said. “It’s up to us to choose what we do with all the past experiences, move on to the next game, which in this case is the New England Patriots — a division rival that they’ve gone through their set of circumstances as well.
“I think (the team is) going to respond the way I’d hope, which is fully embracing the challenge.”
Embracing the challenge will likely be at the forefront of the Patriots’ game plan, too, but New England’s mission is simply keeping its season alive.
The Patriots have their backs against the wall following back-to-back losses in heartbreaking fashion, with the most recent being a 22-18 setback against the Cincinnati Bengals.
New England rallied from a 22-0 third-quarter deficit and had a chance to tally the go-ahead points late in the fourth quarter, but running back Rhamondre Stevenson fumbled at the Bengals’ 8-yard line with 59 seconds left to snuff the Patriots’ comeback hopes.
But it’s a new week, and the Patriots are eager to redeem themselves.
“We (have) got to play more consistent, have a higher level of attention to detail across the board,” New England tight ends coach Nick Caley said. “We just got to do a better job and get ready to play our best game here, coming up on Sunday.
“But in terms of the opportunity, it’s a great opportunity. … It’s everything you want, and all things considered, (we) didn’t play our best game obviously last week, (but) this is a great opportunity for us to come out and right the ship and play a 180-degree different game.”
The Patriots might be trying to flip the script without defensive back Marcus Jones, tight end Jonnu Smith and receiver DeVante Parker, who all missed Wednesday’s practice with concussions.
Cornerback Jalen Mills (groin) was also out, while tight end Hunter Henry (knee) and running backs Damien Harris (thigh) and Stevenson (ankle) were limited.
In addition to Tagovailoa, tackle Terron Armstead (toe/pectoral/knee/hip) and linebacker Bradley Chubb (ankle/hand) missed practice on Wednesday for Miami. Linebacker Jaelan Phillips (toe) and safety Eric Rowe (quad/knee) were limited participants.
–Field Level Media