When the Patriots and Dolphins meet on Sunday in the NFL’s first Week 18, only one team has stakes on the line. The Patriots are playing for playoff seeding, while Miami was eliminated from postseason contention last week.
Still, don’t expect the Dolphins to lie down and let the Patriots secure at least the top wild card spot in the AFC bracket. That’s just not how Dolphins head coach Brian Flores operates. Look no further than the 2019 season finale, when the 4-11 Dolphins came into Gillette Stadium and beat the Patriots 27-24, knocking New England out of a first-round bye.
The Patriots will also have to fend off the demons that have followed them to Miami in recent years. Bill Belichick’s team is just 2-6 in its last eight games at Hard Rock Stadium. Players and coaches spoke this week about the challenge of reacclimating to the Southern Florida climate, especially coming from New England so late in the season.
Put all of that together, and it’ll hardly be a party for the Patriots on South Beach on Sunday. What does the team need to do to close the regular season with a win? Let’s take a look at this week’s key matchups…