The Miami Dolphins are set to play host to the New England Patriots down at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday. This Week 15 matchup will have a different feel than in years past as we’ve previously grown accustomed to Bill Belichick and company facing the Dolphins at the end of the season, looking to solidify its status in the postseason. Now, New England is on the outside looking in and it’s the Dolphins who are looking to punch their ticket into the playoffs as they currently sit at the No. 7 seed.
The last time the Patriots missed the playoffs (2008), Chad Pennington was the starter for Miami and out winning NFL Comeback Player of the Year honors, which is a testament to how different 2020 has been for the fellas from Foxborough. This time around, it’ll be Tua Tagovailoa who gets a look at the Patriots for the first time in his young career. The rookie was still learning under veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick when these two division rivals squared off in the Week 1 opener — a game that the Patriots won 21-11.
While that contest didn’t go Miami’s way, it’s enjoyed a strong season to this point and will look to extend it beyond the regular season by getting a win against their AFC East rivals. Before we dive a bit deeper into this game, here’s a look at how you can catch all the action on CBS.
How to watch
Date: Sunday Dec. 20 | Time: 1 p.m. ET
Location: Hard Rock Stadium (Miami Gardens, FL)
TV: CBS | Stream: WATCH FREE HERE
The Patriots come into this game 6-7 on the season, which is the first time since 2000 that they’ve sat under .500 after 13 games. This is also the first time since 2002 that they’ve lost seven games in a season, snapping an NFL record 17 straight seasons with at least 10 wins. Part of the problem for the Patriots in 2020 has come under center. While Cam Newton is just a sliver of what’s wrong with the offense, the quarterback isn’t helping the unit through the air much. He has just five passing touchdowns this season (For reference: There are four different quarterbacks who’ve thrown for five touchdowns in a game this year). Newton’s touchdowns-interception ratio of 1.7 is the worst among qualified quarterbacks and has five games this year where he’s thrown for fewer than 120 yards.
On the flip side, Newton has been able to find success on the ground as he’s scored 11 rushing touchdowns this season. However, the lack of passing has made this unit for Josh McDaniels a bit one dimensional, which was on full display in Week 14 when they were out-classed by the Los Angeles Rams on Thursday Night Football, 24-3. That game highlighted a weakness in New England’s run defense as rookie running back Cam Akers rushed for 171 yards in the win.
As for the Dolphins, they’ll clinch their first winning season since 2016 with a win against the Patriots on Sunday. Not only that, but there is a lot of emphasis on winning out if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive. That won’t be an easy task, however, as the road to the end of the regular season is rough for Miami. They have one of the hardest remaining schedules in the entire AFC to end the year with their remaining opponents winning percentage sitting at .590.
If they are going to win out, they’ll need to rely on their defense and Tagovailoa under center. Defensively, this team is far improved from a season ago and has been an opportunistic bunch. They are tied for the most takeaways in the NFL heading into Week 15 and have scored 75 points off turnovers. What will be interesting to see in this matchup on the offensive side of the ball is whether to not Brian Flores will once again let Tagovailoa loose. Against the Chiefs last week, Miami took the training wheels off their rookie QB and let him drop back to pass 48 times as he passed for 316 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 24 yards and another score.
Historically, rookie quarterbacks struggle against Bill Belichick, who is 25-5 against first-year signal callers and is currently on an 11-game win streak in that spot. However, Tua Tagovailoa does seem to have what it takes to pull off a rare win under this circumstance, especially with New England’s offense struggling. The NFL odds over at William Hill Sportsbook also seem to believe the same thing as the Dolphins opened as a three-point favorite in this matchup.