If the New England Patriots can hang on and beat the Miami Dolphins, they'll clinch a first round bye in this year's AFC playoffs. Thus far, things are looking good, as the Patriots hold a 21-0 lead over the Dolphins at halftime.
The Patriots have been crisp on both sides of the ball. On offense, the Patriots have put up 21 points. They could have more, had it not been for some turbulent winds preventing the Patriots to attempt field goals that would normally be in kicker Stephen Gostkowski's range.
Tom Brady has had a sharp afternoon thus far. He is 14/22 for 192 yards and a touchdown. The protection has held up very well, as Dolphins pass rusher Cameron Wake has yet to be heard from. Aaron Hernandez and Wes Welker have led the way as receivers for the Patriots, as Hernandez in particular has benefited from the presence of Rob Gronkowski.
Defensively, the Patriots have also been quite stout. The run defense has been vastly improved over what we've seen the past few weeks, which could probably be credited at least in part to the return of linebacker Brandon Spikes. Lamar Miller finished the half as the Dolphins' leading rusher, with just 13 yards on five carries.
They've also looked strong in pass defense, with Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington, and Derrick Martin as the primary cornerbacks. New England has gotten a strong pass rush boost from the likes of Rob Ninkovich, Chandler Jones, Jerod Mayo, Justin Francis, and Brandon Deaderick. Speaking of Ninkovich - he went down with a hip injury late in the first half and is questionable to return. That will be a situation to monitor going forward.
The Dolphins will get the ball to start the second half. And while the Patriots seem to have a lot more energy than they did last week against the Jaguars, they need to finish this game off strong to carry momentum into the playoffs.