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Patriots vs. Dolphins: Pregame Thoughts

Patriots QB Tom Brady will be looking to repeat his team's week one success against the Miami Dolphins.
Patriots QB Tom Brady will be looking to repeat his team's week one success against the Miami Dolphins.

Five pregame thoughts as the Patriots prepare to host the Miami Dolphins at 1:00 PM ET:

1. Patriots have a chance to clinch homefield advantage throughout the playoffs today, although the odds are still pretty remote. Pretty amazing to think that if things continued as they had just two weeks ago, the team may have been saddled with a #3 seed in the playoffs. But after two straight Texans losses and losses by the Steelers and Ravens last week, the Patriots now control their own destiny when it comes to the 1st seed in the AFC. The Steelers and Ravens both have easy games (St. Louis and Cleveland, respectively), but it still goes to show how impressive the Patriots' run has been no matter what you think about the team's defense. The team can also clinch a first round bye with a win.

2. Today's game, a battle of two "hot" teams, should be a good test for the Patriots. It's no secret that the Buffalo Bills are fading - they've lost seven straight games since starting the year 5-2. They are the Patriots' week 17 opponent. The Dolphins, who the Patriots today, have gone in the opposite direction of the Bills. They started the year 0-7, but are 5-2 since. Their defense has been dominant as of late, and I think they represent the Patriots' biggest challenge prior to the playoffs. In many ways, their defense reminds me of Pittsburgh's, and because of that, I think that represents a good test for New England considering the Patriots struggled so much against Pittsburgh earlier in the year.

3. The Patriots could struggle to defend Matt Moore. It's no secret that average quarterbacks have found a way to have success against the Patriots defense this year. I'm not saying that Moore is average, although his play has leveled off a little bit as of late he has been a key part in turning the Dolphins' season around. Moore doesn't make a lot of mistakes, he has just six interceptions on the year, and is willing to take what the defense gives him. In the past, this type of quarterback has had success against New England, and we'll see if Moore gives the Patriots defense fits.

4. We should get a better idea of what the Patriots' receiver depth chart looks like after today. I was really impressed with what Chad Ochocinco did as a down field blocker against the Broncos last week, and based on everything he has said, he really gets the "Patriot Way." I'm not sure if his play was enough to convince the Patriots' coaching staff, but I will be interested to see if Ochocinco can steal some snaps from Deion Branch against a Miami secondary that requires more athleticism to get open.

5. Greg's Prediction: Patriots 34 Dolphins 23. I think this will be a pretty tough match-up for the Patriots. The Dolphins can do some things that have given the Patriots trouble in the past and they are on a roll, even after firing coach Tony Sparano. Still, the Patriots are on quite a roll themselves, and I think the Patriots momentum carries them to a well-earned victory.