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Patriots opponent preview: Dolphins are as explosive as any team in football

Six weeks after their first meeting, the two division rivals will meet up again.

New York Giants v Miami Dolphins Photo by Brandon Sloter/Image Of Sport/Getty Images

Six weeks after their first meeting of the season, the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins will meet again. This time, the two AFC East rivals will square off at Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium.

The Dolphins won the first battle between the two teams, celebrating a 24-17 victory in Week 2. That game followed an all-too-familiar script for the Patriots: they fell behind early, turned the ball over, and ultimately were unable to mount a comeback.

Since then, a lot has changed for both teams.

New England was bitten hard by the injury bug, had a forgettable three-game stretch before an upset win over the Buffalo Bills, and now sits at just 2-5 and with the second-worst scoring and turnover differentials in football. Miami, meanwhile, struggled with injury and inconsistency and despite sitting at 5-2 has suffered blowout losses to the Bills and Philadelphia Eagles recently.

With that all said, let’s take a closer look at New England’s Week 8 opponent: players, key stats, injuries, and more.

Dolphins stats

Head coach Mike McDaniel’s team has been one of the best in football so far, jumping out to a 5-2 record and first place in the division. As a look at the numbers shows, however, the main reason for that is an offense that is the best in the game:

  • Record: 5-2 (1st AFC East)
  • Offense: 34.3 points/game (1st), 462.3 yards/game (1st), 0.204 EPA/play (1st)
  • Defense: 26.7 points/game (27th), 345.3 yards/game (21st), 0.019 EPA/play (23rd)
  • Scoring differential: +53 (6th)
  • Turnover differential: -3 (23rd)

While a 70-point outing in Week 3 against a hapless Denver Broncos defense boosted Miami’s numbers, the fact is that the team’s offense is as good as any both from a volume and an efficiency perspective. The defense, on the other hand, has had its struggles and is ranked below-average in most major categories — from points, to yards, to takeaways.

Nonetheless, Miami opened the week as 10-point favorites according to DraftKings Sportsbook.

Dolphins 53-man roster

(Note: Roster up-to-date as of Wednesday, 7 a.m. ET; *indicates projected starter)

Quarterback (3): Tua Tagovailoa* (1), Mike White (14), Skylar Thompson (6)

Running back (4): Raheem Mostert* (31), Alec Ingold (30 | FB), Salvon Ahmed (26), Jeff Wilson (23)

Wide receiver (6): Tyreek Hill* (10), Jaylen Waddle* (17), Braxton Berrios* (0 | KR | PR), Cedrick Wilson Jr. (11), Chase Claypool (83), Robbie Chosen (3)

Tight end (3): Durham Smythe* (81), Tyler Kroft (82), Julian Hill (89)

Offensive tackle (3): Kendall Lamm* (70 | LT), Austin Jackson* (73 | RT), Kion Smith (71)

Interior offensive line (5): Lester Cotton* (66 | LG), Connor Williams* (58 | C), Robert Hunt* (68 | RG), Liam Eichenberg (74), Robert Jones (65)

Interior defensive line (5): Christian Wilkins* (94), Raekwon Davis* (98), Zach Sieler* (92), Da’Shawn Hand (93), Brandon Pili (96)

Defensive edge (5): Bradley Chubb* (2), Jaelan Phillips* (15), Andrew Van Ginkel (43), Emmanuel Ogbah (91), Cameron Goode (53)

Off-the-ball linebacker (4): Jerome Baker* (55), David Long Jr. (51), Duke Riley (45), Channing Tindall (41)

Cornerback (8): Xavien Howard* (25), Kader Kohou* (4), Eli Apple* (33), Nik Needham (40), Justin Bethel (20), Cam Smith (24), Kelvin Joseph (9), Parry Nickerson (34)

Safety (4): Jevon Holland* (8), DeShon Elliott* (21), Brandon Jones (29), Elijah Campbell (22)

Specialists (3): Jason Sanders (7 | K), Jake Bailey (16 | P | H), Blake Ferguson (44 | LS)

The Dolphins’ roster has seen some changes over the last few weeks.

On offense, running back De’Von Achane, who averaged 12.1 yards per carry, is on injured reserve, with Jeff Wilson Jr. added to the active roster as a replacement option. Chase Claypool and Robbie Chosen (formerly Anderson) were added to the wide receiver group, meanwhile, even though neither has had much of an impact so far.

The biggest question mark on that side of the ball is an offensive line that just saw its starting left guard — ex-Patriot Isaiah Wynn — join left tackle Terron Armstead on IR. Add the fact that nominal starting center Connor Williams missed three of the last four games with a groin issue, and you get an O-line in transition.

Miami’s defense has stayed largely intact, on the other hand. The biggest question mark is cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who currently still resides on injured reserve. After returning to practice last week, however, he could come off IR and onto the active roster at any time.

Dolphins reserves

Practice squad (16): ED Quinton Bell (56), CB Ethan Bonner (38), TE Nick Bowers (88), TE Tanner Conner (80), DT Byron Cowart (95), RB Jake Funk (37), OT Ryan Hayes (76), OL Chasen Hines (63), LB A.J. Johnson (42), DT Rashard Lawrence (97), S Verone McKinley III (32), CB Mark Milton (36), WR Braylon Sanders (86), WR Freddie Swain (87), OL Alama Uluave (62), WR Raleigh Webb (84)

Injured reserve (8): RB De’Von Achane, OT Terron Armstead, RB Chris Brooks, WR River Cracraft, CB Keion Crossen, CB Jalen Ramsey, LB Zeke Vandenburgh, G Isaiah Wynn

Non-football injury (1): WR Erik Ezukanma

The Dolphins have some prominent names on their injured reserve list. De’Von Archane was highly efficient before hurting his knee, Terron Armstead is one of the league’s best offensive tackles, Jalen Ramsey is an elite cornerback, and Isaiah Wynn started all seven previous games at left guard.

Dolphins players to know

QB Tua Tagovailoa: Sure, the offensive setup built by Mike McDaniels helps, but Miami’s starting quarterback has still played some very good football this season. You don’t rank first in completion percentage and yards by accident or support alone. In total, Tagovailoa has completed 163 of 229 pass attempts (71.2%) for 2,092 yards with 15 touchdowns and six interceptions, all while being sacked just nine times.

WR Tyreek Hill and WR Jaylen Waddle: Miami’s wide receiver duo is one of the most potent in the game today, with Hill in particular standing out. The All-Pro tops the NFL with 902 receiving yards — almost 100 more than second-placed A.J. Brown — and seven touchdowns, and has clearly been Tagovailoa’s favorite target this season. He will again be a priority player for New England as somebody able to generate big plays from any position on the field.

Waddle cannot be overlooked either, though. The former first-round pick has hauled in 30 passes for 359 yards and a pair of touchdowns himself, serving as a dangerous complementary option next to Hill.

DT Zach Sieler and ED Andrew Van Ginkle: Miami’s defense is ranked seventh in pressure percentage this season (26.4%), and while the stars — Bradley Chubb, Christian Wilkins, Jaelan Phillips — play a big part in that so do two underrated contributors: defensive tackle Zach Sieler and edge Andrew Van Ginkel have both played some strong football as starter-level contributors, and are tied with Chubb for the team-lead with four sacks.

CB Xavien Howard and CB Kader Kohou: Miami’s cornerback group will likely be shaken up a bit with Nik Needham now back from the physically unable to perform list and Jalen Ramsey a candidate to come off injured reserve soon, but both Howard and Kohou will continue factoring into the mix. Whereas the former is an established veteran who registered an interception against the Patriots in Week 2, former undrafted rookie Kohou has played some impressive football as a starter in his second season.