The Patriots won't be playing against a full-strength Miami Dolphins team on Sunday, and that's a huge advantage for a New England team that desperately needs a win to remain in the race for a playoff spot in the AFC.
Dolphins starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who owns a 4-0 career record versus the Patriots (including a Week 1 win in Miami), won't play in this Week 16 matchup because he's been placed in the concussion protocol. Backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will start. Even though Bridgewater has plenty of starting experience, he's only thrown 60 passes over four appearances for the Dolphins this season.
The Dolphins have won four straight against the Patriots and five of the last six meetings in this rivalry. The only win for the Patriots during that span was a Week 1 triumph during the 2020 season with Cam Newton as their starting quarterback.
The stakes couldn't be higher for the Patriots on Sunday. If they win their final two games -- Week 17 versus the Dolphins and Week 18 at the Buffalo Bills -- they'll secure the No. 7 seed and third wild card playoff spot. If the Patriots lose to the Dolphins, they'll be eliminated from playoff contention.
New England Patriots
Which way are experts leaning in this Patriots-Dolphins matchup? Here's a roundup of Week 17 picks.
Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk: 23-17 Patriots
Albert Breer, Sports Illustrated: Patriots
Bill Bender, Sporting News: 27-24 Patriots
Gregg Rosenthal, NFL.com: 24-17 Patriots
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: 24-20 Patriots
Bleacher Report NFL Staff: 24-20 Patriots
Mike Clay, ESPN: Patriots
Dan Graziano, ESPN: Patriots
David Hill, New York Times: Dolphins +3
Sheil Kapadia, The Ringer: Dolphins +3
FiveThirtyEight's model: Patriots have a 67 percent chance to win