Dolphins Watch

December 30, 2010 11:13 PM

Dolphins wrap up season against Pats

BRADY1.bmpThe end is here.

For the 2010 Miami Dolphins, the finish comes in snowy New England, not with a playoff berth on the line, but with several careers hinging on the outcome.
This could very well be the final Dolphins game for Coach Tony Sparano, quarterback Chad Henne, and running backs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. It certainly will mark the end for offensive coordinator Dan Henning, who reportedly will retire at season's end.

There are rumblings Sparano could be fired if his team falls for the third straight week, while this may be the last game Henne starts for a long time.

As for Williams and Brown, both are free agents, and there are few indications the Dolphins will re-sign either after the running game went south this season.

And of course, who will the Dolphins see but their old friends, the Patriots, who after a two-year absence have rediscovered their winning ways.

New England is an NFL-best 13-2 this season, and has averaged a league-best 32 points per game. Tom Brady has been incredible, setting a new NFL record with 319 consecutive passes attempted without an interception. Brady, who is the odds-on favorite to win his second NFL Most Valuable Player award, has thrown 34 TD passes and a preposterously-low 4 INTs.

As usually is the case, Brady has spread his targets expertly.

Four Patriots receivers have caught at least five TD passes, with tight end Rob Gronkowski leading with 9. Wes Welker is again the team's reception leader with 86, and Brandon Tate is averaging almost 16 yards a catch in Randy Moss' old role.

The running game has been led by the two-headed monster of undrafted free agents BenJarvis Green-Ellis (928 yards, 12 TDs) and Hard Knocks hero Danny Woodhead (528 yards, 5 TDs).

New England has locked up home field advantage in the AFC, so conventional wisdom says Brady may not play long. But, Belichick has never adhered to conventional wisdom. Look for Brady to play most of the game until the score gets out of hand.

The Dolphins have been a revelation on defense, ranking third in the NFL. Vontae Davis has become an elite cornerback in just his second season, and Cameron Wake earned his first Pro Bowl berth and leads the NFL with 14 sacks.

The Pats are 27th in the NFL in total defense, and they've struggled against the pass, where they rank 30th.

New England does boast a game-changing corner in Devin McCourty, who leads the team with six interceptions.

The Dolphins, as has been the custom this season, will not be able to gain much on the ground, so once again it will fall on the shoulders of Henne and the receiving corps to lead the team to victory.

The last time these two teams met, the Patriots offense did little, but it was a meltdown by Miami's special teams that figured heavily in a 41-14 collapse on Monday night. Henne also had the first of his subpar performances with three interceptions.

I wrote this before, but this has been the most unpredictable Dolphins season in recent memory, with Miami beating elite teams you'd think they'd lose to, and dropping games against teams in the bottom half of the league.

I'm going to go out on a limb here, because Miami has a history of playing New England tough during the Belichick years, because the Pats have nothing to play for and Miami does, and because the Dolphins are on the road again -- where they are 6-1 -- I'm going to pick them to do the unthinkable again, and snap New England's seven-game winning streak.

Dolphins 27, Patriots 24.

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