1. The great escape Miami escaped with a 17-15 win over the Raiders on Sunday to set up a battle of 6-4 teams. The Dolphins introduced their now-famous wildcat package in a 38-13 win on Sept. 21 at Gillette Stadium to end New Englandís 21-game regular-season winning streak. Another loss for the Patriots (2-2 in the division) would prove doubly damaging, because Miami would hold the head-to-head and division tiebreakers. A Dolphins season sweep would likely end the Patriotsí chances for their sixth straight AFC East crown and relegate them to playing for a wild-card berth.
2. Beware of the wildcat The wildcat package seemed like a novelty in the first meeting, but Miami has had success with it all season. The Dolphins enter the game averaging 117.5 yards rushing per game, 12th in the league, behind the duo of Ronnie Brown (144 carries, 605 yards, 4.2 average, 9 TDs) and Ricky Williams (102 carries, 437 yards, 4.3 average, 3 TDs). But surprisingly, the passing game has been even more efficient behind Chad Pennington (below). Miami has the ninth-best passing attack in the NFL at 236 yards per contest. Pennington is third in the AFC with a 92.8 quarterback rating and third in completion percentage at 67 percent.
3. Employ air strikes Cassel had his worst performance of the season in the first meeting as the Dolphins limited him to 131 yards passing. But as Cassel showed in his second appearance against the Jets, heís not the same quarterback he was in September. The Dolphins have a solid run defense, yielding 91.3 yards per game, ninth in the league, but Cassel should be able to find some passing lanes. Miamiís 20th-ranked pass defense allows 222.6 yards per contest. The Dolphins donít blitz very often, but they generate an excellent pass rush because Joey Porter has been a beast from his linebacker position, with an NFL-high 13.5 sacks. First-year head coach Tony Sparano has instituted a low-risk, high-reward approach, and Miami has a plus-7 turnover ratio this season.
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This week's OT cover
OT beat writersMaureen Mullen brings you Red Sox information and insights.
Tom Wilcox covers the Patriots.
Scott Souza is all over the Celtics.
Danny Picard is on the ice with the Bruins.
Mike McDonald takes a look at the humorous side of Boston sports