(Foxboro, MA, 11/26/17) New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski carries the ball against the Miami Dolphins during the first quarter of an NFL football game at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro on Sunday, November 26, 2017. Staff photo by Christopher Evans
(Foxboro, MA, 11/26/17) New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski carries the ball against the Miami Dolphins during the first quarter of an NFL football game at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro on Sunday, November 26, 2017. Staff photo by Christopher Evans
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The Miami Dolphins are entering Week 14 with a 5-7 record and will be facing the New England Patriots (10-2) on this week’s edition of Monday Night Football. When just taking a look at their records at a glance, it seems as though the Dolphins will have a tough time hanging with the Patriots. However, as most fans will tell you, there’s a reason why “any given Sunday” is a saying.

In their last matchup, the Patriots defeated the Dolphins in Foxboro with a score of 35-17. This was a much closer game than the score indicates. The Dolphins blew several opportunities whenever they had the chance to make it a one-score game.

As usual, the Patriots were able to cause damage in a variety of ways. Most notably, running back Rex Burkhead and tight end Rob Gronkowski were the ones dealing the most damage, as they scored two touchdowns each.

The Week 14 matchup should be an interesting one given that it will be in Miami and that Gronkowski won’t be participating due to his one-game suspension. The league handed down the punishment for harming a defenseless player well after the play was dead in the Week 13 matchup with the Buffalo Bills.

So, with that being said, things look like they could be different this time around. Below are our top questions headed into Week 14:

Will being without Gronkowski make a difference?

History says no, it won’t. The Patriots have had to play 25 games without Gronkowski suiting up since his rookie season in 2010. In those 25 games, the Patriots are 20-5. New England is well known for their ability to adapt and change their approach week-to-week depending on personnel availability and favorable matchups that they would like to expose. Nobody in the league does it better than New England when it comes to making adjustments before the game and during the game.

In Gronkowski’s ten games against Miami (not counting his very first game as a rookie) he has averaged 7.8 targets, 4.3 receptions (68.4%) for 54.5 yards and 0.8 touchdowns. For those interested, his median numbers are nearly identical, except his catch percentage rises to 80 percent and his touchdowns rises from 0.8 to one. These statistics would provide evidence to suggest that the Dolphins will be thankful to not have to deal with Gronkowski in the upcoming matchup.

This will be the fifth time that Miami has played New England without Gronkowski. In the previous four games under such circumstances, the Dolphins are 1-3. Clearly not having Gronkowski does not automatically chalk up an automatic loss for the Patriots.

This is true not just for Miami, but for the rest of the league given the 80 percent winning percentage without him versus the rest of the league and the 75 percent winning percentage without him versus Miami.

Is Miami’s defense back?

The Miami Dolphins played outstanding defense at home against the Denver Broncos during Week 13. The Dolphins recorded three sacks, three interceptions (one for a touchdown), and two safeties (a first in franchise history).

Due to all of this, Miami won the game against Denver by a score of 35-9. At first glance, it would appear as though Miami’s defense has made a comeback after their five-game slide. Prior to those five games, none of Miami’s opponents had been able to score more than 25 points on the Dolphins.

However, once the Dolphins lost 40-0 to the Ravens in Baltimore, the wheels came off, leading to the five-game slide. It was during this time that Miami’s defense looked helpless and confused. They routinely gave up explosive plays and did not appear to be on the same page.

The Week 13 matchup against Denver put a stop to all that, but there is something important to note about that game. It’s important to not overlook the fact that Miami faced a Denver Broncos squad that was led by Trevor Siemian.

Siemian had his worst game of the 2017 season with a QBR of 30.5 against the Dolphins. His poor throws and lack of ability led the Dolphins being able to play loose and fast. That won’t be the case when megastar quarterback Tom Brady and Co. come to town.

Does home-field advantage matter in this series? Primetime?

From the years 2012-2016, the Miami Dolphins have not won a game in Foxboro. However, over that same five-year span, the Dolphins have won three out of five games against the Patriots while in Miami.

With that said, it would appear as though home-field advantage does matter in this series. The Patriots extended their home winning streak against the Dolphins to six with their win in Foxboro earlier this season. If the Dolphins are able to win in Miami they will have gone 4-2 against New England over the past six years when facing them in South Florida, good for a 67 percent winning percentage.

If not, they will fall to a 50 percent winning percentage. This is evidence to show that home-field advantage does matter in this series, but the advantage is stronger for the Patriots, as they have defended their home field with a spotless record for many years.

Unfortunately for Miami, none of those three wins over the past five seasons have been in primetime games. The Dolphins will have a chance to step up to the plate when all eyes are on them this Monday night.

Miami fans will want to forget the last three primetime Dolphins games this season, as Miami went 0-3 over a three game stretch that saw them featured on Thursday Night Football, Sunday Night Football and Monday Night Football, consecutively.

The Dolphins are not totally out of the playoff hunt just yet, but it is a longshot, as there are many AFC teams in a similar predicament. A lot of things would have to fall into place for the Dolphins to make the playoffs for a second consecutive season. The first order of business would be a win against the hated New England Patriots.

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