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The Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots will meet in a final weekend showdown that, before the season started was thought to be a possible AFC East division title game, but instead became a game between the Patriots, who once again ran away and hid with the division, and the Dolphins, the last place team in the division and one preparing for another head coaching search. In what could have been a showdown between two top level offenses and defenses, trying to claim a division title, may now feature two teams trying to not get anyone hurt in a game that, other than New England claiming the first or second seed in the Playoffs, really does not mean anything.
The Patriots ruled out six players in the final injury report on Friday, preferring to give all of these players two weeks to get healthy for the Playoffs: cornerback Justin Coleman, wide receiver Julian Edelman, linebacker Jonathan Freeny, linebacker Dont'a Hightower, defensive end Chandler Jones, and tackle Sebastian Vollmer. Defensive lineman Sealver Silga is dealing with a family issue and is not going to play in the game, even though he is officially listed as questionable.
With New England being so cautious with all of these players, it is not hard to imagine them doing the same with many of their major starters. Quarterback Tom Brady, for instance, could start the game, then quickly take a seat on the bench in order to make sure he is fully healthy for the Playoffs. The Patriots may not do that, knowing they can claim the top seed for the AFC with a win, but that top seed may not be worth the risk to Brady, Rob Gronkowski, or any of the other starters.
The Dolphins, meanwhile, could look to do the same thing. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill has not missed a start in his first four seasons, but that does not mean he has to play the entire game. The Dolphins could start him, and if the game starts to get out of hand at all, pull Tannehill for Matt Moore or Logan Thomas, protecting Tannehill for next year. The same could happen for players like running back Lamar Miller, wide receiver Jarvis Landry, tackle Branden Albert, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, and safety Reshad Jones. The Dolphins could use this game as a chance to give younger players more playing time, giving them at least a little more experience before next year.
If you are looking toward this game for your fantasy football plans for the weekend, it may not be the safest bet. There is no guarantee any of the players will play the entire game, and it is hard to predict which player could be pulled when. It could also make for an ugly game, with the teams potentially emptying their bench and using players who may not be fully in synch with each other or the offense or defense scheme being used.