Originally posted on NESN.com  |  Last updated 12/30/12
10:30 a.m. ET: There is still plenty left to be uncovered in the AFC playoff picture, but the Patriots can at least help their own cause with a win over the Dolphins. After an ugly win down in Jacksonville last Sunday, Tom Brady and the Patriots will host another Florida foe this weekend as Miami pays a visit to Gillette. If the last game between these two is any indication, then Sunday’s showdown will be no cakewalk for Brady and the Patriots’ potent offense. The Patriots snuck out of South Florida with a 23-16 win just four short weeks ago. Brady struggled as much as anyone that day, completing just 24 of 40 passes with one touchdown and an interception. Coming off a similar performance against the Jaguars last week (24 of 41 with two touchdowns and two interceptions), Brady is primed for a breakout in an important game for the Pats’ playoff seeding. One big boost for Brady would be the return of tight end Rob Gronkowski. Gronk has missed five straight games while recovering from forearm surgery but is back practicing with the team. With Gronk back out on the field, Brady would have yet another big-play option and his most reliable red zone target (10 touchdowns in 10 games this season) back in the mix. As for the defense, Aqib Talib, who was limited to just eight snaps last week because of a hip injury, has made great strides this week and appears ready for a return to the starting lineup. Talib’s return would allow Devin McCourty to move back to safety and give the Patriots some much-needed depth in the secondary against rookie Ryan Tannehill. Kickoff got pushed back to 4:25 p.m., thanks to the NFL’s flex scheduling, so be sure to keep it locked here for all your Patriots news, notes and analysis throughout the day. Have a question for Luke Hughes? Send it to him via Twitter at @LukeFHughes or send it here.
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