By Abraham Gutierrez

Two teams coming off intra-divisional losses meet at the midway point of the season, as the Miami Dolphins travel to New England to take on the Patriots.

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Opening kickoff for this AFC East showdown is scheduled for Sunday afternoon at 1:05 p.m. ET from Gillette Stadium live on CBS4 (Miami).

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 20:  Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots reacts during the fourth quarter against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on October 20, 2013 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots (Credit, Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Mid-Season AFC East Report

Seven weeks into the season, it has certainly been a tough year for teams in the American Football Conference’s East Division.

If the NFL regular season ended today, the 5-2 Patriots would win their 15th AFC East title, the 4-3 New York Jets would finish in second place, the 3-3 Dolphins in the third spot and at 3-4 the Buffalo Bills would close out the year at the cellar of the division.

Thus, New England would hobble into the NFL playoffs, while New York, Miami and Buffalo would be trying to decide where to vacation this winter.

Luckily, there’s still plenty of football left in 2013-14 regular season. However, one gets the sense that the opportunity to overtake the Pats in the standings might have come and gone, as reinforcements are on the way in New England.

‘The Gronk’ is Back

After missing the first six games of the season due to a series of injuries/surgeries, Pro Bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski is back to give quarterback Tom Brady some much-needed help.

“The Gronk” made his anticipated 2013 debut last week, nabbing eight grabs for 114 yards in a 27-30 overtime loss to the rival Jets.

Gronkowski’s return is sure to give Brady and the Pats offense a shot in the arm, as an extra set of hands will go a long way in what has become a depleted receiving corps.

Patriots on Offense

After an unprecedented offseason, the Patriots are fortunate to remain atop the AFC East division halfway into the season.

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When the departure of Wes Welker was overshadowed by Aaron Hernandez’s murder charge, it was imminent that Bill Belichick’s greatness, and Tom Brady’s abilities would be severely tested.

Fast-forward six games into the NFL season, New England’s offense ranks 20th in the league in both points (21.7) and passing yards per game (225.0), as well as 16th in total yards per contest (341.1).

Not only is Brady having the worst statistical year since his rookie season, but ironically, the strength of this team has been it’s rushing attack, which currently ranks 14th in the NFL at 116.1 yards per game.

Patriots on Defense

In the midst of all the negativity, New England’s defense has also stepped up and provided enough resistance for the offense to score and win five of the first seven games.

Heading into this pivotal game against Miami, the Patriots defense ranks fifth in the league in points allowed (18.1), 11th against the pass (225.6) and 18th in total yards allowed (352.7) per game.

Their biggest weakness lies in their ability to contain the run, where this unit ranks a whopping 31st in the league, surrendering just over 127 rushing yards per game.

Dolphins vs. Patriots Head-to-Head

Even though Miami holds a 49-43 edge in the overall series, the Patriots have dominated the Dolphins since the arrival of Tom Brady.

Not only do the Pats come into this week riding a six-game win streak against Miami, but they’ve also won 16 of the last 22 meetings dating back to the 2001-02 NFL season.

Miami’s last victory came on December 9, 2009 in South Florida, when they defeated New England 22-21.

Patriots Key Offensive Players

  • (QB) Tom Brady: 158/285, 1708 yards, 8 TDs, 5 INTs, 75.3 QBR
  • (TE) Ron Gronkowski: 8 catches, 114 yards
  • (RB) Stevan Ridley: 78 carries, 320 yards, 3 TDs
  • (RB) LeGarrette Blount: 54 carries, 219 yards, TD
  • (RB) Brandon Bolden: 27 carries, 147 yards, TD
  • (WR) Julian Edelman: 46 catches, 455 yards, 2 TDs
  • (WR) Kenbrell Thompkins: 23 catches, 334 yards, 4 TDs

Patriots Key Defensive Players

  • (DE) Chandler Jones: 38 tackles (19 solo), 6.5 sacks, fumble
  • (DT) Chris Jones: 18 tackles (8 solo), 3.5 sacks
  • (LB) Jerod Mayo: 55 tackles (35 solo), 1.5 sacks
  • (SS) Steve Gregory: 45 tackles (31 solo, 14 assist)
  • (FS) Devin McCourty: 38 tackles (26 solo), 2 fumbles
  • (LB) Brandon Spikes: 41 tackles (24 solo, 17 assist)
  • (LB) Dont’a Hightower: 37 tackles (19 solo, 18 assist)

For more Dolphins news and updates, visit Dolphins Central.

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Abe Gutierrez is a criminal justice admin whose love for sports led him to become a writer and editor. His expertise makes him a valued addition to and its partners. His work can be found on .