Here's a key matchup to watch in the Week 16 game between the Patriots and Dolphins:
Dolphins OLBs Cameron Wake and Jason Taylor vs. Patriots OTs Matt Light, Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon
It is becoming a common occurrence in the Patriots' matchups to look at how New England's tackles can slow down speed rushers. There are two reasons for that: one is the fact that this will be the fifth game in a row in which the Patriots face a team with a formidable pass-rushing duo and two is that we know how opponents can gain a big advantage if they can get to Tom Brady quickly and often.
In the past four games — against the Eagles (Trent Cole and Jason Babin), Colts (Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney), Redskins (Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo) and Broncos (Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil) — the Patriots' O-line has stiffened, allowing a combined five sacks.
When the Patriots and Dolphins met in Week One, Solder, in his first NFL start, had his way with Wake most of the game. Wake did notch a sack (the Dolphins' lone takedown of Brady), but Solder won the battle. He has gotten more experience since then because of Sebastian Vollmer's injuries and this should be another good matchup. Wake is relentless and possesses a motor that doesn't stop, meaning Solder needs to keep moving his feet and avoid letting Wake by on Wake's quick first step. Wake has 7½ sacks, 22 QB hits and 14 tackles for loss this season.
Taylor, the veteran, has notched six sacks, 12 QB hits and four tackles for loss. It could be a veteran affair on the left side with Taylor rushing Light, who has performed very well all season long. Light might have a little more trouble if Wake moves over to rush from that side, though. Look for RBs Danny Woodhead and Kevin Faulk to help chip-block on passing downs.
The other factor to watch is Cannon, who plays right tackle when Solder moves to tight end on running downs. Cannon fared well last week against Denver and will get tested again this Saturday.