Curran's keys: Big day for Vereen

Curran's keys: Big day for Vereen
December 15, 2013, 12:00 am
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The Patriots have a chance to wrap up the AFC East with a win on Sunday in Miami. 

They have a chance to secure the 1-seed in the AFC, a first-round bye and home field advantage if they win their final three games. 

Neither of those tasks will come easy. 

Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran shares three keys for the Patriots in their showdown with the Dolphins.

Patriots O-Line must rise to the challenge

The Dolphins have a strong front-seven and the Patriots O-line has some question marks. Can the banged up line keep Tom Brady upright?

Shane Vereen must fill the void left by Gronk

No one player can fully replace what Rob Gronkowski brings to a game, but it will be up to Vereen to come up with the big conversions and give Brady a reliable, go-to option in the clutch.

The Patriots have won without Gronk before, but their offense sputtered. One reason to be optimistic about the offense's prospects is that the last time Gronk was out, Vereen was also sidelined. This time, Vereen's presence should, and must, replace at least some of what the Patriots will be losing in Gronkowski's absence. 

Get off to a fast start

Lately it has taken the Patriots a little while to their offense in gear. An entire quarter. An entire half. Heck, even the first three quarters. 

Yes, it's been a thrilling and nerve-wracking couple of weeks, but the Patriots can't afford to continue to live on the edge. The fact is, in order for the Patriots to have won as many come-from-behind games as they have lately, practically everything has gone right for them.

That kind of luck just doesn't last forever.

Final Score: Dolphins 24, Patriots 20