Dec. 23, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins running back Reggie Bush (right) celebrates his touchdown with teammate wide receiver Brian Hartline (left) during the second half against the Buffalo Bills at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Miami Dolphins At New England Patriots: Individual Expectations

This Sunday the Miami Dolphins(7-8) travel north to face off against division rival, New England Patriots(11-4). The Dolphins were officially knocked out of playoff contention last week after the Cincinnati Bengals defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 13-10.  In order for Miami to still mathematically be in the hunt for the playoffs, the Bengals, Steelers, and Dolphins all had to end the season 8-8. The Dolphins would have won the tie breaker due to conference record.

The Patriots are locked in for a playoff spot, but they are still playing to get home field advantage and a first week bye. The Dolphins are playing to help develop the young players, including rookie QB Ryan Tannehill, and for the jobs of several players who could either be released, or not resigned.

My final top five Individual Expectations list is going to focus more on which players will need to show up against the Patriots. Some of these players are at the end of their contract and risk not being resigned. The others are players who have had either a poor performance most of the season, or a season equivalent to a rollercoaster. Then some may simple be because they are rookies and I am expecting to see something from them while playing the Patriots.

With that said here are my top 5 individual expectations for this week against the New England Patriots:

1. Reggie Bush (Running Back)- Reggie Bush needs to come out and have a big game for two reasons. 1) His contract expires and if he wants resigned by the Dolphins then he needs to give them a game they will think about when it comes time to say yay or nay. 2) Reggie is currently setting at 960 yards rushing on the season. He needs 40 more to make his second career 1000 yard season. If Miami doesn’t resign him, then that can only help him when it comes time to go to another team and sign a new contract.

2. Sean Smith (Cornerback)- Smith is also at the end of his contract and must step up if he wants resigned.  There has been speculation that Smith could be a potential target for the Dolphins Franchise Tag, but I personally don’t think he is worth it. He started the season looking very good, but that was short lived. Lately he has looked terrible by giving too much room to receivers, missing turnovers, and taking terrible angles in general.  If the Dolphins can get him back on a reasonable contract then I think he may be worth another chance, but I fear he may ask for more then he’s worth.

3. Ryan Tannehill (Quarterback)- Tannehill doesn’t necessarily need a great performance. He’s locked in for the starting QB role for the next several seasons assuming everything remains as expected. Tannehill has performed well for most of the season and I expect him to come out and have a big game against the Patriots to end his rookie season.

4. Lamar Miller (Running Back)- With Daniel Thomas on Injured Reserve, Lamar Miller will get a good portion of the snaps again this week. With Bush on a contract year, if Miller has a big game, then he could be taking Reggie’s place next season. This is a big game for both RB’s in terms of what may happen next season.

5. Brian Hartline (Wide Receiver)- Brian Hartline is also in a contract year, but after the season he’s had I don’t see the Dolphins letting him go.  I do think that Hartline will ask for a big contract and has earned it.  If he has another big game then it may be enough to get him that big deal he should receive.

This is my final top 5 individual expectations list of the season. Do you have a final top 5 list?

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Tags: Miami Dolphins New England Patriots Reggie Bush Ryan Tannehill Sean Smith

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