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Julian Edelman is excited Patriots have something to play for Sunday

Julian Edelman is poised to play in all 16 regular-season games for only the second time in his career.ELISE AMENDOLA/ASSOCIATED PRESS

FOXBOROUGH — The year 2016 will be over by the time the Patriots take the field in Miami on Sunday, but Julian Edelman’s New Year’s resolution is to play his 16th game of the regular season.

“That’s a big goal,” Edelman said Wednesday. “I haven’t had that in a while so it’ll be good to be able to go in there and play my 16th game, so that’s No. 1. That’s the No. 1 thing we preach around here is the health of the team.”

Edelman hasn’t played all 16 regular-season games since 2013, the only time he has done so. Unlike last year, when the receiver didn’t play in Week 17, Edelman is healthy heading into the season finale.


The Patriots have made Edelman’s health a priority during their stretch run, decreasing his snap counts in each game over the last month.

Edelman played 54 snaps against the Rams, 47 against the Ravens, and 44 against the Broncos. That number dipped further to just 36 against the Jets last Saturday, fewer than Malcolm Mitchell or Chris Hogan. Edelman expects to play Sunday, but just how much remains to be seen.

Edelman is critical to the Patriots’ success on offense. Tom Brady’s completion percentage fell last season from 68 to 59, and the team’s third-down conversion rate dropped from 49 to 32 percent, without him in the game.

Bill Belichick told New England reporters Monday that questioning whether he’ll rest starters doesn’t make sense to him. Asked the same question by the Miami media on Wednesday, Belichick trotted out an old favorite: “We always try to do what’s best for our football team, and so that’s what we’ll do this week. That’s what we’ll do every week. Whatever that is, that’s what we’re going to do. That’s the philosophy.”


The Patriots’ 20-10 loss in Miami in Week 17 a year ago looks like malpractice now, but Belichick must have thought running the ball to protect Brady was the best thing to do at the time against a lowly Dolphins squad.

Just like last year in Week 17, the top seed in the AFC will be on the line — the Patriots need a win or a Raiders loss or tie to secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Dolphins’ situation this time is very different. Miami has made the playoffs for the first time since 2008 and will be fighting for seeding, as well.

If the Dolphins win and Kansas City loses, Miami would get the No. 5 seed and travel to face the Houston Texans, instead of the No. 6 seed and a trip to play the Pittsburgh Steelers, seen as the more challenging matchup.

As far as Edelman is concerned, bring it on. He’d rather his team get another real test than go against a spoiler with nothing to lose.

“It’s always nice to have something to play for, especially what we’re playing for, but more importantly it’s always special to play another playoff team going into the last week of the year,” Edelman said. “This is like, hey, these guys are going to be in the playoffs, we’re going to be in the playoffs, we can actually see them, so let’s go see and stack up our talent, our preparation, and see how it stacks up against another playoff team.”


The Dolphins have plenty on the line, but they also have been battered by injuries. Miami will be missing Isa Abdul-Quddus, and may also be without fellow safety Reshad Jones, linebackers Koa Misi and Jelani Jenkins, and cornerback Byron Maxwell, all key pieces on defense.

The last thing the Dolphins want is another injury, but having won nine of their last 10 games, they also don’t want to squash their mojo. The Miami Herald reported that coach Adam Gase had a phone discussion with owner Stephen Ross and executives Mike Tannenbaum and Chris Grier, and all decided to play to win on Sunday. Edelman is expecting nothing less.

“It’s always good to play a team like that going into the stretch we’re going into,” said Edelman. “You know, you’ve got nothing but respect for a team that starts off like that and then they go out and they play unbelievable football, crank their team to be playing the best football they possibly can going into these final weeks, so it’s going to be a good test.”

If the Patriots can pass that test, they’ll win their first game in Miami since 2012. Edelman knows that wins have been hard to come by for his team in the Sunshine State, but he’s resolved to change that come Sunday.

“It’s just a tough place to play, I guess. They play well at home, unfortunately. Everything in the past is in the past,” Edelman said. “I didn’t play last year. In the other ones, there’s been a few years where it just always shakes out a little differently than you expect it. But with the new year comes a new opportunity.”


Nora Princiotti can be reached at nora.princiotti@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @NoraPrinciotti.