Dolphins receiver Jarvis Landry said back in April that his team would sweep the Patriots this season. He didn’t back down this week, though I wouldn’t call his fairly respectful comments doubling down, either.
“Honestly, it’s a pride thing,’’ he told the Miami Herald. “They’re a team that I have great respect for always. I know guys over there. It’s nothing against them. It’s just something that, as a competitor, you want to win. Just like every game, I approach it the same, and that’s the mindset.’’
From the Patriots’ perspective, I think you have to respect his comments. That’s what you’d want your player to say under any circumstances, right? And Landry is one of the Dolphins who has had relative individual success against the Patriots in recent years, catching 39 passes for 453 yards against them in six games.
Of course, the Dolphins have won just two of those six games, both on their home turf (in Week 1 in 2014, and Week 16 in ’15, a damaging loss for the Patriots). They haven’t beaten the Patriots at Gillette Stadium since 2008. And when Landry looks to the Patriot sideline to see Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, then realizes that he’s taking his orders from Matt Moore and Adam Gase, you have to presume reality hits him.
The Dolphins are not sweeping the Patriots this season. By Las Vegas standards, it would be an upset of huge proportions if they beat them Sunday. The Patriots are favored by 16 points at this writing, and while that seems steep, they have won their last two games by 25 points and have 16-point wins over the Saints and Falcons. As usual, as the calendar closes in on December, the Patriots are building toward their peak.
The Dolphins, meanwhile, are a mess, though at least no coaches have been caught on film snorting cocaine in the last couple of weeks. Miami has lost four in a row to drop to 4-6, including a 10-point loss to the Buccaneers last weekend. It’s nice that Jarvis Landry says he believes in his team. There’s little reason for him to actually do so.
Kick it off, Gostkowski, and let’s get this one started . . .
Three players I’ll be watching not named Tom Brady
■ Brandin Cooks: Because the Patriots, even with some key injuries, have so much talent and versatility on their offense, Cooks sometimes becomes an afterthought. He has three games this season of 38 receiving yards or less, and hasn’t had more than six receptions in any single game. But when the Patriots do need him to strike downfield or emphasize getting him involved, he has been as advertised and more.
Cooks had arguably his best performance as a Patriot last Sunday against the Raiders, with six catches for 149 yards, including a 64-yard touchdown catch. The only game that might have been better was his 131-yard, two-touchdown performance against the Texans, which included some late-game heroics.
He’s tied with Atlanta’s Julio Jones for fifth in the NFL in receiving yards (two players ahead of him already played this week) despite being just 24th in targets. He said this week he wants to play the rest of his career with the Patriots. Sounds like a pretty good plan to me.
■ Jonathan Jones: The Patriots’ defensive backfield is going to have to be a trustworthy unit if they are going to make it to a 10th Super Bowl and win the franchise’s sixth this season. They had their hiccups early, but it’s starting to feel like cohesion is finally happening.
Malcolm Butler did a great job on Amari Cooper last Sunday save for a late and meaningless touchdown; Stephon Gilmore has looked sharp the last two weeks; and safeties Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, and Duron Harmon are the brains of the operation.
But some of the depth pieces deserve a nod as well. Johnson Bademosi played well when Gilmore was out with a concussion. And then there’s Jones, the second-year burner who played the best game of his career against the Raiders. Oakland quarterback Derek Carr targeted him 10 times, but on the five completions he hit in Jones’s direction, Raiders receivers gained just 37 yards.
Jones is also a special-teams demon. I think the Patriots have found a real player here. And in today’s NFL, you can’t have enough of those on the defensive backs depth chart.
■ Ndamukong Suh: Under normal circumstances, it shouldn’t draw much notice that a guy with a $114 million contract and 50½ career sacks said his goal this week is to hit Tom Brady as much as possible. That’s what he gets paid ridiculously well to do.
But given that Brady missed one day of practice this week with a sore Achilles’ tendon and Suh stands as the AFC East’s preeminent cheap-shot artist, it would behoove the Patriots’ offensive linemen to pay him extra attention even after the whistle has blown.
He’s a terrific player. He’s also one who sets a trend of a lack of discipline in Miami.
Did I mention the Dolphins had 17 penalties last week? What a mess.
Grievance of the Week
The list of modern-era finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame was revealed this week. Five players will be elected from the 27 candidates. Looking at the list and remembering that some of these self-important voters who apparently collapsed onto a fainting couch at the thought of letting Terrell Owens in last year left me wondering whether anyone on this blowhard voting bloc will try the same tactic with Randy Moss this year.
Owens should be in already. Moss, the most dynamic receiver in NFL history, should be a lock this year. And anyone who tries to cook up some character clause regarding his occasionally less-than-inspiring effort had better not vote for Ray Lewis.
These guys are going to botch this with their selective hypocrisy again, aren’t they? Is it too much to hope they at least get it right with Ty Law and vote him in?
Prediction, or, in the same span, the Cleveland Browns have two nine-win seasons. Two.
This stat might be the one that confirms and encapsulates the consistent excellence of the Brady/Belichick era more than any other I have ever seen:
New England Patriots, with their next win, will become the 1st team in NFL history to win at least 9 games in 17 consecutive seasons— Boston Sports Info (@bostonsportsinf) November 23, 2017
Think about that for a minute
During that span, the Jets had a moment that peaked with upsetting the Patriots in the 2010 playoffs. The Dolphins won the AFC East in a tiebreaker with the Patriots in 2008. The Patriots have won the division in every year since, and in 13 of the past 14 years overall.
With the AFC East portion of the schedule now upon them — they play the Bills next week, then the Dolphins again — they’re really about to step on the accelerator and run away with yet another division title.
Jarvis Landry has said the right things. But the Dolphins are incapable of doing them. This one is over before halftime. Patriots 41, Dolphins 13.