Over the past five years, the New England Patriots have won more Super Bowls (two) than they have games in Miami (one).
Which is to say, the annual stinkers in South Beach haven’t really hurt all that much.
The outlier, of course, would be the meeting in the final game of the 2015 regular season: New England’s 20-10 loss that served as the bookend to bizarre back-to-back losses to the Jets and Dolphins, ultimately costing the Patriots the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.
New England ended up heading to Denver for the AFC Championship game, in which Stephen Gostkowski missed an extra point, Tom Brady was intercepted attempting to go for two, and the Patriots came up short in their quest to win back-to-back Super Bowls.
This season could unfold a similar situation with the Patriots (9-3) heading into the game one win behind the Chiefs for the No. 1 seed, possibly paving the road to Atlanta through Kansas City in lieu of Foxborough.
With the Steelers looming in another week, few would normally consider this weekend the Patriots’ toughest test this month. Except, it just somehow, inexplicably, always is.
This week’s picks:
Greg Cote, Miami Herald: Dolphins 27, Patriots 23. “‘AAAWWWK!’ carols the Upset Bird. “Deck the halls with sacks of Brady, fa la la la la, la la la laaawwwk!” New England can clinch the AFC East title with a win here, but keep that champagne corked a bit longer, Pats. Yes, I know. In the broadest view the Patriots have been the division master with the Dolphins on their leash for a long time, including a 38-7 beatdown up there in Week 4. But this rivalry swings distinctly with the home field lately. The home team is on an 11-1 series run, and the Fins have beaten the Pats four of the past five in Miami, where the genius seems to often elude Bill Belichick and where Tom Brady isn’t always the G.O.A.T. The Superman Pats also have tended to be Clark Kent on the road this year, 3-3 away from Foxborough with all three losses by double digits — while Miami is impressively taking care of business (5-1) at The Rock. Makes me love the Dolphins getting 7 1/2 points and like them enough outright to pull the trigger. One hesitation: Miami’s rising-star cornerback Xavien Howard, NFL leader with seven interceptions, is very iffy with a knee injury. That’s big. No-Howard would make it that much more likely that Brady gets the TD pass he needs to break a tie (579) with Peyton Manning for most ever, including playoffs. But offsetting the possible Howard absence somewhat is that Ryan Tannehill hopes to have his security blanket Danny Amendola back from injury to face his former team. This call is a major upset that doesn’t feel like one thanks to the the series trends. More size-XXL incentive for Miami: Fins would elevate into a tie for playoff pace with a win here if Ravens lose at Kansas City as expected. “Cannot get the visual from my mind of Belichick on the sideline dressed as Clark Kent,” notes U-Bird. ‘Miaaawwwk!’”
Joe Giglio, NJ.com: Dolphins (+7.5). “Miami has been a house of horrors for Tom Brady. An inspired Dolphins effort continues that trend, but the Patriots pull away late.”
Benjamin Hoffman, New York Times: Dolphins (+7.5). “The Upshot estimates that the Dolphins (6-6) currently have around a 10 percent chance of making the playoffs. A win over the Patriots (9-3) would boost those chances to more than 20 percent, while a loss would drop them to 2 percent. There is no question that Miami is aware that this is the team’s last stand of contention for this season. Does that mean Ryan Tannehill can outduel Tom Brady? Probably not. But it may motivate the Dolphins enough to keep things within a touchdown at home.”
MMQB staff: Seven out of eight pick the Patriots.
Jimmy Kempski, Philly Voice: Patriots. “The Patriots have lost four of their last five in Miami, and Tom Brady is 7-9 lifetime on the road against the Dolphins. That means very little in this matchup to me, personally. The Pats are trying to fend off the Texans for a first-round bye, and are looking to keep pressure on the Chiefs for home field advantage. They won’t be sleeping on this crappy Dolphins team that isn’t as good as it’s mediocre 6-6 record might suggest.”
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: Patriots 27, Dolphins 23. “Tom Brady is 7-9 against the Dolphins in Miami, which means Miami has a chance. Their season is on the line here. A win could put them into the playoffs. But the Patriots are the better team. Brady will win this with a late drive for a touchdown.”
CBS Sports staff: Six out of eight pick Miami (+8). Six of eight like the Patriots straight-up.
Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Dolphins 23, Patriots 20. “The Patriots are just cruising right along after a victory against Minnesota, thanks to a suddenly stingy defense. But the Dolphins are tied for the third-best home record in the league (5-1). The Upset Special.”
David Steele, Sporting News: Dolphins 28, Patriots 22. “The Patriots are just 7-4 in this series the Ryan Tannehill era, even though Tannehill did not play all of them; Jay Cutler was in charge when the Dolphins won last December in Miami. Three of those Dolphins wins have been in December or January; all four were in the now-Hard Rock Stadium. Does that make any sense? Not really, outside of the whole throw-the-records-out rivalry factor. Anyway, this game is in south Florida, the Patriots took until the middle of the third quarter to shake off the Vikings last week, the Dolphins survived the Bills’ final surge, and … hey, why not?”
Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: Patriots 34, Dolphins 14. “The Patriots haven’t been great on the road this season, and the Dolphins have posed problems for Tom Brady in the past. But New England also knows it can run effectively against Miami’s defense with its full cadre of backs. The Dolphins are also giving up more big plays in the passing game, so they will be vulnerable to a few Brady deep shots off play-action.”
Michael Hurley, CBS Boston: Patriots. “As for this game, the only — and I mean ONLY — reason to like the Dolphins is because the city of Miami Gardens puts a voodoo spell on the Patriots on half of their trips to South Florida. It defies explanation, but it does happen. Half the time. The other half of the time? People don’t talk about that as much. But that happens too. So, as a non-believer in voodoo magic, I’ll pick the better football team — the one that waxed Miami 38-7 earlier this season — and see what happens.”
SB Nation staff: All Pats.
Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk: Patriots 24, Dolphins 16. “The Dolphins have had New England’s number when playing in Miami in recent years, and the Patriots finally are paying attention.”
Michael David Smith, Pro Football Talk: Patriots 21, Dolphins 20. “Tom Brady hasn’t played well in Miami through the years, but the Patriots should pull out a close one on Sunday.”
MassLive staff: All New England.
FiveThirtyEight: Patriots with a 72 percent chance of winning.
Elliot Harrison, NFL.com: Patriots 27, Dolphins 20. “They might be NFL royalty, but the Patriots have royally sucked in Miami during the Bill Belichick era. They have managed just an 8-10 record in Miami during his reign, which includes dropping four of the last five there. Key to the Dolphins’ fortunes this week: A) If they can stop the four New England running backs from consistently putting Tom Brady in second-and-manageable situations; and B) converting third downs on offense. The latter’s been an issue all year, and it hasn’t improved with Ryan Tannehill under center the last two weeks, as Miami’s gone 6-for-20 on pro football’s most important down. Still waiting on the Brady-Josh Gordon connection to take off. Gordon has caught 34 balls for 605 yards in nine games with New England — a rate of production that would produce 1,076 yards over a full 16-game slate — but it’s still far from the dominant WR1 status that we know (think?) he is capable of attaining. Maybe this is the week, against this Miami secondary.”
It says here: Patriots 35, Dolphins 10. Just a hunch, but expect a huge game on the horizon for Josh Gordon.