Just when the New England Patriots looked to be in position to jump ahead of the Denver Broncos in the race for the top seed in the AFC playoffs, the Miami Dolphins finally start living up to their preseason hype. To be fair to the Dolphins, they’ve been playing well in recent weeks, but make no mistake about it, the Patriots had every opportunity to pull out a win. Instead, New England is heading home with a loss.
The unfortunate fact of the matter is that the Dolphins weren’t the biggest obstacle between the Patriots and the AFC’s top playoff seed. Next up for the Patriots is the Baltimore Ravens, who are conveniently enough battling with the Dolphins to claim the AFC’s final playoff spot.
It’s highly unlikely, and actually ludicrous, to believe that Tom Brady and the Patriots coaching staff overlooked the Miami Dolphins, but with a relatively young roster full of players we’ve never heard of, it is possible some of the role players did look forward to the Patriots’ matchup with the Ravens.
If there is a silver lining somewhere in Sunday’s loss to the Dolphins for the Patriots, it comes in the form of the sneak peek the Patriots got against Miami. Because both teams are in the AFC East, the Dolphins and Patriots play twice per year, but teams evolve throughout the season, making late-season matchups more accurate in assessing the playoff readiness of a team. The loss doesn’t do the Patriots any favors in the standings, but it gives them valuable information they may be able to use in the postseason if they see the Dolphins again.
Ryan Tannehill was able to continue his coming out season by simply outplaying Tom Brady and the Patriots. Tannehill tossed three touchdown passes without turning the ball over, and against top-notch teams like the Patriots, maintaining ball control is essential. Although the Patriots outgained the Dolphins, that efficiency allowed the Dolphins to keep drives alive and avoid giving the Patriots extra offensive possessions.
The Dolphins travel to Buffalo next week and finish up their regular season schedule at home against the New York Jets. Both of Miami’s remaining games are very manageable, and if the Ravens don’t finish strong, the Dolphins could find themselves in the postseason for the first time since 2008.