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Sunday column: Pats, Dolphins still racing

The offseason is supposed to be the down time, the off time. Hence the term offseason. But the NFL knows no offseason, as the competition between teams rages during free agency, the draft, conditioning programs and training camps.

At least that's how I see it.

The offseason determines, in part, what results teams get during the regular-season. And that's why my column in Sunday's Miami Herald looks at where the top two teams in the AFC East stand.

Understand the column looks at a snapshot in time. And that time is right now. It looks at the Dolphins and Patriots as they stand today. You should know the standings can change as the offseason wears on and eventually as the regular season begins -- it's like knowing what the score is five minutes into a game's first quarter.

And today, as we look at the Dolphins and Patriots, I see the team that finished behind the Dolphins in the AFC East as slightly better than Miami now. Yes, I think the Patriots are ahead of the Dolphins right now.

The column outlines the reasons I see New England as having pulled ahead of Miami for the moment. It shouldn't surprise anyone to note one major reason is named Tom Brady and his apparent on-schedule return from last season's knee injury.

You might ask why I locked in on only the Dolphins and Patriots? Well, because the Dolphins finished first in the division last season and their closest, most dangerous challenger was, and remains, New England. While the Bills and Jets have made significant moves this offseason, frankly, I don't think anyone would argue Miami and New England remain the teams to beat.

And as I look at it today, the Patriots are the team to beat moreso than Miami.

I'm sure most of you, being Dolphins fans, will be unable to provide a dispassionate view of the issue. But some of you in the past have been able to be quite analytical in your view of teams, players, and the NFL reality. So I expect a good exchange and healthy debate in the comments section.

["The Patriots suck" is not stuff of healthy debate, OK?]

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Yeah and before Mozart died he was giving lessons to a guy named joe blow who is now a famous nothing. Hopefully Ireland has enough experience on his own that he won't crash after Parcells leaves but who knows. Just because someone has a great teacher doesn't mean they're a great student. Trading a probable franchise QB for a 34th pick is stupid anyway you slice it. The only people saying Cassell was only a good QB because of the system were Dolphins fans. The rest of the NFL recognized his talent. You don't put up a game like he did against the Dolphins because of the system. Sing the praises of the Patriots all you want but you're going to be singing alone in a couple of years when these rookie late round picks they've been accumulating crap out.

Also who exactly is stepping in if or when Bradys now weakened knee gives out or gets rolled on? Maybe the 34th pick can lead them to a superbowl.

Dolphins need another top notch pass rusher.so the pats and Brady won't have time to get the ball to moss and walker,new england defense is done without Vrabel.Bruschy and Harrison,I don't think they are gonna be the same team,I think the pats are pushing this year for a last run at the Superbowl,next year Vince Wilfork,Jarvis Green and Richard Seymour will be free agents,It will be nice if the dolphins can snatch big wilfork from the Pats to play for us,A young Corner from Utah to develop will be nice

As of right now, i can see why people think the Pats are the team to beat, but not because of all the free agents they are picking up. It is because, they are a much more dangerous team with Brady.
i am not afraid of the free agents they picked up, well because who knows how they will work. I think their best pick up was prolly Fred Taylor. They have acquired a lot of older players.
I think Miami is doing a great job, and if you say the Pats are ahead of us, I do not see us very far behind. We will do a good job this year despite our supposedly hard schedule. You never know how the other teams will play this year!

I love that the jets are not in conversation........What to do with all those Farve jerseys....Looser organization !
Not since Joe Namath loosers !

David42 , you are obviously new on this blog and you don't know me . I'm one on the biggest dolphin fans and have been for a very long time. Longer than you. But unlike you , i know football and i know what i'm talking about . I'm also a realist and i don't live fantansy football . Did the same late round picks like wolfork ( 20th ) , ty warren , todd light, nick kazur , logan makins ( all in drafted in the 20"s ) tom brady . matt cassel ( franchise qb ,LOL) crap out . LOL

I forgot two of their guards and a tackle will be free agents too,I'm talking starters here,they are headed for a rough off season next year without a doubt

david42 , this is where your lack of football knowledge shows up once again . LOL ,. The pats used a 2008 3rd round pick on 6-5 225 pound qb kevin o ' connell who many say is tom bradys understudy and a big reason they traded cassell . unlike you , I as a big dolphin fan make it a point to know about my enemies !!

NyScott , these guys galloway, springs, bodden , taylor were signed to only 1-2 year deals. I still like what we are doing. We're just not ready yet .The draft is the way to go for us right now.

I think this is an awkward time to write this article. What is the significance of March 15th? Teams will be dropping productive players that Miami can get up until September. Players like Torry Holt & Samari Rolle will continue to become available to plug holes that the Draft cannot fix.

I think the Patriots have always been the better team, because, like you pointed out, they have Tom Brady. With that said, are the Patriots always going to be dominate in the AFC East? No. Miami isnt there yet, they have too many holes and not enough depth. Just give them one more year and I believe they will be the clear favorites in the AFC East. Also, lets not forget Mangini set the Jets back a few years and the Bills have T.O., who is a ticking time bomb. So while the Patriots get older; Miami gets younger and better.

This is New England Last Push For a Superbowl in The Decade Look Out For New England Free Agents in 2010 about 12 or 13 starters either on offense or defense.I Think that's too much to overcome in this league

I mean in years to come the decade is over already

The tuna has just tipped the scales at 450 pounds according to a buddy of mine who works at a truck weigh station..

Some observations:

1) I'm determined to use the emergency brake regularly on my new vehicle. While, apparently counterintuitive, I've been taught to: 1) apply the emergency brake before putting the car into Park, while parking; 2) to release the emergency brake after putting the car into Reverse when pulling out. (i.e. First On, Last Off).

2) Hoop earrings are really sexy on women. It just makes them look so, so, so SEXY.

3) One of the great anomalies of modern times is that for years teams in the Western Division of the Canadian Football League played 16 games in the regular season, while teams in the Eastern Division played only 14. I can think of no other North American sport that had this disparity.

4) People who think cats are better than dogs can not be reasoned with. Avoid arguments with them about ANYTHING.

5) Can someone please explain why the vast majority of players entering the NFL now turn 23 in their rookie year, but they used to turn 22? For instance, Dan Marino was born in 1961 and his first year as a pro was 1983. He turned 22 his first year. But I guarantee you the vast majority of rookies this year will have been born in 1986, and will thus turn 23 this year. I'd like an answer, please.

6) Did you ever see a beautiful woman for the first time - a complete stranger - and want to say, "You don't know me. But I would really like to marry you and dedicate the rest of my life to loving you."? I mean, it would be really embarrassing - but just once in your life you should really go for it. You can always just giggle after to let the woman know you were just kidding around and she doesn't need to call the cops.

7) Bernie Madoff is undoubtedly evil, but I still say Nick Saban is worse.

AHH Nathaniel , just love your writing, keep up the exquisite posts...

I Agree with Pete with an older new england and half the team headed for free agency next year,I think Scott Piolli saw this mess coming and abandon ship,The lousy Jets are Acting like they are a few pieces away of contending for the super bowl,the Bills are not worth of mention,Miami will be in top of the afc east next year

How does Mr Bunglito know that Finhveavanblows likes to get is salad tossed and he blows? Maybe you're the one tossing his salad and letting him blow you. WEIRDO!!!!!

Nathaniel , it's because these dummies aren't graduating high school on time.

The Patriots are better than the Dolphins, more so than just slightly. Getting a healthy Tom Brady back is huge for the Pats. Cassel was more than adequate in filling in, but there is no comparison between Cassel and a 3-time Super Bowl winning QB. Also, the Pats added veteran players who can still contribute (Bodden, Springs, Galloway). I guess the Dolphins were OK with standing pat and adding only a couple players who are marginally better than the players they're replacing, if at all.
If Eric Green is our starting CB in a division that now boasts Randy Moss, T.O., Lee Evans, Wes Welker, Joey Galloway, and even Jerricho Cotchery, the Fins are in serious trouble. Yes, I'll say what everyone else says, "I have faith in Parcells and Co." Still, there is a little bit of doubt creeping in as to what the Fins are doing right now... or not doing.

monkey balls. maybe finhaevanblows can lick your monkey balls while tossing YOUR SALAD.

The patriots are not ahead of the Dolphins. Why is the media worshiping the patriots? Didn't they miss the playoffs? Lets look at their supposed upgrades and why Salguero thinks they are "winning the race". 1. Joey Galloway-37 yrs old-would've been nervous if this was 1997. 2. Shawn Springs-34 yrs old-would've been scared if was 1998. 3. Leigh Bodden-3 teams in 3 yrs-he ain't Deion-something's up him. 4. Tom Brady-one of the best quarterbacks to play the game-don't care what the pats say, it takes along time to recover from an injury like that. He has to recover physically and psychologically.Let's see how good he is on one leg, their offensive line isn't that great 5. They add an important pick in the Cassell (system quarterback) and Vrabel trade with K.C.. It is far to early to say if this pick will even pan out. They have upgraded with older players and one player who is on his 3rd team in 3 years. We got rid of some not so great players, Goodman and Hill weren't that special. Don't understand the fuss about Goodman. He didn't make plays until this year anyway and he is 31 and did Hill even have an interception? We added based on need and didn't add players who way past their prime. We didn't overspend and we are going to build through the draft. That is the way to rebuild. I live in North Carolina and have been a Dolphins fan my whole life-29 of 29 years! i don't understand why you Miamians are so quick to criticize Parcells.Boo hoo we didn't sign Bodden or McFadden or Lavernus Coles. We haven't had this kind of brain trust since Shula. You build through the draft not free agency we of all teams should know that. I am so sick of the Media proclaiming how great n.e. is or how they are just a year removed from ALMOST going perfect. We had holes going into last year and we have holes going into this year. They will be filled. Just have faith and be patient, good things will come and Sparano is one hell of a coach. In closing, don't trust these supposed "experts" when it comes to the draft. Especially those saying we should have picked Ryan over Long. We needed a left tackle. He was the best available. There is no way to know how Ryan would've done with these receivers or if he would have even started. As a Wolverine fan i am telling u that we are set at quarterback and left tackle for a long time. Henne is tough and smart. At the end of the day we will see who has more titles. I pick Henne because I ain't buying the Atlanta hype. GO FINS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I am a PATRIOTS fan and have always been a PATRIOTS fan.I was a fan when they were the worst team in football and when they were the best team in football.For me to sit and read this mess thats spewing forward from all of your mouths that the dolphins are in the same league as the patriots is sickening!!!ONE year with the wild cat offense(that will never work again) got you half your wins.Defenses will be prepared for that highschool football...NOW WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?Talk to me when you can get 2 winning seasons in a row(pats have been doing that for how long).Just to let you know that marino sucked with zero superbowl wins and shula was overated.........

I totally agree with you, Armando. The &*(%^@# Patriots are better now. But, unlike years when wannstedt and saban and cameron was the coach, I believe this staff will find a way to milk all the talent out of its players.

We will be fine. And we will be competing for a playoff spot.

Blow it out your Bunghole Mr. Bunglito. You are a knob on a closet door.

The dolphins have been playig LAST place schedules for years...Now things ramped up.Your going to be on par with the elite teams in football? Can you handle the challange? I dont think so...but if you do my hats off to you.

Please explain how the Pats are better? They get Brady back who isn't 100% and may never be. They signed an older Fred Taylor. An old 37 year old Joey Galloway. They signed an older Shawn Springs. A mediocre Leigh Bodden. They traded for Greg Lewis who in his best year had 500 yards.

I don't see an upgrade anywhere for the Pats.

Miami resigned players they needed in Crowder and Bell. They added Wilson to make them solid at safety. They signed Jake Grove to improve at center. They added Eric Green to improve at CB. Was Goodman or Hill better? Not much.

If anything Miami is still better and improved. Armando, you worry about the Pats too much to see that the Fins are good! You are a Fins beat writer. Not the Pats.

I think the pats and the jets are better in what they have done this offseason!!! The jets where at one point 8-3. They have made some good moves on Def. And Miami has the toughest schedule this season. I hope im wrong but I think they will only go 9-7 this year!!

I seen the game where Lady Brady's leg was damaged. No O line and that will be the key to this years success or failure in NE. Every QB needs time and I don't think they are going to have time.
They are still slightly ahead IMO but the dynasty is coming to the end. NE is one injury away from a train wreck. Since they are old, I believe that we are going to see that injury and a couple of others.
The Phins are good and sticking to a plan. We have a very tough schedule and most of the games will be a toss up. I expect a 9-7 or 10-6 season. Coaching and oline are going to be our assets. Ronnie will run behind the line and the phins will use a ground game to win. Penne will run a good dependable safe offense with few long balls.

For all of you that think new england is getting older, every team comes in and rapes the patriots of players and coaches year in and year out. The pats bring in vets to coach the rookies how to play the game...thats why they have been on top this entire decade.Vets take less to come to a winning organization in order to contribute and teach at the same time...

SILENCE????????/

pats 6-10 in 2009

I totally agree that the Pat's are somewhat ahead of us now. that being said, Brady is a HUGE unknown right now. Odd's are he will be as good as new, but with this type of injury, you never know. Looking ahead to the draft, and back on free agenecy I have total confidence in what the big 3 are doing, and will do. I have no doubt that draft day will bring some surprises. I love all of these "experts" mock drafts, like they have a single clue as to what is going on in Bill Parcell's mind. LOL!

Looking at this off-season's moves, it is clear that Scott Pioli was the brains behind the Patriots personnel decisions...Nothing that they have done this year remotely resembles their former habits...signing 3 players well past their primes (Taylor, Springs, and Galloway) and IMO getting ripped off in the Cassel trade by none other than Pioli...

The fact is, the Pats are getting older and less talented while the dolphins are getting younger and more talented

I said it before and i will say it again. Springs was grossly overpaid in D.C., and I don't think signing a D.C. castoff is a great move for NE. I don't know about Bodden, but they only signed him for 1 year...a rental...what does that say? While they have some youth, the Pats are now an older veteran club that needs to win today. The Dolphins overachieved last year in large part due to a favorable schedule. The Green signing suggests to me that Trifecta knew they needed a player back there, but none of the available guys were strong enough to warrant the $$$. Does anybody know what were the terms of Green's contract? Honestly, if the Jets get any quarterback play at all, I think they are the team to beat.

Joey Galloway had 13 catches 138 yards in 2008...I'm shaking in my boots!

hey Njing,

the dolphins had the same schedule as the rest of the afc east except for 2 games (ravens and texans)....if we overachieved what does that say about the rest of the division...

The Pats are the odds-on favorite to win the division next year. The Dolphins, while not out of the hunt, will have to buck the odds in order to win out once again. They have a tough schedule next year and many of their opponents feature strong passing offenses, the same types of teams that we struggled against last year. I don't believe that our secondary, especially our CB's will be good enough to take on the aerial attacks of NE, Indy, New Orleans, and even others like Houston, San Diego, Carolina, and Buffalo. I fully anticipate a 6-10 or 7-9 type of season in 2009, with a strong recovery in 2010.

The Bills, BTW, aren't a bad team--they would've likely won the division this year had the injury bug not struck them midway through their season. They will compete with the Pats for the division, and might even win out. They have the talent, they just need some extra parts along their o-line. The Jets I'm not too worried about. As long as their QB situation remains unresolved, they won't do much damage next year.

The Patriots only real weak-spot is the lack of a pass-rush. This is why the Patriots are pursuing Jason Taylor; hopefully his sense of loyalty to the Dolphins will keep him out of NE. However they have Richard Seymour and Vince Wilfork coming up as free agents. It'll be interesting to see if they can keep up with the loss of talent both on the field and in the front office. We'll get to see if Belichick is truly a great coach, or if whether the guy who failed in Cleveland is the real Belichick. 2010 will be key.

Finheavanblows , LOL . Huh HuH, he said blows !! Yeah , Yeah he said blows. Blows what ? The skin flute , LOL . Yeah yeah. T.P for his bunghole.

Just like last year with the weak schedules, every team in the AFC East has one of the hardest schedules in the league this year....the schedule's are the same except for 2 games...nobody has it easy, so the strength of schedule doesn't really factor in to who wins the division...

for example:

2009 Dolphins Schedule

Pats(2), Jets(2), Bills(2), Carolina, Atlanta, New Orleans, Tampa, Tennessee, Indianapolis, Houston, Jacksonville, Pittsburgh, San Diego

2009 Patriots Schedule

Pats(2), Jets(2), Bills(2), Carolina, Atlanta, New Orleans, Tampa, Tennessee, Indianapolis, Houston, Jacksonville, Baltimore, Denver

2009 Jets Schedule

Pats(2), Jets(2), Bills(2), Carolina, Atlanta, New Orleans, Tampa, Tennessee, Indianapolis, Houston, Jacksonville, Cleveland, Oakland

2009 Bills Schedule

Pats(2), Jets(2), Bills(2), Carolina, Atlanta, New Orleans, Tampa, Tennessee, Indianapolis, Houston, Jacksonville, Cincinnati, KC

All schedules are the same except for 2 games...All are tough... So don't tell me the Dolphins don't have a chance at the division because of their schedule....

Souljabeats has wasted and continues to waste me by posting worthless crap online.

how is the dolphin's and their divisional opponents' schedules worthless on a dolphins blog? ...punk

Agreed Jersey, the draft is definitely the way to go right now. Sprinkle in the older vets in a couple of years. To the Patsfan, I can't believe you actually go into a rival forum and read what the fans have to say. AND you have a reading comprehension problem. Most people are agreeing that the Pats are the better team with Brady. Without Brady they're even and you can use last season and the fact that you lost the heart and soul of your defense AND your GM this year as a measuring stick. The wildcat was being copied by many teams last year including your beloved Patriots on a couple of occasions. So if the Dolphins are running highschool plays than the rest of the NFL was copying and failing at it. At least the Dolphins were able to produce while using it. How about that 5 spread offense you guys like to run on every frigging down? What is that supposed to be some stroke of genius on the Pats part. Or perhaps the genius is the running up of the score when you're already ahead by 21 points in the fourth. Get out of here with your classless cheating coach and your old geezers waiting for retirement team. And by the way, why don't you try to accomplish something in your own life so you don't have to come in here and brag about a team you don't even play for. We're just talking football and talking about how the Dolphins match up in the east. YOU, are actually coming in here to brag about a sports franchise that you watch on t.v. WOW, get a life.

Armando, do you know if the Jets have enough money under the cap to trade for Cutler if Denver decides to trade him? If the Jets were to get Cutler they could really do some damage in the east.

let me go on record to say that the fins will more than likely take astep back before moving forward.with the other teams signing proven vets such as bills w/owens and the pats signing springs and galloway and the jets signing nearly everyone.the east will provide the fins more loses in my opinion.but,in the years to come we will be younger faster and will be in a better cap situation if the cap is to return.i also see that this maybe the season the other chad will come and take over the reins thus losing a few games in the process with our tough scheule.but, in 2010 and beyond i see us coming of age as our young players develop in to the vetrans alot of teams will be coming after.

i just noticed after reading few posts here thar fin fans IQ starting to improve just cause armando made them talk about new englad and not the lousy jets.I can tell it's nice feeling it must been to be in the company of the best team in the NFL today with Tom.B is back .hope you don't talk about the pats as an old team too much before you get shoced next season boys and girls.

How mike from wmsbg va....is so sure that Henne will turn out to be the QB from heavn,i am afraid all fin's nation will be in for big diappontement next season.interceptions will be his specilty .

souljahbeats...the phins arent even in the same league and you know it.My buddy who is a phins fan was on this blog reading that mess and WE couldnt beleive it.The only reason the phins even made the playoffs was because the jets folded at the end.You had one winning season in how many years and now everyone is a miami fan????Your team sucks and so does your young talent...the tuna will be out of there after this saeason and then we will see this great young talent you and the rest of this blog is bragging about.

dolphins......5-11

SOULJ, Next year gallwat will have 50 catches and 14 TD .we call that the new england effect ONCE A VETRAN MOVES HERE.

LOOK THE DOLPHINS WERE IN GAMES WHILE 1-16 AND THEY WERE ON THE WINNING SIDE OF 6 POINT GAMES AND 3 POINT GAMES. WHILE THE pats WERE ABLE TO GET BIG NAMES MY BOYZ WERE ABLE TO KEEP THEIR OWN WHO KNOW THE SYSTEM AND WHO ARE YOUNGER THOUGH WE WON THE [LOOK AT THE NAME] HAT THE [LOOKWE ARE STILL REBUILDING DON'T LOOK TO DEEP IF brady WAS THERE WE MIGHT NOT HAVE WON THE [LOOK AT THE NAME]BUT WHEN THE ENEMY IS DOWN YOU KICK HIM. PUT YOUR TIM's TREE PRINT ON THEIR 4 HEAD. ANYWAY DON'T LOOK TOO FORWARD TO WHAT THE [LOOK AT THE NAME] DID LAST YEAR CAUSE THE REAL patriots ARE BACK AND WE HAVE OUR HANDS FULL,BUT I THINK ANOTHER YEAR IN THE SYSTEM AND UNDERSTANDING THE GAME AND IT SLOWING DOWN MORE OUR YOUNGER GUYS WILL BE BETTER AND THOSE WHO ARE OLDER WILL LEAD MORE. MY BOYZ ARE ONE SCHEDULE. MAYBE NOT THIS YEAR pats BUT WE'RE ON THE COME UP

Yep once again your right. The patsy's are ahead just like they were last year. O' but guest what, the dolphins will spank the belicheat ass
again just like we always have.

Watching a documentary on boxing SUPER legend Jack Johnson and...I can't for the life of me figure out how a film or some other form of mainstream media event about this guy hasn't been undertaken. He publicly told the Klan to go eff themselves! In 1908!!! Spike Lee must be slippin...

And oh yeah, if Brady is anywhere near 100%...we will not sniff the division title.

I think that's as clear as a stripper's footwear...

AFC EAST CHAMPS, your post was very good and it shows how you can write a good post without insulting any one but the only thing i didn't like is that you used this mornic phrase AFC EAST CHAMPS,please show respect and don't used again.when you win a super bowl in the next 40 years then we can talk.

Booger...i saw that documentry about Jack Johnson on PBS last year about three times and the old clips from his fights and the spine that guy showed is unmatched in today's world where we consider any creep is a hero.

Dolphin nman,what are you talking about ?you sound like you don't know any thing about football?keep reading my posts and learn then start writing what you learned from me.

I'am Cornholio and finheavanblows need TP for his bunghole after he gets his salad tossed

ok kids,the menace is on the air,what's the 1st question for the cuban??

["The Patriots suck" is not stuff of healthy debate, OK?]
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Is this because it's just a known fact?

Muhamad Ali, the greatest.

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