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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?]