I am not going to predict the Dolphins will beat the Patriots this week. I made that mistake once already this season and got burned. No, I wasn't roasted as badly as the Dolphins secondary was in the regular-season opener. But I was definitely left hot under the collar.
So there's that.
The Patriots are a good team -- a very good team by any regular-season measure. But, you see, that's it. They're a good team by regular-season measures. They are 11-3 and the AFC East champions once again, but the problem for them is that's not enough.
The folks up in New England think differently than Dolphins fans do. They think Super Bowl. They measure the success of a season by how close the team comes to winning it all, not how close the team comes to being .500. They view their Patriots as perennial title contenders.
NOTE: The NFL has announced running back Reggie Bush has been named the AFC offensive player of the week. I tweeted this minutes ago. If you wish to get the latest information on the Dolphins from me via twitter, kindly follow me.
I view their Patriots much the same way I view the early 1990s Dolphins. The Pats have Tom Brady. Those long-ago Dolphins had Dan Marino. The Patriots have a nice complement of wide receivers and tight ends. So did those Dolphins. The Patriots have a bottom-third running game. So did those Dolphins.
The Patriots defense is not championship caliber. And neither was Miami's back in the day.
The Patriots will get in the playoffs as long as Brady is Brady. And that's what the Dolphins did with Marino.
But lately that hasn't been enough because playoff football is different. Playoff football requires some playmaking on defense. Playoff football means you sometimes have to turn to something other than your strength -- such as a running game or some significant stops on defense -- to overcome those moments when the other really good team takes away your strength.
The old-time Dolphins didn't have that other thing. And neither do these Patriots.
None of this means the Dolphins will beat the Patriots on Sunday. Miami simply isn't on the same level as New England. But if I'm right, this is what it all means:
The Patriots will probably run into a more complete team in the postseason and all their regular-season noise-making will be muted by the filter of the tournament. Then, eventually, Tom Brady will begin his decline. Perhaps it'll come gradually at first and faster as the years pile up. But it will come.
And there, again, today's Patriots will be like the Dolphins of yesteryear -- hoping the next quarterback or one of the next ten quarterbacks can live up to the work Brady did.