|Worst versus first when Dolphins play Patriots|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 18 October 2007 12:24|
Oddsmakers certainly see it as lopsided. The Patriots are favored by a whopping 16 1/2 points even though they're on the road.
The last time a team 6-0 or better played a team 0-6 or worse was in 1984, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. And the game involved the Dolphins - they improved to 9-0 with a 38-7 win over the Buffalo Bills, who fell to 0-9. Marino threw three touchdown passes on the way to a season total of 48, then an NFL record.
Now it's the Patriots with the hotshot quarterback. Tom Brady is on a record pace with 21 touchdown passes and only two interceptions, an astounding ratio that's a big factor in New England's 6-0 start.
The Dolphins are 0-6 and already thinking beyond this season. They traded leading receiver Chris Chambers to San Diego on Tuesday for a second-round draft pick in 2008.
``We all have to realize we're not sitting here 6-0, 4-2, 3-3,'' first-year coach Cam Cameron said. ``We're got a lot of work to do.''
All of which suggests the Dolphins are ripe for a rout.
Naturally, New England coach Bill Belichick's not buying it.
``They're not 0-6 against us,'' he said. ``They've been in every game. They're a good team.''
Belichick deserves a penalty for improper use of the word ``good,'' but it's true the Dolphins aren't quite as awful as their record suggests. Three times they've lost by three points, including once in overtime. Their offense is improving, and running back Ronnie Brown leads the league in yards from scrimmage with 882.
``He's the best player I've seen this year offensively,'' Belichick said.
So the Patriots have a little reason to worry, especially because South Florida seems to bring out their worst.
The subtropical climate may be one reason. In September and October, the Patriots are 1-13 in Miami. Since the start of the 1999 season, New England is 2-5 in South Florida and 99-42 everywhere else. The meltdowns in Miami include a 21-0 loss last year and a 29-28 defeat in 2004, when the Patriots came into the game 12-1 and the Dolphins were 2-11.
``We haven't done anything against them,'' Belichick said. ``There's nothing for us to be overconfident about.''
There's not much for the Dolphins to be confident about, either.
New England has won every game by at least 17 points, matching an NFL record to start a season, and leads the league with an average of 38 points per game. Miami is allowing 30 points per game, which would be a franchise record for an entire season.
``It's a grind right now,'' Miami linebacker Joey Porter said. ``We need to find a way to get a victory. If we get a victory, I think a whole lot of things around here will change.''
Teammate Zach Thomas was so demoralized by last week's loss at Cleveland he raised the possibility of Miami going 0-16, which would be a first in the NFL. Achieving such imperfection is improbable, given that the Dolphins have four games remaining against teams with only one win each.
Las Vegas bookmakers say the odds are better - 5-to-1, to be precise - that New England will go 16-0. A win Sunday would make the Patriots 7-0 for the first time in their 48-year history, including three Super Bowl championship seasons since 2001.
To keep the streak going, the Patriots figure they'll need to ward off the Dolphins' best effort.
``Since they are 0-6, that gives them more motivation in this game,'' New England cornerback Ellis Hobbs said. ``They say, 'Well, guys, this is a great opportunity to get ourselves back on track with a victory.' That motivates them that much more.''
The Dolphins gave up a season-high 41 points last week against Cleveland and quarterback Derek Anderson, making it difficult to imagine them stopping Brady. But he has endured some of his worst days against the Dolphins.
``They always seem to find an answer for whatever we challenge them with,'' Brady said. ``We've had some rough, rough days offensively against them.''
The most recent came last December, when Brady fumbled twice and threw for only 78 yards in a shutout loss.
``Tommy struggled that day,'' Miami defensive end Jason Taylor said. ``We got after him pretty good. But they're a different team now. They're a whole step above where they were last year.''
One reason for New England's improvement is the acquisition of receiver Wes Welker, who made 11 catches for 124 yards and two scores - all career bests - in last week's win over Dallas. Welker is one of seven ex-Dolphins on the Patriots, and he's well aware of the rivalry's recent history.
``We always have problems against Miami,'' Welker said. ``We have to make sure we bring our `A' game to have a chance.''
The Patriots' `A' game against the woeful Dolphins? Marino in his prime couldn't bridge that gap.