I think lost in all the hubbub in these parts last season was just how close we came to actually witnessing perfection.
No, not here. Miami.
If not for Baltimore laying a stinker last December, the Dolphins would come into Sunday’s game against the Patriots 0 for their last 21 games, including a tidy 0-16 season last year. They might have held a town meeting on the subject, but I’m not sure Mercury Morris and crew could have kept them from moving in to Perfectville. There goes the neighborhood, and all.
The last time the Patriots lost to a team not named the New York Giants or Indianapolis Colts (both stinging playoff losses), it was in Miami, back on Dec. 10, 2006. Since then, New England has not lost a regular-season game. Miami has won one.
You can see where Joey Porter is getting his fuel.
“It’ll be good to go out there and get our first victory,” Porter said this week, in between his tired smack directed at Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel.
I think Anthony Smith just cringed.
In any case, New England heads into the bye with a layup vs. Miami, and comes back with a seemingly easy time against the 49ers. Then comes the toughest stretch of the season – a four-week period during which the Patriots face the Chargers, Broncos, and Colts. Even the most tried and true Pats fan might lean toward assuming that they drop one of those games, likely ending the regular-season winning streak and any dreams of another run at 19-0.
But in Miami, there’s still a chance. And for one more week, the dream lives on.
Who they're picking
Our roundup of writers' picks in this week's Dolphins-Patriots showdown:
Jim McCabe, Boston Globe: Patriots. “Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown have combined to run 38 times for 100 yards, a 2.63 average per carry. At this rate they should crack 1,000 yards by August 2009.”
Peter King, Sports Illustrated: Patriots 33, Dolphins 7. “Who'd have ever thought in Week 3, by the middle of the third quarter, the Pats-Fish would be a Cassel-Henne duel? By the way, do you think it's possible that, before the game, Bill Belichick sidles up to Matt Cassel and says, 'We're taking the training wheels off today, kid?' Not sure those words will be spoken, but I do think you'll see three deep throws to Randy Moss this weekend.”
ESPN.com staff: Patriots across the board.
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: Patriots 27, Dolphins 7. “The Patriots will go to 3-0 here. But it will be interesting to see if they use this game as a test to see if Matt Cassel can do more as a passer. I think they do, and it will work. The Dolphins are playing back-to-back roadies.”
CBS Sports staff: Five of six pick the Patriots to cover.
Cold, Hard, Football Facts: Patriots 27, Dolphins 12. “After opening as underdogs last week, the Patriots return to the familiar role of double-digit favorites. Matt Cassel makes his second start at quarterback and gets to test a Dolphins defense that is allowing nearly 12 yards per passing attempt, easily the worst in the league. New England will likely open up the playbook and finally crack the 20-point plateau.”
Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: Patriots 24, Dolphins 10. “Meet the new Bill Belichick Patriots, same as the old Belichick Patriots -- they're all about winning. Tom Brady gave them plenty of style points; they're just asking Matt Cassel to give them error-free outings, leaning on his backs, receivers and defense to keep the Pats ahead at the end. It also helps that they won't get tested much on their schedule, which continues with the floundering Fins.”
USA Today staff: Patriots across the board.
Greg Cote, Miami Herald: Patriots 24, Dolphins 9. “Dolphins LB Joey Porter, not the player he once was but still among league leaders in loud, said this week of facing Pats QB Matt Cassel: 'If it's not Tom Brady it shouldn't be that hard.' And said, 'It'll be good to go out and get our first victory.' Now as guarantees go that's tepid; he's no Joey Namath. But that's still fairly audacious talk, almost comically so. Dear Porter: New England is, like, really good, even sans Tom Terrific. And your team has lost 20 of its past 21 games. Miami coach Tony Sparano said he didn't sleep after Sunday's loss at Arizona? One suspects the prospect of facing a Patriots team on the road -- a team with Randy Moss and a great defensive front, and a team now freshly riled by Porter -- hasn't exactly worked for ol' Tony like a Sominex tablet.”
King Kaufman, Salon.com: Patriots. “I actually have a funny feeling the Dolphins could win this game. That's why I went with the other option.”
Yahoo! staff: Jason Cole and Charles Robinson go with the Patriots. Michael Silver picks the Dolphins.
Peter Schrager, Foxsports.com: Patriots 23, Dolphins 10. “Over his career, Chad Pennington is 2-1 in New England and has completed 64 of 96 passes (66.7 percent) with four touchdowns and just one interception. Throw that all out the window on Sunday. It's the Matty 'Moose' Cassel train, baby. Get on board before it's too late.”
Nancy Gay, San Francisco Chronicle: Patriots. “Matt Cassel has been adept at executing the short passing game with Wes Welker and running back Kevin Faulk.”
Jerry Magee, San Diego Tribune: Patriots. “A season long on parity makes taking the points preferable when there are this many of them.”
Our pick: Patriots 27, Dolphins 14. Miami coach Tony Sparano was the offensive coordinator for the 11-0 Boston University Terriers in 1993. On Sunday, he’ll find the BU football team still as nonexistent as his first win.