For the New England Patriots, times are changing. For the Miami Dolphins, the more things change, the more they remain the same.
That is the backdrop for Sunday’s opener when Miami hosts New England.
Before they kickoff, they both know they are virtually out of the AFC East race and are fighting for second place and a possible wild card spot.
That is because the Buffalo Bills showed they are likely to dominate the division after they routed the Rams 31-10 in their opener Thursday night despite four turnovers.
Imagine the score if they hadn’t turned the ball over that many times.
This situation is not new for the Dolphins.
They are used to being in a division dominated by one of the best teams in the league. They haven’t won a division title since 2008 when Tom Brady was hurt.
The Dolphins were swept by the Bills last year and are likely to be swept again this year.
The Dolphins have made the playoffs only three times since Brady started playing in 2001 and have won just one playoff game.
But this is new for the Patriots, who dominated the division for two decades when Brady was playing.
Now Brady is gone and they are in the division with the Bills, who have one of the best teams in the league. The Patriots made the playoffs last year but the Bills routed them 47-17 in a first-round playoff game.
The Patriots did beat the Bills 14-10 in Buffalo in a wind game, but two weeks later in Foxborough, the Bills beat them 33-21.
Bill Belichick is a good enough coach to keep them competitive. They were 10-7 last year. But it is difficult to imagine them winning a road playoff game as a wild-card team. Unfortunately, competitive is no longer the standard in New England.
They’ve now gone three years in a row without winning a playoff game. Belichick has never gone four years in a row in his career without winning one.
On top of that, he’s 70 and his age is likely to be an issue. Ageism is a thing. He recently did an interview with the Boston Globe when he was reminded he said in 2009 he wouldn’t coach in his 70s the way Marv Levy did.
“I wish I hadn’t said that,’’ Belichick said.
Now he has to live with the perception that the game has passed him by. That’s not true. He is the same coach he always was. A solid coach, but not the best of all time as he is often called now. He is not the GOAT.
Remember he has a losing record without Brady and was 5-11 in his first year with the Patriots and started out 0-2 in 2001 when Drew Bledsoe got hurt and Brady took over and they won the Super Bowl.
That is the difference Brady makes. Same team that went 5-11 without Brady won the Super Bowl with him.
When he was injured in the opener in 2008, they went 10-5 rest of the way. but didn’t make the playoffs because they lost the big games they usually won with Brady.
Belichick probably should have retired when Brady left. Or even better, made sure the Pats made him a good enough offer to entice him to stay.
But Belichick likes coaching. It is his life. The irony is he is a good enough coach to keep the Patriots around .500 and maybe get a wild card spot.
But now he will find out what it is like to be in a division with one of the best teams in the league. Remember no AFC East team besides the Patriots won the Super Bowl after Brady arrived.
Now the division belongs to Josh Allen and the Bills. The Patriots, like the Dolphins, are on the outside looking in.